Out-of-State Special Interest Group Students First Hires New Director to “Increase Presence” in Iowa

Students First has track record of supporting ALEC-Backed Education Proposals, Providing Financial Backing for Conservative Candidates, Involvement in Cheating and Anti-Gay Controversies


DES MOINES – Late last week, Students First announced hiring Patty Link, a former Des Moines School Board Member, as State Director, signaling an attempt to increase their presence in Iowa. In the past, Students First has promoted anti-union policies such as targeting collective bargaining laws, expanding charter schools and school vouchers, and working with anti-labor allies like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the conservative front-group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last fall, further cementing their conservative credentials, Student’s First provided over $350,000 in campaign contributions to defeat pro-public education legislative candidates in Iowa.  
Nationally, Michelle Rhee, the Founder and CEO of Students First, has been embroiled in scandal, having been accused of failing to act to prevent “widespread cheating” while Chancellor of Washington, DC public schools.

More recently, Rhee and Students First honored Tennessee State Representative John Ragan as “Reformer of the Year” despite Ragan’s attempts to exempt “religious or political bullying” from a measure to prevent anti-gay harassment in schools. Ragan also co-sponsored legislation that would have forced teachers and school therapists to “out” students suspected of being gay to their parents. “It is not surprising that Students First wants to attempt to expand their reach in Iowa after investing a considerable amount of money in last year’s elections. What is surprising is that former Des Moines School Board member and co-owner of Link Strategies Patty Link is involved,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Iowa’s educators, labor unions, and anyone paying attention to right-wing organizations and their undue influence in politics understand what Students First is all about. Michelle Rhee’s controversial background and caustic influence on public education have no place in Iowa. Link would serve our state better if she denounced the Students First agenda and instead focused on promoting policies that truly further the best interest of Iowa students, rather than an out-of-state special interest group.”




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Former DM School Board Member Patty Link to lead Students First group in Iowa



Students First gives Iowa ‘F’ for education policy

“Last year, Rhee visited with Gov. Terry Branstad and select lawmakers on education reform topics. The organization also spent more than $300,000 on state legislative races this year, more than any other independent expenditure group in the last cycle.”



Patty Link Des Moines School Board Biography



$355,541.95 in Independent Expenditures by Students First in 2012


Jane Jech for Iowa Senate: $85,450.31 total expenditures

$2,323 on 10/22/2012: https://webapp.iecdb.iowa.gov/PublicView/IndepExpend/2012/Students%20First_OIE_2012_10_22_22.34.16.pdf


$28,000 on 10/22/2012: https://webapp.iecdb.iowa.gov/PublicView/IndepExpend/2012/Students%20First_OIE_2012_10_22_22.38.26.pdf


$51,793.98 on 10/22/2012



$3,333.33 on 10/22/2012



Friends for Breitbach: $78,922 total expenditures

$51,032.52 on 10/22/2012



$2,556.15 on 10/22/2012



$22,000 on 10/22/2012



$3,333.33 on 10/22/2012



Committee to Elect Shawn Hamerlinck: $191,169.64

$53,578.56 on 10/22/2012  



$1,275.75 on 10/19/2012



$47,000 on 10/22/2012



$3,333.33 on 10/22/2012



$85,982.00 on 5/24/2012


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