Update: StudentsFirst Continues To Expand Despite Controversy
As I noted yesterday on Twitter, reform critics, union leaders, and even some mainstream journalists like to suggest that StudentsFirst and other reform advocacy groups are dripping with money for electoral politics, neglecting to mention (perhaps they don't know?) how much teachers unions and other labor groups shovel into the process each year.
Last year, for example, StudentsFirst contributed less than $2 million to California races -- a pittance compared to union and other established stakeholder contributions. If there's an 800 pound gorilla in the school reform debate, it's the veteran stakeholders not the newbies.
On a related note, EdWeek's Andrew Ujifusa has a new post up suggesting that reform critics shouldn't be overly distracted by the possibility of the testing scandal bringing Rhee down because "the momentum behind the kind of policies Rhee's group supports may have too much power, time, and cash behind them" in DC as elsewhere. This seems like a good point to reiterate, considering that so many Rhee haters are thinking she's going down immediately.
Ujifusa also notes that StudentsFirst is steadily expanding its state level operations nationally, which brings me to the news that StudentsFirst has hired a new political strategist, Fabian Nunez, to help move its agenda forward in Sacramento. Nunez (pictured) is one of the town's most influential power brokers, according to the LA Times (as well as a longtime friend to the state teachers unions). Hiring lobbyists and former elected officials to head state advocacy efforts is a tried and true approach, though it creates challenges for multi-state organizations trying to keep some sort of brand uniformity in place. Rumor is that StudentsFirst is also hiring a state director (Nunez is an outside consultant.) Click the link for an interview I did with Nunez last week -- some of what he has to say about balancing the union voice in Sacramento seems interesting.