Another Students for Education Reform (SFER) Chapter Disaffiliates

The other day I received a wonderful e-mail. A student and former Students for Education Reform (SFER) chapter leader from Loyola University informed me that they have officially disaffiliated from the national and asked if I could help spread the word. Joining University of Chicago and DePaul University, Loyola University is now the third university in Chicago to disaffiliate.

They have shared their letter to the public as well as their letter to the staff that states their reason for disaffiliating, and you can read the letters below.

Some quotes I found particularly important from their letters:

  • SFER fails to be a transparent national organization, which inhibits our ability to be affiliated with them and to advocate for their mission. We hope to continue the quest for truth, better schools, and improved education for all students, but without the negative connotations of Students for Education Reform.
  • While we recognize that Students for Education Reform is an organization whose mission is to advocate for better schools for all students, and do not doubt their efforts to achieve this mission, we are not comfortable advocating for SFER’s proposed solutions. After presentations, discussions, and panels presented by SFER during the National Summit, we were given the impression that the SFER agenda is pro-Teach For America, pro-charter, and doesn’t question the monetary inflow into the organization, which are all things we disagree with and do not want to advocate for.

  • We want to take a different direction, and don’t feel that we are getting the support we need. We no longer see a point in affiliating with this organization, as we are not benefiting from it. Also, when trying to plan events for this year, we reached out to a few organizations to collaborate and support us, but they refused to do so, solely based on our affiliation with SFER. Again, we feel the cons outweigh the pros of being under the SFER umbrella. We want autonomy and the freedom to make our own decisions and follow our own agenda with the support of our community around Loyola.

Thank you former Loyola SFER Chapter Members for your courage and power. Your action speaks volumes.

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November 7, 2013

Loyola University Chicago Letter of Disaffiliation

After being a Students for Education Reform chapter at Loyola University Chicago for over a year, we have decided to disaffiliate from the national organization. Initially, SFER’s ideology comes off as very appealing, especially to eager college students wanting to have an impact on the world. Being in the city of Chicago, we are especially sensitive to the issues revolving around education policy and reform. However, from experiences with this organization we realized that our ideologies differed and that having the SFER name was becoming a burden.

We have come to see SFER as an overtly political group with strong tendencies towards one side in the face of most education related debates. For example, SFER is very pro-charter and pro-Teach For America. There is much debate about both charter schools and Teach For America surrounding their impact on students and their actual success. Rather than completely supporting charter schools and organizations like TFA, we want to enter into the debate of their actual validity. There are compelling arguments on both the pro and the con side and we will not ignore either side, especially the negative one, since it is educational injustice we are interested in combatting.

Moreover, SFER is quite clear of their Democratic political tendencies. Education reform and policy should be a bipartisan concern and should not have to be strongly associated with a single political party. On our own campus, we want to attract students of various political philosophies who are willing to enter the conversation on education. From our experiences at SFER events, we sensed a strong favoritism of the Democratic party, to the point of portraying Republicans as the enemies of education reform efforts. Also, we have reason to believe that SFER is in fact associated with the group Democrats for Education Reform. We never received a clear answer from SFER about their affiliation with DFER, which only adds to the ambiguity of the situation. As an SFER chapter we wanted to have a transparent relationship with SFER national. If SFER could not even clear up their relationship with DFER to us, we don’t see how SFER National could provide us with the communication and transparency that we desire.

Although we have disaffiliated with SFER, as college students we still want to continue discussing the problems within education on our campus. Our group wants to extend the conversation of education reform to people of many backgrounds. We also want to form a better connection with the community around us and collaborate with other college students and local high school students. Our experience with SFER has opened our eyes to the many different paths education reform can take. SFER fails to be a transparent national organization, which inhibits our ability to be affiliated with them and to advocate for their mission. We hope to continue the quest for truth, better schools, and improved education for all students, but without the negative connotations of Students for Education Reform.

 

With hope,

The (former) SFER Loyola Executive Board

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November 7, 2013

Dear Staff of SFER National,

We, the executive board of Loyola University Chicago’s chapter of Students for Education Reform, would officially like to announce our disaffiliation with SFER National. After much time discussing, debating, and deliberating, we have chosen to make this very difficult decision. We decided that this would be the best move for us to grow as an autonomous student-led movement on our campus. We regret to inform you of this decision, as your influence as an established organization is a powerful one, but SFER’s agenda is not a good fit for what our chapter and campus needs.

