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Pro-charter group slapped with historic fine

New York Teacher

A New York-based pro-charter group was hit with a massive financial penalty for illegally hiding its donors’ identities. Families For Excellent Schools was fined $426,466 by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance — the largest fine handed out in the 44-year history of the agency.

The group was also forced to identify its donors, which revealed anonymous large donations from government officials and figures in the financial industry in Massachusetts, New York and other states.

Nonprofits like Families for Excellent Schools are usually not required to disclose their donors if they are not engaged directly in political activity. But state campaign finance officials found that the organization was soliciting checks specifically to promote a proposition on the November 2016 ballot to expand charter schools in Massachusetts. The group spent $15.3 million to support the proposition, which ultimately failed at the polls.

Families for Excellent Schools ranks among the biggest spenders in New York lobbying circles. From 2014 through 2016, the group spent more than $13 million on lobbying, advertising and event-related efforts in support of charter schools in New York, according to state ethics commission records.

Billy Easton, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said the group is “essentially a wholly owned commodity of elitist hedge-fund billionaires” with a school privatization agenda.

Boston Globe, Sept. 11
New York Daily News, Sept. 12