Edelman Apologizes For "Arrogance"

Jonah Edelman's Stand For Children has largely gotten away with a series of slip-ups and tactical mistakes over the past few months but the organization and its leader may not escape from this most recent incident entirely unscathed.

In an emailed apology Edelman confirmed to me is genuine he expresses regret for among other things "an arrogance in my tone" in remarks he made at the Aspen Ideas Festival a couple of weeks ago -- a video that I've had posted on my site since last week but others think was taken down from the Aspen site (unconfirmed).

Read on for more about the Edelman video, and the history of recent slipups of which this would seem to be just the most recent, the nagging questions about whether the Illinois law that Edelman has touted as transformational may instead be incremental, and the likely impact of the video and the unusual apology.

Does Edelman come off as wildly arrogant in the Aspen video?  Yes.  I posted video of the talk on my Chicago schools blog on Tuesday as everyone was coming back from the 4th of July weekend, which several readers noted was borderline offensive to teachers unions, etc.

Is the apology legit?  Apparently so.  Edelman responded that it was his.  Here's one of several places that have posted the apology, in which he goes on at some length to explain his real meaning and the tone of the video.

Is this the first time Edelman and SFC have slipped up in recent months, in ways large and small?  No.  They pushed for quick passage of a reform package of changes in Illinois in December and January during the last moments of the previous legislature, which was roundly criticized for a sloppy and premature push (and its focus on a strike ban, which came out of nowhere).  They called for a press conference to announce the groundbreaking results of the Illinois negotiations but the deal wasn't done and no one had told his legislative leader.  Most of all, they have oversold the Illinois package as being transformative and groundbreaking -- which it doesn't seem to be in reality -- when its main appeal was that it was done collaboratively and passed unanimously.  (I wrote a post raising some questions about the viability of implementing the law, and a DFER member wrote about similar concerns a few weeks later.)

Is the video some sort of fatal mistake for Edelman or SFC?  Likely not.  It would have been a major setback had the IL legislation still been in play.  It will likely be used in other SFC states where reform has not yet passed. But supporters will continue to support Stand For Children, critics will continue to demonize the organization.

Previous Posts:

Critique Of IL Reform Law Lacks Common Sense

Reform -- Or Reform "Lite" -- In Illinois?

Has Stand For Children Gone AWOL?So, Do "Reformers" Support Collective Bargaining?

Cross-posted from TWIE



Leave a comment
  • I'm sorry. I don't buy that his expressions and affect in his Aspen comments were not his genuine, core beliefs. That stuff is woven into his being. If not, he could not have presented it to us. Funny that he presented it in a place he probably felt most secure and confident he was supported.

  • I would not characterize Jonah Edelman's Aspen presentation as being arrogant. As I stated in my original post on this video he was overly honest. Mr. Edelman self-criticizes his attributing motives or perspectives to the unions involved in these discussions that led to SB 7. He writes: "I was wrong to make assumptions or comments about the unions’ political strategy." Well I do not agree in the least.

    What Mr. Edelman described in detail at the Aspen conference was the tactical approach Stand for Children used to effectively remove the CTU's right to bargain for anything more than wages and burden the union with an impossibly high strike vote requirement. Anyone who has lobbied in Springfield on a contentious bill, and I confess I am a registered lobbyist, has to make assumptions about the motivation of groups opposing your bill. In fact it is normally part of the lobbying process to attribute certain motives to your opponents publicly in order to gain political advantage for your bill. Politics is not bean bags after all, the stakes are often high.

    So in my opinion Mr. Edelman does not have to apologize for these characterizations, but rather he needs to understand that in the legislative process some things are better not said, even in the Globe tavern in Springfield after five beers, let alone on video. One of those things that should have not been said by Mr. Edelman were his characterizations of discussions relating to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and comments on funding of candidates. There was nothing illegal in any of those discussions described by Mr. Edelman, but it did make the Illinois General Assembly Democratic leadership look like they were simply for sale.
    Now there are numerous journalists in Illinois who believe that our General Assembly is effectively just how Mr. Edelman portrayed it. But journalists do not need votes from these legislators to move bills and have the luxury of running their mouths, political action committees do not.

    Stand for Children is a PAC and a powerful one in terms of funding apparently, but it has made clear to many members of the Assembly through this video that they cannot be trusted to keep what should not be said publicly just that - not said. So now every member who speaks to Mr. Edelman or his contracted lobbyists has to measure what they say for fear it will show up on video tape, simply put that is not good for a PAC.

    Have I had discussions with members of the Assembly that I would not disclose, you bet I have and so does everyone who lobbies for any issue in Springfield. The simple rule of thumb is if a member of the Assembly wants to disclose a discussion relating to lobbying that is their prerogative and as a lobbyist you must accept that. However, you have not been elected and do not have to right to make decisions for elected officials as to what discussions can be disclosed.

    Rod Estvan

  • good point, rod -- who IS stand's IL lobbyist, anyway?

  • People, when are we going to stop giving credance to these flash in the pan,rich children with minimal experience, maximum arrogance, and no clue about the workings of public education. Of course he is arrogant. His mom opened every door for him. He never had to "toil in the fields" so to speak.
    What I will never runderstand is why we give so much press to these silver spoon children. It is fundamentally one of the problems with public education today, who we listen to, who we give voice to, who we allow to set policy.

