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Progressive Education Fund joins spenders in MPS school-board race

To all of the pixels that have been spilled in this space in recent weeks concerning the unprecedented amount of money being spent to influence essentially one competitive Minneapolis School Board race, add a few more.

Monday morning the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund will make its first expenditure on mailers promoting two of the four candidates running in the election cycle’s hottest ticket, a four-way race for two at-large seats. Former City Council member Don Samuels and Service Employees International Union organizer Iris Altamirano finished second and third, respectively, in the race’s August primary.

The other candidates are incumbent Rebecca Gagnon, who finished first, and Ira Jourdain, who trailed by a wide margin.

As reported previously in this space, the four-way contest may see spending of a quarter of a million dollars or more — an amount exceeding what’s typically spent on state legislative contests and easily 10 times what counted for hefty spending a few years ago.

Some $175,000 of the money is expected to come from labor unions — much of it from the national American Federation of Teachers — and the DFL. The rest includes two out-of-state donations, one from a member of the board of Students for Education reform and another from a member of Teach for America’s board.

Daniel Sellers

The chair of the brand-new political expenditure fund, Daniel Sellers, declined to say how much the group may spend or where the funds are coming from except to offer some general information. Sellers is executive director of the education advocacy group MinnCAN, which is associated with a political committee that has also made expenditures to influence the race.

The group’s board is made up of Minneapolis Public Schools stakeholders, including alumni, parents and teachers. Sellers serves as chair, parent activist Seth Kirk as treasurer and children’s rights activist Tiffany Flynn Forslund as secretary.

The money is coming from a mix of local and national donors, Sellers said, which will be disclosed directly on the upcoming required pre-general campaign finance filing. The Koch brothers are not on the list, nor are any hedge fund managers.

“There’s nothing going to be hidden about it,” he said. “There won’t be any organizational pass-throughs where you have to go digging. We will say exactly who the donors are and where the money went.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/13/2014 - 09:46 am.

    Dishonest, as usual

    50can may not be funded by the Kochs or any hedge-fund guys, but it is funded by other wealthy right-wingers, namely, the Wal-Mart heirs. Is that really who you want pushing your education “reform”?

  2. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 10/13/2014 - 10:20 am.


    So who’s getting the support from the MPEF? It’s a little unclear in the article. Samuels and Altamirano?

  3. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 10/13/2014 - 11:28 am.


    Yes, Samuels and Altamirano. 

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/13/2014 - 02:55 pm.

    Besides identifying the two DFL endorsees to be supported by the Progresive fund, it would help to clarify some antecedents (when you have two possible antecedents to something in the paragraph before, it’s best to repeat the name of one of them if you go on with that group). I got confused about who is supporting whom, and who is going to report what.

    Also, for voters to be informed–and for Citizens United’s ruling to make any sense whatsoever–you might want to tell readers when and where they can find out who the donors to which fund are. This is gigantic School Board race financing ($250,000, for two seats on the board!)

    Promises of full disclosure are one thing; finding out who is behind all the money is often time consuming and confusing in its own right.

    • Submitted by Leif Grina on 10/14/2014 - 11:04 am.

      DFL Endorsees

      The fund is supporting Samuels and Altimarano. Samuels is not DFL endorsed- Rebecca Gagnon and Iris Alimarano are.

  5. Submitted by Lisa Gardner on 10/13/2014 - 04:29 pm.

    Required filing dates?

    Hi Beth. Could you advise as to when the next pre-general campaign finance filing will be?

  6. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 10/14/2014 - 03:48 pm.

    Oh, they WILL say

    but right now they won’t. Right. So they aren’t dark money. They’re just money that won’t see the light until some later more convenient time.

    At least with union money, everyone knows where it’s coming from. With Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, it’s the now-familiar astroturf guessing game.

  7. Submitted by Patty Wycoff on 10/15/2014 - 06:41 pm.

    MinnCAN address

    I received their flyer today. The address on it is MinnCan’s office in Minneapolis. MinnCAN is funded by 50CAN in NY. Minneapolis Progressive Fund? Give me break!

  8. Submitted by Amy Bergquist on 10/16/2014 - 09:31 pm.

    Not coordinating with Minnesotans

    I received a robocall today from the “Minneanapolis” (or maybe “Minndianapolis”?) Progressive Education Fund. The caller, who had a slight southern accent and consistently said “Minneanapolis” (or “Minndianapolis”), bashed Rebecca Gagnon’s independent expenditures and then urged me to support Don Samuels and Iris “Altamirinon.” Whatever this group is, it isn’t making much of an effort to coordinate messaging with anyone who is from Minnesota!

  9. Submitted by Paul Read on 10/29/2014 - 12:53 pm.

    Don’t be fooled!

    Shame on Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund for its cynically negative “bash” ad campaigns. “Progressive” may mean many things, but the negative tone and shady connections to corporate “ed reform” groups like Michelle Rhee’s darling “Teach for America” has convinced this Mpls voter to support Ms. Gagnon and Mr. Jourdain. Corporate “progressive” reformers are wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

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