Jonah Edelman

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Jonah Edelman
Born October 9, 1970 (1970-10-09) (age 44)
Washington, D.C.
Residence Portland, Oregon
Occupation Co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children

Jonah Martin Edelman (born October 9, 1970) is an American advocate for public education reform.[1] He is the co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children, a national American education reform organization based in Portland, Oregon, with affiliates in eleven states. He is the first Oregon resident to be awarded an Ashoka: Innovators for the Public fellowship.[2]

Background and education[edit]

Jonah Edelman is the second son of Marian Wright Edelman, former civil rights leader and aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Peter Edelman, former aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy, former assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Edelman was born and raised in Washington, D.C, and received his B.A. in history with a concentration on African-American studies from Yale University in 1992. Edelman attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, earning his Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in politics in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

Edelman cites tutoring a six-year-old bilingual child named Daniel Zayas in reading while volunteering at Dwight Elementary School during his first year at Yale as a turning point.[3] While still an undergraduate, he ran a teen pregnancy prevention speakers' bureau, co-founded a mentorship program for African American middle school students, and served as an administrator of an enrichment program for children living in public housing-Leadership Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP).

Stand for Children[edit]

Main article: Stand for Children

Edelman was a key organizer of Stand for Children Day, a June 1, 1996 rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. attended by 300,000 people.[4] Among the speakers at this rally, the largest for children in U.S. history, were Geoffrey Canada, who later became Stand for Children’s first Board of Directors chair, the editor of Parade Magazine, Walter Anderson, who came up with the name “Stand for Children Day,” and Marian Wright Edelman.

On June 2, 1996, Edelman and Eliza Leighton founded Stand for Children as an ongoing advocacy organization to support rally participants when they returned home. Hundreds of follow-up Stand for Children events and rallies took place across the country on June 1, 1997, and then June 1, 1998.

Anxious to have a deeper impact on children’s lives than was possible through one-day events, Edelman developed Stand for Children's grassroots advocacy approach based on key strengths of leading past and present membership associations, community organizing networks, and advocacy groups, and in consultation with legendary organizer Marshall Ganz, a protégé of Cesar Chavez. In November 1998, Edelman moved to Oregon to pilot it at the urging of Hanna Andersson founder, and then CEO, Gun Denhart. In 1999, Edelman supported a team of committed Salem, Oregon residents in organizing Stand’s first chapter, which remains active.[5] In the more than a decade since, Stand for Children has grown to include dozens of local chapters in eleven state affiliates and become a leading advocate in the United States for better public schools. Stand for Children describes its approach to improving public schools as follows:

We stand for achievement and access.

We stand for achievement by all students, through quality early childhood education, effective, empowered and supported teachers and principals, engaged families with high expectations, and other strategies that provide students the tailored instruction and support they need to graduate high school ready for college.

We stand for access to high quality schools for all students, especially students in poverty, students of color, and students learning English. To expand access to all students, we advocate for effective educational leadership at all levels, sufficient and effectively spent school funding, and clear, accurate information about how schools are performing for parents, educators, and the community. [6] In 2011, Stand for Children – and Edelman in particular – was cited in Time Magazine for “delivering results and changing how politicians think about grassroots education reform.” This acclaim was attributed to their work to improve school funding in Oregon, teacher evaluations in Colorado, and teacher policy in Illinois.

Recent writing

Edelman had a recent USA Today editorial calling for the expansion of high-quality preschool

He was also recently published in the Huffington Post explaining what education programs are at stake if congress fails to come to a budget compromise.

He blogs occasionally on the Huffington Post at

Past controversy

At the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28, 2011, Edelman was the center of a controversy due to remarks he made regarding recent education reform legislation in Illinois. While unions and legislators say they engaged in a collaborative effort in which all sides gave a little in an effort to improve Illinois’ schools, Edelman told attendees at the festival, that, actually, he led a well-funded campaign that used lobbyists and shrewd political gamesmanship to pressure union leaders to give up their rights. "[7]

Subsequent to this speech, a video of Edelman’s lecture went viral. Afterwards, he apologized for his arrogance. The Illinois Education Association declined his apology.[8] Edelman claimed the Chicago Teachers' Union would be unable to strike, but he was proven wrong when the union went on strike 14 months later.



  1. ^ James Warren (2011-04-28). "Son of Advocates Makes Education His Mission.". Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  2. ^ "Activist stands up for kids; and group take note.". 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  3. ^ "Children’s advocate talks about inspiration, what kids need.". 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  4. ^ "The controversy over ‘Stand’: A closer look.". 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  5. ^ "Activist stands up for kids; and group take note.". 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  6. ^ Stand for Children website.
  7. ^ "Braggart-angers-teachers-union-after-tough-negotiations-over-reform-bill.". 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  8. ^ "Jonah Edelman On Illinois School Reform: Stand For Children Head Talks Political Maneuvers.". 2011-07-12. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 

External links[edit]