Corporate reform group backed by big money interests is using free lunch to recruit teachers.

Free lunch rat trap

Educators for Excellence (E4E) is making the rounds at Chicago public schools offering lunch and a chance to join their organization. We urge CTU members to be wary of this group.

E4E was founded as part of the corporate reform movement, the folks who brought us teacher evaluation tied to student test scores, non-union charter schools with publicly unaccountable boards and the idea that poverty and inadequate funding are “excuses” for poor academic outcomes. The original “declaration” that E4E required teachers to sign before joining the organization included pledging allegiance to “pay for performance” and “school choice.” E4E has since created a new declaration which is more ambiguous and includes points about diversity, equity and poverty.

A similar organization, TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project), is known for attacking tenure for teachers and promoting the myth that “bad teachers” are a major reason for poor student performance. Daniel Weisberg, TNTP’s CEO, is on E4E’s executive board. E4E is also heavily supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation—the “big three” donors to organizations pushing anti-union agendas. The Gates Foundation, in particular, gave E4E $4 million in 2016, according to Threat from the Right Intensifies, a report published by the Massachusetts Teachers Association in May of 2018.

E4E claims to be a way for teachers to have a voice in public policy decisions, but teachers already have organizations that do that: teachers’ unions. The Chicago Teachers Union is your organization, made up of thousands of members who advocate for Chicago public school students and families through community engagement, contract fights, electoral campaigns and legislative processes.

The CTU has solicited opinions from thousands of educators, and it is clear that we collectively do not agree with E4E co-founders Sydney Morris and Evan Stone, who said in 2017 Education Post interview with school privatization cheerleader Peter Cunningham that, “Teachers want their unions to focus on improving student achievement and teacher quality.” Of course CTU members want that, but how we achieve those goals is the real story—through better working conditions, smaller class sizes, more supports for children who need them and sustainable community schools. We need an end to the Hunger Games-style student-based budgeting and school closures. We need equitable and sufficient school funding so every student has what he or she needs, and not just a select few.

Teachers who are attracted to the idea of playing a role in advocating for needed policy changes might consider working through their union instead of E4E, although we recognize that some teachers choose to do both. The CTU has a range of involvement options, such as contract action teams at your school; CTU committees; committees through the Illinois Federation of Teachers; and independent political organization United Working Families, which takes our advocacy directly to voters across the city.

Contact CTU policy advisor Kurt Hilgendorf at for more information about these programs and other ways to have your voice heard through the strength of your union.

Carol Caref, Ph.D., is a CTU education policy analyst and Kurt Hilgendorf is the CTU policy advisor.

This article appears in the October 2018 issue of the Chicago Union Teacher.

Oct. 2018 print cover