Sloan Rachmuth and EFA - Who, What, & How
Writer's note one: This is the first part of a three part series on Sloan Rachmuth and Education First Alliance. In this series, I will attempt to answer the following questions: Who is Sloan Rachmuth really? What is Education First Alliance and what are its goals? Why are Moore and Hoke County "conservative" politicians (and politicians all over the state) so eager to jump into bed with this woman? In part one of the series, we will look at the rise of EFA in NC politics and the tactics it employs to ensure success. In part two we will be looking at Ms. Rachmuth's qualifications and credentials as both an "expert" in public education and as an investigative reporter. In part three we will examine the true agenda of Rachmuth and EFA and examine the money being brought in and how it is being spent.
Writer's note two: I am well aware of the risks of posting this commentary. Sloan and her supporters have made it a mission in their lives to dox, harass, and silence all their critics. The thing about me is, I have no skeletons left in the closet. Everything is already out in the streets. Furthermore, I'm finally in a position in my life that these people can't hurt me any longer. Let them bring up my beer ticket, let them bring up the fact that I was once in a romantic relationship with a registered sex offender, let them bring up my bad credit, let them bring up the fact that I dye my hair, I'm in serious need of dental work, and I'm an all-around b*tchy person. They can't hurt me. And I will not be silenced by their bullying and their schoolyard intimidation tactics. The sad fact of the matter is Sloan and her minions can't refute the facts that are out there for anyone who wants to see them to find. The only move they have is to double down on personal attacks and cyber stalking. That speaks more about who Sloan is and what her organization is all about than anything any of us critics can say.
Who is Sloan Rachmuth and what is Education First Alliance
Part One: The Tactics - Fear and Intimidation
If you follow public education (even casually) in North Carolina, you have probably heard the name Sloan Rachmuth. Her organization (once a non-profit, now a PAC), Education First Alliance (EFA) claims to be one of the biggest public education advocate groups in the state. What makes EFA (Rachmuth is the founder and president) different from other public education advocacy groups in North Carolina is that it doesn't focus on supporting public schools by advocating for increased budget, increased pay and better working conditions for teachers, providing outreach programs for students at risk, or fighting for reduced class sizes and other resources to improve academic performance. EFA instead focuses primarily on recruiting, training, and endorsing political candidates to run for local school boards and for other local level offices. EFA is a purely partisan group. Its public goals are built around weeding out what it considers to be "liberal" or "leftist" teachers, administrators, and office holders and replacing them with those who support and will implement its extreme far-right wing ideology in our public schools (its private goals seem to be more about self enrichment and providing political power to its president - but we will save that for part three of this series).
EFA has had some very real success in meeting its goals. Sloan Rachmuth has conducted "boot camp" training sessions across the state for both candidates and current elected officials. One such "boot camp" here in Moore County (held at the home of Moore County GOP spokesman Steve Woodward and attended by sitting Board of Education members Robert Levy and Philip Holmes) was described on social media posts by its participants as "inspiring Republicans to declare war on leftist educators and their enablers on local and state government".” (https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=3037600919836744&set=a.1436990246564494)
Conservative" candidates flock to Rachmuth for support and greedily accept her endorsement. Locally she has endorsed Pauline Bruno and Ken Benway for Moore County Board of Education and Melissa Swarbrick for NC General Assembly. Hoke County Board of Education candidate Reuben Castallon is a frequent guest on EFA's social media programs. Moore County Board for Education member David Hensley has donated to EFA's PAC at least three times. Earlier this summer, Sloan attended a fundraiser for the Hoke County GOP with US Congressman Richard Hudson.
There's no doubt that Sloan Rachmuth and EFA have managed to build a vast network of contacts and amass huge influence in the North Carolina Republican party in a very short period of time. Given that older, well established, deeply respected public education advocacy groups have been unable to build meaningful political alliances with elected representatives from either party, it's fair to examine how EFA managed to have such success so quickly.
Rachmuth and EFA first gained attention during the COVID-19 crisis. Using "pandemic politics' and claiming to be a "expert" in the field of education, Sloan began posting incessantly about forced school closures and mandatory mask and social distancing policies. Using primarily unsourced and unproven data, she claimed that the health risks of Covid were completely overblown, that wearing masks damaged children emotionally, and that school closures were nothing more than a leftist plot to deprive children of a proper education.
