April 28, 2022

Mercedes Schneider: National Parents Union and What Billionaire-Backed Ed Reformers Do.

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Mercedes Schneider looks at what one well-funded “parents group” does. Reposted with permission.

National Parents Union (NPU) purports to “channel the power of parents” and “define the education conversation” even as it withholds from those parents the details about who, exactly, is funding all of its *channeling* and *defining.*

And even though NPU presents itself as “a network of… parent organizations and grassroots activists,” NPU is a distinct entity on file with the Massachusetts secretary of state as National Parents Union, Inc., and holds its own nonprofit designation with the IRS. Moreover, NPU is the direct offspring of another Massachusetts business entity/nonprofit, Massachusetts Parents United, Inc.

NPU was organized in Massachusetts on April 08, 2019 (MA ID 001377728; seach engine here) and received IRS tax exempt status the same day (EIN 83-4333274). Its predecessor (still in existence), Massachusetts Parents United, Inc. (MA ID 001270959), was organized on April 25, 2017, and shares with NPU two key individuals, Keri Rodrigues (listed as president, clerk, and director of both orgs) and Timothy Langhan (listed as treasurer, clerk, and director of both orgs).

The Massachusetts secretary of state has both NPU and Mass Parents United located in the same office building: 388 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148.

The IRS has Keri Rodrigues Lorenzo as the principal officer of nonprofit Massachusetts Parents United, Inc. (EIN 82-1313683), which boasted $1.64M in contributions in 2019. Rodrigues Lorenzo’s 2019 total Mass Parents compensation was $196K for 20 hrs/wk.

According to Rodrigues Lorenzo’s Linkedin bio, she founded Massachusetts Parents United in 2016. Nevertheless, Rodrigues’ bio on the NPU site includes no mention of Rodrigues’ Mass Parents United history– even as she continues to be listed as “founding president and mom-in-chief” on the Mass Parents site– an omission on the NPU site that helps to conceal the direct, NPU-Mass Parents United connection, thereby feeding the misleading narrative that NPU is a “network” instead a distinct organization directly descended from Mass Parents United.

You’d think being paid almost $200K for 20 hours/wk would surely prompt Rodrigues to remember to mention said org in her NPU bio. But, no.

Shaping organization history via strategic concealment betrays a bent towards manipulating parents, not empowering them.

Like Rodrigues Lorenzo, Tim Langan is also a key NPU player. Langan remains chief of staff of Mass Parents United, an organization that he does mention in his NPU bio; in 2019, Langan’s total Mass Parents compensation was $121K for 20 hrs/wk. Langan also holds a bachelors in literature (NYU, 2000) and a masters in secondary education (Lesley University, 2010), which seems to have required a student teaching stint (Everett High School, January – May 2010). Other than that one semester, Langan lists no classroom teaching experience on his Linkedin bio. Who benefits from a resume with education credentials without having also had a classroom career? Answer: Billionaire-backed education reformers do.

Even though it advertises that it is hiring at the national and state levels– which requires steady, substantive revenue– NPU does not list its donors or even hint that it has any, but Mass Parents United does. The most notable ed-reform funder listed is the Walton Family Foundation, which donated $1.87M from 2017 – 2020. Ed-reform org, Education Trust, also donated to Massachusetts Parents Union– $10K in FY2019.

Mass Parents United’s site does not mention the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation’s 2019 gift of $175K for the “launch of a national parents organization,” news certainly suited for inclusion on the NPU site, as is a clear connection between NPU and Massachusetts Parents United. But, conceal and manipulate.

Moreover, in 2020, one of the two Walton Foundation grants was for $400K, “to support the launch of a new membership organization….” Since Mass Parents United was not new and had been receiving Walton money since the time that it was new (2017), the “new parents organization” tagged in 2020 must have been the one organized in April 2019– NPU.

Like the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation specifically earmarked funding for NPU, and yet, as she chose to do with the Broad money, Rodrigues chose not to mention the Walton funding on the NPU site, once again opting to keep parents in the dark.

What is included on the NPU site in cryptic form is the Broad connection via NPU board member, Peter Cunningham, who introduces himself as “the founder of Education Post” without mentioning that “it wasn’t my idea. I was initially approached by Broad it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense.”

Broad saw education reformers as being overtaken by those not funded by billionairs, so he and others bought a mult-million-dollar blog and paid Peter Cunningham six figures per annum to run it.

Who rakes in six figures from running a blog? Answer: Billionaire-backed education reformers do.

Education Post (aka Results in Education Foundation) was Eli Broad’s idea. Peter Cunningham agreed to be its highest paid employee. Money runs the show.

In concealing its direct descent from Mass Parents United, and in failing to include funders on its site, NPU is choosing not to be forthright with parents.

Who conceals money given to one ed reform org to fund creation of another ed reform org and instead tries to fabricate the image of an organization that is networked and grassroots? Answer: Billionaire-backed education reformers do.

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