Jonah Edelman

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Jonah Edelman
Born (1970-10-09) October 9, 1970 (age 46)
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.[1] He is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children, a national American education advocacy organization based in Portland, Oregon and Waltham, Massachusetts, with affiliates in ten 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. His brother Ezra produced and directed the documentary O.J.: Made in America.

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.

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.[5]

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 concessions by teachers' unions leading to landmark 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. "[6]

Subsequent to this speech, a video of Edelman’s lecture went viral. Afterwards, he apologized for his “arrogance” in claiming his political manipulations alone passed the bill to the exclusion of unions’ contributions. The Illinois Education Association declined his apology.[7]

“They essentially gave away every single provision related to teacher effectiveness that we had proposed — everything we had fought for in Colorado,” Edelman said in Aspen. “We hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders and seven of the best minority lobbyists, preventing the unions from hiring them.”  He further stated, “There was a palpable sense of concern if not shock on the part of the teachers’ unions of Illinois that Speaker [of the House Mike] Madigan had changed allegiance and that we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down their throats the same way that pension reform had been jammed down their throats six months earlier."[8]



  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. ^ "School of Thought: 11 Education Activists for 2011.". 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  6. ^ "Braggart-angers-teachers-union-after-tough-negotiations-over-reform-bill.". 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  7. ^ "Jonah Edelman On Illinois School Reform: Stand For Children Head Talks Political Maneuvers.". 2011-07-12. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  8. ^ "Braggart-angers-teachers-union-after-tough-negotiations-over-reform-bill.". 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 

External links[edit]