What Monday’s Supreme Court Ruling in Trinity Lutheran Preschool Case Could Mean for School Vouchers

House Reauthorizes Career and Tech Ed Bill While Members Speak Out Against Trump Funding Cuts

Weekend Education Reads: 8 Important Stories on Students & Schools You May Have Missed This Week

Analysis: The Fierce Fight Over Mayoral Control Reflects De Blasio’s Weakness on Education

Delaware Lawmakers Mull Nixing State Board of Ed to Help Ease Budget Crisis

College Presidents Slowly Becoming More Diverse but Still Mostly White Men in Their 60s

Report: For $42 Per Pupil, Districts Can Build Principal Pipelines and Get Better School Leaders

Come Together: New Poll Finds High Bipartisan Support for Improving Early Education

When Communities Secede From School Districts, Inequity & Segregation Follow. But 30 States Let It Happen Anyway

Georgia Special Election Makes American History; Voters’ Education Marks the Race’s Significance

Bror Saxberg, All-Star Learning Scientist, Joins Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Los Angeles School Board Bars Charter Schools From Being Included in New Unified Enrollment System

N.M. Ed Chief Hanna Skandera Leaves Office and Shares Tenure Highlights; Still ‘a Lot of Work to Do’

You Are What You Eat (at School): Report Shows Healthy School Lunches Tied to Higher Student Test Scores

New Census Numbers: Per-Pupil Spending Rose 3.5% in 2015; Same-Year NAEP Scores Dropped

As Charter Fans Fret About Trump’s Support, Leaders Warn Funding Boost Not a Done Deal

ESSA Takes Shape: Feds Give Surprisingly Strong Feedback on Delaware, Nevada & New Mexico Plans

South Carolina Announces $250,000 Fellowships for Educators to Launch Top-Notch Charter Schools

In D.C.’s Revamped ‘Opportunity Academies,’ There Are No Forgotten Students on Graduation Day

Montessori Was the Original Personalized Learning. Now, 100 Years Later, Wildflower Is Reinventing the Model

The 74 Exclusive: Ed Reform Groups StudentsFirst and 50CAN to Merge

March 29, 2016

Talking Points

Ed reform groups 50CAN and StudentsFirst to join forces with a focus on states.

New group will be called 50CAN; CEO will be Marc Porter Magee

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

In an effort to strengthen state-level efforts across the country, the education reform organizations StudentsFirst and 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (better known as 50CAN) are merging, 50CAN will announce today.
The new group will be known as 50CAN, but StudentsFirst state chapters will retain their names (except in Pennsylvania, where their work overlapped).
While both organizations have focused on state-level change — working to expand charter schools, for instance, and overhaul teacher tenure laws — the merger reflects the increased importance of state policy-making in the era ushered in by the Every Student Succeeds Act.  
“It’s going to mean that there are more local leaders learning and growing from each other under one roof,” said Marc Porter Magee, the founder and CEO of 50CAN, who will now serve as CEO of the combined organizations. “It marries the best of grassroots local leadership with the sophistication of professional campaigns.”
Jim Blew, president of StudentsFirst, will become a senior advisor to 50CAN, tasked with integrating StudentsFirst’s lobbying and political campaign efforts with 50CAN’s networks of state policy activists. He will report to Porter Magee.
Blew dismissed the suggestion that the merger signaled any kind of defeat.
“A lot of the battle is played out at the state level in state capitols,” Blew told The 74. “By combining the 50CAN skillset with our skillset in lobbying elections, we’re going to have a lot stronger of an effort in a lot of states.”
Local initiatives have been 50CAN’s bailiwick since it was formed in Connecticut in 2005 as ConnCAN. It became a separate national organization in January 2011 with ConnCAN continuing to operate independently. 
Just a month earlier, the  influential and controversial reform activist Michelle Rhee, past chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, announced on Oprah that she was creating StudentsFirst to advance reform nationally — it would be an “interest group solely for kids.”
Rhee’s take-no-prisoners style and efforts at wide-ranging reform made her famous in the world of education — some would say infamous — a status heightened by her appearance in the pro-reform documentary Waiting for Superman and on a Time magazine cover holding a broom with the headline, “How to Fix America’s Schools.”
Her notoriety helped StudentsFirst raise tens of millions of dollars, while still falling short  of its lofty goal — raising $1 billion — and fundraising tailed off over time.


Although Rhee stepped down from her post at StudentsFirst in 2014, Porter MaGee said she will continue to provide the group with strategic guidance.
“Michelle has not only left a really strong legacy in D.C. that kids are still benefiting from and (Chancellor Kaya) Henderson has built upon in a strong way, but she started a national conversation when she started StudentsFirst around education,” he said. “We want to keep that momentum going.”
The new 50CAN will run advocacy and lobbying campaigns in at least 11 states, including support for expanding charter school opportunities in Camden and Newark, New Jersey, and reducing suspensions in Minnesota.
StudentsFirst New York, which has been autonomous for several years, will not be affected by the merger.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, which restrains the federal role in education, is re-centering education policy-making in the states — making 50CAN’s efforts to strengthen state campaigns that much more timely, Blew said.
Blew also noted that the merger will prompt staff cuts and changes to 50CAN’s board of directors.
“With a country as large and diverse as our own, there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution,” Porter Magee said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t have an excellent American education system. The way we’re going to get there is states innovating and leading.”