'Uncompromised' Liberal Group Takes Big Money From Teachers Union

Progress Michigan's attacks on school choice align with NEA's goals

The liberal non-profit Progress Michigan took $67,000 from the NEA in 2014 and has criticized charter schools.

The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan boasts on its website that it doesn’t take corporate money:

“No corporate money. Just uncompromised progressive politics for Michigan.”

Yet the non-profit group – which criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for so-called “dark money” contributions and has been an continuous critic of charter schools – itself collected $67,000 from the National Education Association teachers union in 2014.

The NEA has an intense interest in charter schools because very few of them are unionized, and their growing popularity in states like Michigan threatens to erode the union's funds. When a Michigan parent chooses to send her child to a charter school rather than a unionized conventional school it means lower dues collections for the national teachers’ union in the future.

On the most recent available IRS form 990 filed by Progress Michigan (for 2012), the organization disclosed total revenue of $346,782.

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Progress Michigan doesn’t list its donors anywhere on its website. The non-profit didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

“It’s not a conflict of interest to push the political advocacy agenda of your largest financial donors,” said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project. “But we don't think it’s very ‘progressive’ to fight against parental choice in public education.”

Kyle Olson, founder of the Education Action Group, said he wasn’t surprised to learn the NEA was funding Progress Michigan.

“The best way to understand groups like this is they accuse their opponents of doing exactly what they are doing,” Olson said. “If the NEA came out and said charter schools are bad, they have a vested interest in protecting the government-institution system. It’s not a surprise to see organizations like Media Matters or Progress Michigan take that money and then go out and do the unions bidding and attack choice in education.”

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See also:

Some Progressives Want to Silence, Not Debate, Opponents

Teachers' Union: Many Members Conservative; Overwhelmingly Funds 'Progressive' Groups


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