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Media: How'd They Do Covering The Election?

Blog_media_circusIt wasn't easy reporting on Tuesday night's education results, what with the contrasting mix of outcomes in races and referenda around the country, the clamor of pundits and advocates, and the slow release of information from new advocacy groups.

There's lots more to cover now than there used to be, in terms of education-focused races, ballot inititiatives, and advocacy.  Readers' expectations have been raised by the tidal wave of coverage and detail we get from political reporters.  To be fair, several education reporters were pulled off the beat to cover the storm and its aftermath.

But some news outlets and education reporters handled the challenge better than others, in terms of capturing the results fairly and accurately, and providing context and nuance, in a timely manner.

It's hard to argue with the Huffington Post story (Results Show Mixed Returns On School Reform), and I'm not just saying that because I'm quoted in it.  Writer Joy Resmovits takes care to describe the mix of results around the country and the competing claims of victory but does so without either trying to make the case that either side "won" decisively or throwing her hands up in the air: "In general, the results demonstrate an appetite for some school choice, but a possible distaste for laws that dramatically change the way teachers are hired and fired." 

I'm a big fan of Stephanie Simon, now at Reuters, but not so much of her last couple of stories.  Her piece on the election night results (Teachers unions notch big wins on state education votes) seemed to oversimplify the results.  Simon quotes Mike Petrilli, Dennis Van Roekel, and Linda Darling-Hammond but doesn't defend her assertions very effectively.  Why exactly was the ouster of Tony Bennett so much more significant than the Georgia charter decision?  Why should  the success of the California education funding increase be considered a union win when reformers pushed on it (and labor spent just as much energy defeating a campaign fundraising limits initiative)? 

Showing up later in the day, the Wall Street Journal's contribution (Election Shows Voters Divided Over Education) also comes down closer to the middle than the Reuters piece, with writer Stephanie Banchero comparing the reform setbacks in Idaho and Indiana to the success in Georgia.

Bringing up the rear has been the New York Times, which ran a story on Tuesday about Proposition 30 and a smattering of other initiatives, education-related and otherwise (In California, a Tight Battle Over Tax Initiative) and this morning has this story focused on the charter issue (Georgia Approves Charter School Measure - Washington State Still Counting).

 

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Teachers' unions mounted an avid, highly visible campaign for California's Prop. 30 (and against Prop. 32, an effort to ban unions from donating to political campaigns, which failed).

The "reform"-supporting Koch brothers funneled money to the No on 30 and Yes on 32 campaigns, using a complex laundering operation that attempted to conceal the sources of the money.

Michelle Rhee (who is now a presence in California) has said forcefully that schools don't need more funding, though other "reform" forces supported Prop. 30.

So it's very clear that Yes on 30 was a teachers' union campaign, while the "reformer" position on it varied.

Also, Gloria Romero -- head of California Democrats for Education Reform and the former legislator who sponsored the nation's first parent trigger law -- was the spokesperson for the unsuccessful Yes on 32 campaign, so the "reform" link with that measure was closely established, while unions (including teachers' unions) were the opposition.

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