As an organization, we have run into many roadblocks because of our affiliation with SFER. Whether it be other organizations not wanting to support our cause or because we did not receive the support we needed on behalf of SFER, we have been unable to succeed because we are being encouraged to advocate for organizations and ideals that we do not support. Autonomy with guidance is what we were seeking in our affiliation with SFER, but unfortunately, we failed to find that in our relationship.

While we recognize that Students for Education Reform is an organization whose mission is to advocate for better schools for all students, and do not doubt their efforts to achieve this mission, we are not comfortable advocating for SFER’s proposed solutions. After presentations, discussions, and panels presented by SFER during the National Summit, we were given the impression that the SFER agenda is pro-Teach For America, pro-charter, and doesn’t question the monetary inflow into the organization, which are all things we disagree with and do not want to advocate for. Also, SFER has strong political tendencies towards the left of the spectrum. We see education reform as a bipartisan issue and do not feel the need to strongly associate with a single political party. SFER perpetuates the idea of privatization, and we disagree that privatization is the solution to improving schools. Multiple times, we have been asked to push along this agenda, and do not feel like we are able to freely and openly express our opinions without judgment.

Additionally, we feel there has been a huge gap in communication on the state and national levels. Following the mysterious “release” of  the former Program Director for Illinois, there was no explanation as to why he was let go, and we the SFER chapters of Illinois, were not at all involved in choosing his predecessor, nor were we given any information as to why someone who tried to support us was swiftly, discreetly, and suspiciously removed.

From the guidance that we have gotten from SFER, we have felt the push for us to be more active in protesting, canvassing, and getting involved in politics. We want to take a different direction, and don’t feel that we are getting the support we need. We no longer see a point in affiliating with this organization, as we are not benefiting from it. Also, when trying to plan events for this year, we reached out to a few organizations to collaborate and support us, but they refused to do so, solely based on our affiliation with SFER. Again, we feel the cons outweigh the pros of being under the SFER umbrella. We want autonomy and the freedom to make our own decisions and follow our own agenda with the support of our community around Loyola.

We want to start a dialogue on Loyola’s campus, and make our effort on a local scale. We want to discuss topics in education reform, be able to advocate for the schools in our community, give a voice to students, and engage in conversations about how we can fix the broken system that is education in Chicago.

We, the executive board of Students for Education Reform at Loyola, with input from our chapter members, have decided that disaffiliation from SFER National is the only way that our organization can progress and achieve what we the students want it to achieve in order to help our community and educate our campus. We appreciate you all reading this letter and hope you understand why we have chosen to take this journey to free thinking and autonomous leadership.

Sincerely,

The Executive Board of (former) SFER Loyola

 

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Also, make sure to check out Chicago’s chapter of Students United for Public EducationStudents United for Education Justice.

 

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3 thoughts on “Another Students for Education Reform (SFER) Chapter Disaffiliates

  1. It is unfortunate that Loyola was not honorable enough to state their true reasons for disaffiliating. The issues brought up by UChicago and DePaul last spring were certainly on point at the time, but since then SFER Nationals has taken great strides to improve these areas. As one of the chapter leaders at Northwestern, I have personally seen the improvements SFER has made in reaching out to their chapters and being more transparent. It appears to me that the Loyola chapter was lacking in leadership and did not want to commit their time to the organization. They were even too lazy to draft their own letter of disaffiliation.

    SFER is a great organization that engages students and fuels their passion for education reform. Since joining two years ago, I have learned so much about how to get involved and how to use my strength and passion to change the world. If that is not an admirable goal, then I don’t know what is. It has even inspired me to pursue a career in elementary education, rather than turn me off from teaching due to the problems the system faces. I have had a really positive experience with SFER and I hope the readers of this blog will get all the facts rather than rely on this inaccurate portrayal of the organization.

  2. Totally understand the feelings from the Loyola chapter of SFER. SFER is not addressing the needs for a more equitable education system based on equal resources and opportunities but perpetuates a two-tiered system in which poorer students receive a drill and kill substandard of education while wealthier students receive a standard of education that embraces a progressive approach championed by the likes of John Dewey.

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