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Update: More Questions About Warren's Pro-Choice Views

LowerBGIt's no big surprise to find out that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) doesn't actually support private school vouchers, an issue that came up last week in a blog post I wrote.

Here's an MTA voter education form stating that “Warren opposes private school voucher proposals and similar proposals that take money away from public schools.” and a MassTeacher update indicating that "This was confirmed with the candidate and her campaign back during the nomination process.” 

Both of these are courtesy Senator Warren's press office, which also notes that the proposal comes from Warren's 2003 book not her new memoir.  

But that still leaves the underlying (and quite revolutionary in some circles) notion of universal public school choice.  Does Warren's support include choice for schools within local districts, or inter-district transfers (as proposed, however weakly, in the NCLB law that Ted Kennedy and George Miller co-sponsored)?  

Vox's Libby Nelson wrote that "Warren's views aren't entirely out of step with the education reform wing of the Democratic party." But of course, Warren isn't generally considered a reformer. 

Politics: Your Favorite Liberal Lawmaker Supports Universal Vouchers*

image from www.newyorker.comMaybe you knew this already but liberal darling US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supports private school vouchers -- for everyone.*

US News had the story in 2012 (Elizabeth Warren's Quiet Support for Public School Vouchers), and it comes up again in the latest New Yorker as part of a review of her new book (Reading Elizabeth Warren).

Warren doesn't just support vouchers in special circumstances, like special education placements or DCPS.  She wants to give them to everyone, everwhere.  

As quoted in the New Yorker piece, Warren has written that 

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”

According to Warren, those "public" schools in expensive enclaves aren't really all that public as their defenders like to make them sound: 

"Schools in middle-class neighborhoods may be labeled 'public,' but parents have paid for tuition by purchasing a $175,000 home within a carefully selected school district."

Interestingly, Warren's argument is at least partly based on the high housing costs associated with the current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling.  High housing costs, plus burdens on working Americans (mothers in particular) have been a scourge for decades, according to Warren.  Breaking the link between housing and school quality would relieve pressure on families that have moved to expensive places just for the schools.  

Warren's ideas have been debated on Diane Ravitch's site in recent days --  they're New Yorker readers too, it seems :-) -- though not surprisingly the idea is being met with shock and disappointment. And the New Yorker writer, Jill Lepore, calls Warren's proposal reckless.

Previous posts: Please Stop Talking About Banning Private SchoolThe Liberal Case Against Private Education; Failure, Voice, & ExitHow Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage

*Correctification: Though she uses the term "voucher," which is commonly used to denote programs that include private and parochial schools, Warren is primarily focused on eliminating the link between neighborhoods and public school assignment.  The 2012 US News article cited above calls Warren's proposal "public school vouchers." The original 2007 proposal excerpted by AFT Kombiz uses the same language (though it doesn't specificaly exclude private schools as I read it). "The public-versus-private competition misses the central point," writes Warren. "The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice."

Politics: Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.16.21 AMI know a lot of educators love to hate Microsoft and the Gates Foundation and love Apple and Google.  

However, there's a wild article in the Washington Post about how Google has gone "all in" with its lobbying efforts -- including funding think tanks and policy shops that cover education isssues.

So maybe there's room for a little more scrutiny and skepticism across the board?

Google's current lobbying and policy development effort "includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects." There are fellows, 100 lobbyists, 140 funded nonprofits,  university-sponsored events, and $900K in campaign donations in 2012 alone (second only to Microsoft among edtech companies). 

As you can see from the chart at left (via WP), Google funded Brookings, Aspen, Heritage, New America, AEI, and PPI in 2010 (pictured) along with lots of other legal and edtech outfits The company added more funding for outside groups during the following four years such as the CAP Action Fund, People for the American Way, and ALEC.  

How much of Google's efforts are directly focused on education isn't immediately clear. But even if there aren't any direct edpolicy grants going out from Google there's enough overlap between tech and education these days to warrant some attention from folks interested in K12 education issues.

Previous posts: Jobs Vs. Gates - Who's Done More For Education?Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over SchoolsGoogle Glass TeachingGoogle Launches Play For EducationThe Missing Steve Jobs / Apple Philanthropy.

Politics: Reformers' Spending Represents "Broadening" Of Political Advocacy

Endlisnis via FlickrIn case you missed it (or wondered where I was getting those maps), here's last week's Slate/Center for Public Integrity article about the rise of school reform campaign funding efforts -- and how they compare to long-running union and public employee spending.

