Boston voters are voting for a new mayor today to replace five-term incumbent Thomas Menino, who is retiring.

They will cast their votes without the influence of a Portland nonprofit that is increasingly involved in educational politics nationwide through its various state chapters. 

That group, Stand For Children, started out here in 1999 as a grass-roots effort, with organizers mobilizing parents at individual schools to advocate for their kids, often in the form of seeking greater funding.

But Stand shifted its emphasis and has become part of the school-reform movement nationally. That movement is characterized less by grass roots than large institutional funders impatient for change.

As example of Stand's clout here, the Oregon Business Association named Stand's Oregon executive director, Sue Levin, its "Statesman of the Year" for her work on reforming the Public Employee Retirement System.

In Illinois and Massachusetts, Stand has been in the middle of battles between reformers and teachers unions. Last month, Stand's Massachusetts chapter tried to insert itself in the Boston mayor's race, offering to spend $500,000 an independent advertising for mayoral candidate John Connolly, who has made school reform the centerpiece of his campaign. Independent expenditures are an increasingly popular method of avoiding reporting and expenditure limits.

After the Boston Globe reported the planned expenditure on Aug. 20, Connolly asked the group to scrap its effort. 

“We respect John Connolly’s request that we not advertise on his behalf.” said Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts, in an Aug. 21 statement to the Globe. “We remain excited about his candidacy and his enthusiastic support for better schools in Boston. We will focus all of our energy during this preliminary campaign on the issues that are central to our mission.”