THE BLOG
04/25/2016 10:14 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

About "Education Post, the Nonprofit" -- Including Its Anonymous Donor

On September 01, 2014, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post officially introduced Peter Cunningham's Education Post to the world. Below is an excerpt from Layton's article:

Into the fray steps Education Post, a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more "respectful" and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions.

Peter Cunningham, the former communications guru for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is leading the organization, which is backed with initial grants totaling $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Layton identifies Ed Post as a nonprofit. So does Ed Post, as noted on its "about" page:

We are a non-partisan communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education from preschool to high school graduation.

Thus, it seems logical that one might locate the nonprofit, Ed Post, when using a nonprofit search engine.

Not so. There is no nonprofit registered under the name Education Post. Furthermore, the Ed Post website offers no indication that Education Post is associated with any otherwise-named nonprofit.

This sure makes it difficult for the public to examine the financial situation of this "nonprofit," including possible identity of that anonymous donor.

If Education Post were a legitimate nonprofit established by fall 2014, then by spring 2016, it should have at least one 990 tax form on file. And so it does, but not under the name Education Post.

In order to locate the Ed Post-related nonprofit, I used the Broad Foundation's 2014 990 tax form. I knew from Layton's article that Broad financed Ed Post in 2014. No Ed Post was listed among Broad's 2014 grants, so I began to search Broad's 2014 grants to organizations in Chicago. (The Ed Post website has a Chicago address.)

The first search result on the Broad 2014 tax form yielded a $1,000,000 grant to the nonprofit, Results in Education (RIE) Foundation. The memo for the contribution was, "Support startup of Education Post" (page 39).

Bingo.

RIEF (as it is abbreviated on its own tax form) received its nonprofit status in September 2014. It has one 990 tax form on file, for May 19, 2014 to December 31, 2014. That form was officially filed on November 25, 2015.

Under "name of foundation," RIEF's 2014 990 has "Results in Education Foundation (aka Education Post)." However, RIEF's EIN (employee identification number) is filed under "Results in Education Foundation," not "Education Post."

Peter Cunningham is a communications guy, so he ought to have the nonprofit name, Results in Education Foundation, on the Ed Post website. Otherwise, it sure looks like his goal is to make it difficult for people to track the funding of Ed Post.

Calling Ed Post a nonprofit appears to underscore the intention to keep the public in the dark regarding Ed Post's financing.

As for what is revealed on the RIEF 2014 tax form:

RIEF is "in the care of" Geller and Co., New York, NY.

The five highest compensated RIEF employees:

  • Tracy Barber, messaging and program director,89,010
  • Michael Vaughn, communication director,74,357
  • John Gordon Wright, social media director,65,507
  • Christopher Stewart, outreach and external affairs director,46,299
  • And, of course, there is Peter Cunningham, president,190,700.

Note that the above compensation was for at most approximately 7 1/2 months.

As for RIEF board members (aside from Cunningham):

The address provided for Cunningham and the rest of the board is "C/O RIEF, 1360 N. Milwaukee, Unit 3, Chicago, IL 60622" -- the same address provided at the bottom of the Ed Post webpage without any reference to RIEF.

It is only right that Emma Bloomberg should be on the RIEF board. In 2014, her father, Michael Bloomberg, donated the largest grant, $3.2 million.

The second largest came from the Broad Foundation: $1.5 million. (According to the Broad 2014 tax form, the contribution was $1 million. Hmm.)

The smallest came from the Walton Family Foundation: $250,000. (That's the same amount the Waltons pay for a charter startup.)

And that mystery donor?

The Emerson Collective, a "limited liability company" (LLC) located in Palo Alto, California, founded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, and that focuses on "education, immigration, and justice."

The Emerson Collective gave RIEF $500,000 in 2014. It has also made donations to a few other nonprofits: I Am Giving Foundation, PlusOnePlusOnePlusOne, and StudentsFirst.

According to the nonprofit search engine, CitizenAudit, Powell Jobs is also connected to the John and Lisa Pritzker Family Fund, Stand for Children, and Wendy Kopp's Teach for All.

(The Chicago-based Pritzkers are close to Obama, as is Cunningham.)

The Milken Institute offers this 2013 bio on Powell Jobs:

Laurene Powell Jobs is founder and chair of Emerson Collective, which supports social entrepreneurs and organizations in education and immigration reform, social justice and conservation. Powell Jobs also serves as president of the board of College Track, an after-school program she founded to prepare underserved high school students for success in college. Started in East Palo Alto, Calif., College Track has expanded to serve students in Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Aurora, Colo. Its academic and extracurricular program aims to ensure admittance to and graduation from college. Additionally, she serves on the boards of NewSchools Venture Fund, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Conservation International, Next Generation and Stanford University. She also serves on the chairman's advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations. Powell Jobs holds a B.A. and a B.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

And Teach for All offers this bio:

Laurene Powell Jobs is founder and chair of Emerson Collective, an organization that supports social entrepreneurs and organizations working in the areas of education, immigration reform and social justice.

Ms. Powell Jobs serves as president of the board of College Track, an after-school program she founded in 1997 to prepare underserved high school students for success in college. The program's intensive academic and extracurricular program is designed to ensure admittance to and graduation from college. More than 90 percent of College Track high school graduates go on to college, and the program's college graduation rate is more than double to that of low-income students.

In addition to her work with the Emerson Collective and College Track, she serves on the boards of directors of NewSchools Venture Fund, Conservation International, and Stanford University. She also serves on the Chairman's advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ms. Powell Jobs holds a BA and a BSE from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Earlier in her career, she spent several years working in investment banking and later co-founded a natural foods company in California.

Why Emerson Collective's fronting $500,000 to Ed Post should have been kept a secret seems odd. But here is some 2016 news that shows just how small the world of corporate ed reform is:

In March 2016, the Emerson Collective gained a new "managing partner":

Arne Duncan.

Yep. According to this March 20, 2016, EdSurge article:

Last week, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he was joining the Emerson Collective as a managing partner, aiming to look for ways to help "disconnected youth," kids ages 17 to 24 years old who are not in school, not working and may have criminal records, reports the LA Times.

Duncan and the Emerson Collective will "focus first on Chicago," noted this release. The Emerson Collective is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) based in based in Palo Alto and focuses on education, immigration and social justice. It is supported by Laurene Powell Jobs, who serves as the organization's president. "The immediate goal [of Duncan's work] is to provide job opportunities for young people today in Chicago and to help forge a safer, surer path from home to school to work for at-risk kids," said the release.

In addition, Duncan will support the XQ Institute and the XQ Super School Project, an Emerson Collective project that proposes to reimagine high school. The program includes a grant competition open to all communities; nearly 700 applications have been submitted. The first grants are slated to be announced in the summer.

Duncan is opening a Chicago office for Emerson and is already hiring.

Well. If Duncan's new role is why Emerson Collective wanted anonymity in donating to a close Duncan associate, Cunningham's Ed Post, so much for that.

I look forward to dissecting RIEF's 2015 tax info when it becomes available. At least now I know where to look.

***

Originally posted 04-21-16 at deutsch29.wordpress.com

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

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She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

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