Veering left, education advocacy group pushes identity politics at New Trier
Since 2010, Stand for Children Illinois has lobbied for charter schools, for reforming teacher tenure and ensuring more students take standardized tests.
In public education, this is considered middle ground. As such, it has attracted the backing of political moderates across the state, including Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
But with its February campaign to promote New Trier High School’s mandatory all-day seminar, dedicated to teaching students about their “white privilege,” the group has moved uncharacteristically to the far left.
Led by Wilmette’s Mimi Rodman, the group’s executive director, Stand for Children Illinois has pivoted away from its mantra of “pro-parent” school reform and into a more polarizing arena.
Rodman’s efforts at New Trier represent the first time her Illinois chapter, its parent, Stand for Children, Inc., which spent nearly $17 million in 2016, or any of the group’s other twelve state chapters have expressly advocated for the right of public school teachers and administrators to promote their own political views to students.
“White Privilege” becomes “Civil Rights”
At a New Trier High School District board meeting last Mon., Rodman played a starring role, presenting more than 5,000 signatures on a petition she had organized on her Stand for Illinois’ web site.
Rodman’s online petition made no mention of day’s “white privilege” theme or any of the incendiary, leftist speakers scheduled to lecture New Trier students. Many of them blame “white supremacy” for America’s social problems and advocate extreme policy measures, like citizen violence against police.
Rather, her petition asked signers if they would support a school seminar centered on “civil rights,” one that would include “National Book Award” keynote speakers.
This proved an easier ask-- which proved fruitful for not only the New Trier administrators Rodman was supporting, but also Rodman herself.
Fine print disclosed that everyone signing the petition-- a count up to 5,800 as of Sunday evening-- also by default opted in to future Stand for Children Illinois communications.
And Rodman was able to also leverage the opportunity to solicit online donations for Stand for Children Illinois, asking for contributions of up to $500.
“If you’d like to chip in, your donation will offset costs such as building webpages (sic) and printing. Extra funds will be directed to supporting parent empowerment programs to help underserved communities in Chicago.”
“An organized response to the backlash”
According to an email obtained by North Cook News, “white privilege” seminar organizer New Trier Assistant Superintendent Timothy Hayes received an offer on Feb. 1, from someone offering to “create an organized response to the backlash.”
“Tim, I need to get the specific name of the survey, if available, and specifics so that I if I need to speak at the meeting I can be specific and articulate,” the sender wrote. “Crazy times, my friends…”
New Trier redacted the sender’s name. Eve Williams, cc’d on the email, is listed as a supporter in email solicitations by Stand for Children Illinois.
In 2014, Rodman organized New Trier Now, a separate advocacy group that supported a referendum to borrow $89 million to renovate the school's Winnetka campus. Its donors included Gary Yonke, husband of New Trier District 203 Superintendent Linda Yonke, who has actively supported "white privilege" instruction for teachers and backs the mandatory student seminar day.
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Stand for Children Illinois has raised $4,367,685 in individual donations since it was established in 2010.
It spends most of the money endorsing candidates, including sixteen in the 2016 Illinois legislative elections, six Republicans and ten Democrats.
Of ten primary votes since 1994, Rodman has voted in nine Democrat primaries and one Republican one (2000).
Stand for Children Illinois donors include the Crown family ($970,800), Citadel’s Ken Griffin ($500,000), Peak 6 Investments’ Matt Hulsizer ($474,000), Madison Dearborn Chairman John Canning ($250,000), the Pritzker family ($200,000), DRW Trading CEO Don Wilson ($260,000), real estate magnate Sam Zell ($100,000), golf course developer Mike Keiser and his wife, Rosalind ($30,000), and Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky and his wife, Liz ($20,000),
Nationally, Stand for Children, Inc. has raised money from the Walton family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.