  • Responding to Alexander: William Filan and Tom Cullen both were contracted by Stand for Children. Both of these lobbyists know how the game is played believe me. Jessica Handy is on the Stand for Children staff (policy director I think) and I would suspected she worked out the strategy to hire a total of ten additional contract lobbyists. Jessica Handy was on the Senate Democratic staff and she was considered to be one of the best staffers in the caucus and very trusted by President Cullerton. Her family has significant political roots in Springfield and she understand totally how the game is played and when and what you do not shoot your mouth about.

    Rod Estvan

  • apparently, edelman sent the note to "illinois education leaders" including karen lewis


    is there a yahoo group like this for IL or CPS?

  • here's the IEA response to the situation, which raises questions about whether edelman's remarks suggest something illegal (ie, pay to play) and refute the notion that SFC rolled the IEA completely, as edelman suggests


  • The IEA's comments are very strategically written. By raising the "pay to play" card the IEA is sending a not very coded message to members of the general assembly that Stand for Children is bad news and associating with it can get you in trouble. Given the fact that it is very likely that some powerful Democrats have now been sent this video and are less than happy how they are portrayed by Mr. Edelman the IEA appears to be going on the offensive.

    I don't see anything illegal in Stand for Children's funding of those candidates that would support their bill, the IEA has done the same thing in the past with bills they have supported. But they have not been so crude as to say so publicly, they followed the rules of the game.

    Rod Estvan

  • Edelman has been riding on his mama's good name to get to where he is. In that alone, he should be ashamed. Edelman is the "house *igger" that is being used now by the deformers who have NO Evidence behind their policies. Get a light skinned Stepin Fetchit to pass the Man's BS. Sad. I don't know how the dude can live with himself. He has turned his back on the very rights his mom has fought for, so he can live high off the hog! A shame!

  • here's a link to a rough partial transcript of the edelman video, which i have not checked, for you to read -- caveat lector:


  • Shame on you for such an offensive post.

    BTW, Karen Lewis supported SB7 (before she didn't support it) and every black legislator in Illinois, save one, voted for it. Are you going to slander them, too?

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    Yup! Supporting Evidence Free Policies to placate the big money folks behind privatization of public schools, all the politicians who supported SB7 should be ashamed of lazy thinking and working to get $ from the real money folks behind SB7 at the expense of real school reform and subjecting children to third rate schools.

    Praise to the one African American legislator for not supporting a bill based on no research. One independent voice! A strong voice!

    Edelman is happy in Masters Quarters!

  • fb_avatar

    Hi Alexander -- I have a question about one of Edelman's comments.

    Here's the quote from the transcript I made. It's at 9:11 of the 14.44-minute clip, and it's very clear. I capitalized the words I'm asking about.
    So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor ... and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about THE TALKING POINT THAT WE MADE UP and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.
    Edelman says quite clearly and calmly (and I think with a faint smile) that "we" made up this claim. Do you think you could ask him about that strategy and what else they made up? I know it's par for the course in the sausage-making world, but I'm still interested in the fact that it's so cold-blooded.

    By the way, there's now another transcript -- the full hour of the Edelman/Crown panel, I believe from the NEA -- and it doesn't have the "we made up" wording -- the sentence is rather garbled and simply omits those words in their version. But mine is accurate; you can hear it clearly.

  • here's the CTU IFT IEA statement about edelman's false statements and distortion of the process


  • He is not sorry about what he said, he is sorry he got caught in public making these remarks. Probably felt that he was speaking in a safe place to a supportive audience . I don't think it's the Union that should be the most offended ... it should be the dumb IL politicians that he bought out . And especially Madigan , who is singled out for losing the $ support of the Union and opening the way for Stand for Children to step in and fill the void. The July 12th article in the SunTimes had a good explanation and video of it.

  • In response to Caroline Grannan comment about the Stand for Children talking point on Houston. The basic talking point was this: Houston has about 250 extra hours in the classroom per year, which is roughly equivalent to three extra school years from first grade through 12th grade compared to CPS. This is not made up and Eric Zorn verified that data. I looked at what Houston did with that time for its students with disabilities and posted on D299 about it, no great achievement gain.

    Zorn did an article, April 29, 2011 on Houston outcomes compared to Chicago and even with this additional time in school the advantage for Houston children was limited. Also I noted something that Zorn did not in his article, several test cheating stories coming out of Houston. But as far as a talking point goes one does have to give Stand for Children some credit - the talking point worked. The media picked it up several times and liked it. No doubt on top of having eleven lobbyists, and pollsters which Mr. Edelman admitted to, Stand for Children may even have had a media consultant and a branding specialist. The Houston talking point while lacking much substance did work.

    Rod Estvan

  • 88,000
    I am going to make up some talking points of my own .I will get a
    Button made up with this on it

    I taught 88,000students
    How many have you?

  • Offensive? Well yes, the young jerk was offensive - but was Alex, for posting uncut undoctored videotape where this person shows exactly where his moral values really lie?
    You want offensive? Bug his house like Blago's was.
    If this is the way this kid feels free to express himself in public, what do you think he would say in the privacy of his home?
    At least Rod gave our kids health insurance; he gave our parents free bus rides and low cost prescriptions.
    This guy? His mom must be so ashamed.

Leave a comment