After Covid restrictions were eased and children went back to school, she pivoted almost immediately from pandemic politics to Critical Race Theory. Again, claiming to be an "expert" in public education, she made one media appearance after another, frightening white affluent parents into believing that our k-12 public schools were teaching their children that the white race is "inferior" and that white children should be ashamed about their race. It didn't matter that none of what she said was true (there is no such white shaming happening in our schools and CRT is a graduate level college theory that has never been taught in grades k-12), her scare tactics were very successful in gathering support for her movement.
After she slayed the (nonexistent) CRT monster, she moved on to accusing teachers and parents of "grooming" and promoting "pedophilia." Again, claiming to be an "expert" in education, she sounded false alarms about social/emotional learning teaching kids to be homosexual and transgender. She demanded the "outing " and firing of any teacher who provided even remotely inclusive resources to LBGTQ+ students in their classrooms. As with her hysterics regarding CRT, she managed to terrify parents of straight kids into believing their public schools were plotting to "turn them gay."
None of Ms. Rachmuth's bombastic rhetoric is based in truth. Her claims of being an "expert" in education are dubious at best (I will be covering her credentials and qualifications in another commentary in this series). EFA has no membership list to prove her claims that it is one of the "biggest education groups" in the state. So, it makes one wonder exactly HOW Rachmuth built such a base of power in GOP politics.
The answer lies primarily in her tactics: Fear and Intimidation
In addition to the scare tactics described above, Ms. Rachmuth and her core supporters use a combination of bullying, harassment, doxing, and threats to silence all critics and force compliance from Republican politicians. She believes anyone who isn't with her is against her, and it is her way or the highway. If you step out of line, she will stop at nothing to punish you, embarrass you, and harass you.
Examples of this are numerous;
She is accused of intimidating the minor child of a candidate she opposed at an election polling station.https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid0gUATXij1saAYiYfzsPe4nW3RNG1hV7SmcpsMSBcNQbNKx5xj63gG8bE4ryjSodV5l&id=100007605966684
She is accused of forcing a candidate she opposed to withdrawal from her race after weeks of suffering harassment and intimidation. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article263478688.html
She has offered cash bounties for the names and work places of any teacher who presents as a "leftist" or a "groomer." Examples of the behavior Sloan wished to have reported to her include using pronouns in email signatures or displaying rainbows in their classrooms. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02FVpSjxArF9GHjaG3Tc5FFeNiwRHGfLHhN339snsEuhdfN7RYdzFg7nttjSMw3qifl&id=100007605966684
She is accused of trying to get Moore County conservative radio host JD Zumwalt fired for disobeying her order to attack Republican State Superintendent Catherine Truitt. https://m.facebook.com/groups/565556801318383/permalink/764371308103597/
She has warned critics that she has "barrels of ink" and that if they oppose her, she will use all every resource at her disposal to "expose secrets" to humiliate them. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02dmEAyGGiNjPg9vNnf8ZHvUstcqhD3cNBTiwjiZx9Wm9gzvSWtTbNJGDJDv3e45yJl&id=100078142804772
One of her closest supporters is facing cyber stalking and communicating threats charges in multiple counties due to doxing and online harassment done at the behest of Rachmuth and EFA. https://www1.aoc.state.nc.us/www/calendars.Criminal.do?defendant=Ovitt%2Ctracey&op=Search&county=999&court=BTH&start=0&navindex=0&fromcrimquery=yes
EFA has doxed, harassed, and threatened so many teachers, parents, and politicians that an entire support group now exists for and is filled with their victims.
I could list more examples, but I think I have made my point. Put quite simply, the "success" of EFA is built on fear and intimidation. Interestingly, these tactics are not reserved just for "liberals" and "leftists" Rachmuth and EFA have a long list of conservative, Republican victims as well (including Catherine Truitt herself).
I can't help but to wonder if those who so eagerly support her and accept support from EFA would be so dismissive of the very real pain experienced by EFA's victims if it happened to either them or someone close to them. They may think they and their families are safe because they align with EFA's stated values and goals. If they *do* think that, they're wrong. No one is safe. No one is off limits.
Speak up just one time. Step out of line just once. Disagree on the smallest issue. If you do, you will join the dozens of teachers, parents, media members, and office seekers and holders that have been doxed, harassed, stalked, lied about, and bullied by Sloan Rachmuth and EFA.
If you don't believe me, perhaps you should ask Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at email@example.com