Ward 8’s race for a seat on the State Board of Education has been shaken up after a series of pricey mailers supporting candidate Tierra Jolly. And while most candidates in an otherwise sleepy special election would love to be backed by a heavy mail campaign, no one claims to be less happy about the mailers than Jolly herself.

“The first thing I said was to my campaign manager,'” Jolly recalls. “‘I didn’t approve this flyer. When did this go out?’”

In fact, if Jolly had approved the mailers, embedded at the bottom of this post, it would likely break laws against campaigns coordinating with outside groups. That’s because the literature—-which feature pictures of Jolly and some of her students—-comes from Education Reform Now Advocacy, a nonprofit affiliated with school reform group Democrats for Education Reform.

DFER, which once hosted a seminar on the evils of teachers’ unions that featured ex-mayor Adrian Fenty, is exactly the kind of group Jolly says she doesn’t want to affiliate herself with.

“From my understanding of their work, I am certainly surprised that they would support me,” Jolly says.

Jolly’s story of unexpected help from DFER matches with a similar 2012 race in Buffalo, NY, where Education Reform Now Advocacy deluged unsuspecting school board candidates with positive mailers. A spokesman for DFER, which counts former councilmember Kevin Chavous as a member of its board of directors, didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment.

The group’s support presents a conundrum for Jolly, whose background as a former Teach for America teacher and now a teacher at private Maryland high school Bishop McNamara already has her detractors claiming that she’s importing outside ideas to the District. Opponent Philip Pannell, who moans that the mailers’ potential impact on Tuesday’s vote are “depressing” for him, says Jolly took too long to denounce her unexpected benefactors.

“If I were being promoted by group that I have major problems with, I would not be quietly and privately horrified,” Pannell says.
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