Writer's note one: This is the second part of a three part series on Sloan Rachmuth and Education First Alliance (part one can be found here:
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 Two: The Qualifications and Credentials
Sloan Rachmuth (founder and president of Education First Alliance) claims to be a Harvard graduate with a degree in psychology. She claims to be an investigative journalist. She also claims to be an “expert” on public education.
Let’s take a closer look at those claims.
Ms. Rachmuth claims to have graduated from Harvard University in 2007 with a degree in psychology. She also claims to be working on her PhD in Media Psychology from Fielding Graduate University (although it appears no work has been done in that program since 2012).
A degree from Harvard is a difficult thing to get, and graduates of Harvard carry with them the prestige of having graduated from an Ivy League school. There seems to be some doubt regarding this degree (at least about the diploma Rachmuth has shared online), but I will make no judgment about that. There is no provable information that Ms. Rachmuth is lying about her education. I have no reason to believe she is. The shared diploma does look suspect, but I can’t verify where those pictures came from. What I will say is that a degree in psychology from ANY university does NOT make one an “expert” on public education. https://twitter.com/jay_jay1887/status/1561809953077317632?t=Wf5gLpy1_lkOIkaubi5RKQ&s=19
Ms. Rachmuth appears to have no background in public education at all. She DOES seem to have some experience with private, religious education, however. The very first time Rachmuth appeared in NC news headlines was in 2016, when she and her husband started a huge controversy in the Jewish day school their children were enrolled in. That is the FIRST mention of Ms. Rachmuth having any connection to education whatsoever.
Sloan Rachmuth has no degree in education. She has no background in education policy. She has no experience serving on elected education boards. She has no training in either developing or evaluating curriculum standards. There is no evidence that Ms. Rachmuth has ever even visited or volunteered in a public school. Given these facts, it’s fair to conclude that her claims of being an “expert” in public education are an extreme exaggeration at best and an outright lie at worst.
Moving onto Ms. Rachmuth’s claim to be an “investigative journalist,” my own research indicates that’s not the case.
Anyone can claim to be a “journalist.” For example, I could claim to be one, because I write and publish a blog. Me saying I am a journalist doesn’t make me one. I am an opinion writer. Yes, I research my pieces and search for supporting sources and documentation to support my opinion, but that doesn’t make me a reporter.
As with education, Ms. Rachmuth has no background and no professional training or education in journalism. She does own a media blog titled “Pen and Shield” (which she claims is a nonprofit) and she has been lucky enough to have some of her commentaries published by national publications. However, none of those pieces are examples of investigative reporting - they are opinion commentaries supported by other people’s work. “Pen and Shield” has not published ONE SINGLE ARTICLE since September of 2020 (two years ago). In spite of the inactivity, Ms. Rachmuth continues to solicit donations (https://www.penandshieldproject.org/)
on the web page of Pen and Shield and recent tax filings (which are problematic to say the least) indicate that she has taken in more than $65,000 in the name of her “non-profit.”
More on Pen & Shield's tax filings can be found here:
Also problematic about Ms. Rachmuth’s claims to be an investigative journalist is how often she gets basic facts wrong.
REAL investigative journalists often spend weeks and months investigating, researching, and writing their stories. They do NOT print facts that can be easily disproved by a quick Google search. They do NOT print wild accusations against elected officials without providing DETAILED evidence to back up their claims.
There are many examples of Ms. Rachmuth printing poorly researched and blatantly false stories. The most egregious example of this is from earlier this year when Ms. Rachmuth tweeted out a picture of people she said were all NC public school teachers who had been arrested in the last 18 months for sex offenses (the original tweet is pictured at the end of this commentary). The tweet had SO MANY problems that she ended up having to delete it and post a new one. The BIGGEST problem was that she had placed a picture of Melissa Swarbrick, a candidate for NCGA WHO RACHMUTH HAS ENDORSED in her homemade little mugshot lineup. Yes. That's right - Rachmuth didn’t even bother to review her own work before inadvertently and publicly accusing a candidate for NC house that she supports of being a pedophile.
Of course, once she realized her mistake, she quickly deleted the pic, removed Swarbrick’s picture from her lineup, and posted a new version. Problem solved, right? Er…wrong. The updated collage included people with arrests stretching back to 2012, former teachers, people from FL, GA, & SC, volunteers, private school teachers, substitutes, people not charged with sex crimes, and mostly unsourced photos of folks.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to expose child abuse. Having said that, it’s very important to completely vet and research your accusation before you go online and claim that someone is a NC public school teacher AND a pedophile (any REAL investigative journalist would be sure to do so).
All of this is not to say that Ms. Rachmuth (or someone in her organization) doesn’t have excellent research skills. It’s obvious that when Ms. Rachmuth *wants* to find out something, she has very little trouble doing so. For instance, she has warned her critics over and over again that if they continue to oppose her, she will use every bit of research skill she has and every resource at her disposal to go after not only her critics, but her critics’ families.
Ms. Rachmuth has made good on those threats. Recently, a young mother reached out to Ms. Rachmuth with some concerns over one of the candidates EFA is endorsing. Ms. Rachmuth responded by threatening to “find out something” and “publish.” She did find out a secret about this young woman. She did publish it. She humiliated this woman over a past mistake without a second thought to the children and family members involved - all because this woman had some concerns about a political candidate. I won’t link those posts here. I have spoken to the victim of this bullying through email and I strongly feel that she and her family have suffered enough. If you need to know details to verify this story, a quick Twitter search will show you more than you ever wanted to know.
The bottom line is that no REAL, PROFESSIONAL investigative journalist would ever use their skills, their resources, and their public platforms to make and promote threats, harassment, and bullying. Not only would no self-respecting journalist do such a thing, but no decent human being would.
Sloan Rachmuth claims to be an “expert” in public education. She has used that claim to get herself booked on media shows and aligned with GOP political candidates. But she has no background, training, or degree in education. She doesn’t even appear to be connected to any public school in any way.
She claims to be an investigative journalist. Again, she has no background or education in journalism. She doesn’t publish investigative reports. She publishes opinion pieces (ones that are often poorly sourced with unverifiable documentation). She often publishes information that is easily proved false by the general public. She uses her media outlets, research skills, and resources to target her critics for public embarrassment and harassment.
I continue to wonder why so many Republican candidates continue to cozy up to this woman and her organization.
***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at email@example.com