BOSTON -- An advocacy group involved in the fight over school reopenings and education reform has had its federal tax exempt status revoked for failure to file financial statements dating back years.

The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance was stripped of its tax-exempt status last month for not filing Form 990s and other financial disclosures, dating back to 2018, according to Internal Revenue Service records.

Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the West Roxbury-based group, attributed the loss of its tax-exempt status to a "paperwork issue" and said the group plans to reapply to the IRS to regain its designation.

"We are working to resolve the paperwork issue and expect to regain our tax exempt status," he said.

The group was created about three years ago by teachers' unions and advocacy groups that campaigned to defeat a 2016 ballot question to expand taxpayer-funded charter schools. Since then, it has been heavily involved in some of the biggest fights over reforms to labor law, public education and criminal justice.

But a lack of financial disclosures means there is no way to determine how much the group raises and spends, as it advocates for increased education funding and a fully remote start to the school year, which are key issues for the state's teachers unions.

The Education Justice Alliance was a lead organizer in the "Fund Our Future" campaign that pushed for approval of the Student Opportunity Act. The law, signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2019, will require the state to increase spending on K-12 public education by $1.5 billion over the next seven years.

The group has also advocated for approval of a $15 per hour minimum wage and passage of the Paid Family and Medical Leave law that goes into effect next year.

More recently, it has pushed for a remote start to the academic year for public schools amid lingering concerns about the coronavirus. The group's members have organized rallies outside the Statehouse and online forums featuring parents and students raising concerns about returning to the classroom.

"We are students, parents, educators and community members who are dedicated to creating the public schools and colleges our communities deserve," the group's webpage states.

Despite the group's high profile on Beacon Hill, little is known about its sources of funding and where the money is spent.

The group's founding board of directors lists leaders from a range of teachers' and health care unions, education and social justice groups, including Juan Cofield, president of the New England conference of the NAACP, Tom Gosnell, the former president of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and Tyrek Lee, a former vice president at the Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents health care workers.

To be sure, the IRS 990 financial disclosures often don't explain sources of funding.

Crawford could not provide details of how much money the group has collected and where it has been spent, but he acknowledged that some of its funding comes from teachers unions.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com

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