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Update: What MSNBC's O'Donnell Gets Wrong About Denver

#edcolo @ednews Following up on recent coverage in The Nation and on Salon, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell did a segment with Denver school board candidate Emily Sirota in which he seemed to  have the view that the big-money opposition to union-supported Sirota was coming entirely from pro-voucher Republicans.  

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The Denver race may make the case for campaign limits for school board elections but let's be clear that this fight is not really between Democrats and Republicans but between Democrats who favor charters and other reforms being undertaken by the current superintendent and those who who oppose them or at very least want to go slower.  Pro-voucher Republicans are in there, too, but the mayor of Denver, the Governor, and several others are all supportive of Sirota's opponent. Too often, education debates these days are viewed (or cast) as liberal vs. conservative (or Democrat vs. Republican) when they are really internal Democratic debates in which Republicans and conservatives are somewhat involved.  Also, as Denver's alt weekly Westword noted, O'Donnell's viewers might have wanted to know that Sirota's husband is a columnist who's been writing about the race -- the likely source of the segment idea in the first place.

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I don't know either Sirota, but I've been reading David's commentaries for a long time (my hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, runs them regularly). Judging from his writing, I don't agree that he would try to misleadingly oversimplify the factions in the education reform debate, if that's what this is implying. And Sirota writes about the race openly from the perspective of the spouse of a candidate, by the way.

I'm not even sure it can be characterized as an internal Democratic debate. Although there's no doubt that conservative free-market folks like privatization and vouchers, I think that otherwise, the lines don't follow a left/less left continuum at all. Here in famously left-liberal San Francisco, the further left/progressives have a history of being pro-charter, and the moderately liberal pragmatists (who would be far left in most places, but that's beside the point) have been the sharp critics, questioners and skeptics.

There are some concerted efforts to disguise the inherently right-wing free-market pro-privatization nature of the current brand of reform. I've read that the name of the pro-reform organization Democrats for Education Reform was chosen specifically for that reason. And here in California, it's very clear that there's a very deliberate effort to falsely portray the pro-reform group Parent Revolution as Democratic/liberal/progressive/pro-labor (despite its aggressive teacher-bashing). When you throw in that deliberate deceit, it gets even more confusing to try to draw left-right lines over the reformers and critics.

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