The arrival of groups like StudentsFirst may be new and troubling to some -- especially those who've had the campaign and politics field all to themselves in the past -- but it's not necessarily something bad for schools or kids.

"In the old days, it was all the service-provider organizations—so all the unions—or the consumers,” the article quotes Brown University professor Kenneth Wong as saying. "We are seeing the broadening in terms of the type of actors who get involved in campaign issues in education.”

And nobody should be too worried about the unions being outspent, according to the article: "The NEA’s outside spending in 2012 state races was at least $6.4 million, more than double the amount spent by StudentsFirst in the states examined by the Center for Public Integrity."  [NEA spending was actually $15.7M in 2012 if you count state and local affiliates, according to the CPI.]

Maps: Nationial NEA Money Doled Out Across The Nation

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 1.10.11 PMHere's another Center on Public Integrity map you might like, showing that top spending groups like the NEA dominate outside spending and plop their contributions all across the nation (in NEA's case, CA, AZ, NM, WI, MI, ME, etc.) This is not state and local money, but rather money doled out from Washington. Click the link to get the interactive version, which allows you to hover over a state and see more dteails (Puppet states: where the money went)

Maps: NEA & State Political Spending 5X Higher Than StudentsFirst

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 11.32.33 AM

"StudentsFirst is a rising power in state political spending, but it didn’t come close to matching the National Education Association’s influence in 2012," notes Center for Public Integrity.  "That year, the National Education Association and its local and state affiliates accounted for roughly $15.7 million in independent spending, nearly five times what relative newcomer StudentsFirst spent." (Where education titans spent)

Quotes: Unions Have Lobbyists, Law Firms, & PACs Too

Quotes2The teachers union has its own squad of in-house lobbyists, along with an outside firm, Strook, Strook & Lavin... [and] its own political action committee, UFT Cope, which in the last two years spent $1,721,960. -- NY Daily News reporter Ben Chapman (Parents and children get caught between charter school feud) h/t EW

Numbers: Unions Have Spent $1.7 Billion On State Politics

101103_PRESS_numbersQTNAccording to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, unions have spent a combined $1.7 billion on state politics since 2000. - David Sirota in PandoDaily.

Quotes: Democrats Divided On Teachers Unions

Quotes2The de Blasio wing of the party sees teachers unions as important institutions standing up for the average guy; the reform wing sees them as just another special interest. - Rotherham and Whitmire in USA Today (De Blasio's school fight)

Books: New Book Chronicles Chicago Union Successes

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 20 09.47The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.

"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.

"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."

It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign). 

Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated.  Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.

Quotes: Democratic Divide On Education Hurts Reformers

Quotes2The next Democratic president [may] stop pushing for tougher teacher evaluations and more charter schools and blah blah and will instead push in the other direction. -- Slate's Matt Yglesias (Divided Democrats).


Update: National Audit Of Testing Proposed By Senate

Screenshot.16Curious about just how much testing is going on in schools, and frustrated with the anecdotal reports and hyperbolic accounts?  

So was the Senate HELP Commmittee, way back in 2011-2012.

That's right. There was language in the bipartisan Harkin ESEA bill calling for the creation of a national commission that would have, among other things, been charged with "determining the frequency, length, and scheduling of such tests and assessments, and measuring, in hours and days, the student and teacher time spent on testing."

The Senate language was proposed by Senators Alexander and Bennet.  

Indeed, Bennet introduced standalone legislation last year. Colorado has been working on auditing and coordinating tests for several years, according to this 2011 Durango Herald opinion piece. Alexander is listed as a co-sponsor.

Since then, the noise surrounding test proliferation and/or test uses has risen exponentially -- warranted or not, we don't really know.  Chicago and DC have already initiated testing audit/streamlining procedures. 

The TeachPlus report that came out the other day indicated that there were large variations around the country, and that official and classroom views of the testing burden are very different.  However, the report was limited to a small set of districts. [See here for some updated information on why its Chicago numbers were initially wrong.]

I proposed something along the same lines in my latest Scholastic Administrator column: "Secretary Duncan has at least one thing he could do with his remaining time in office that could be both effective at preserving his initiatives and popular with educators and parents. He could begin to address concerns over test proliferation...  Serving as a watchdog against overtesting, he would also effectively be protecting the Common Core assessments during a very vulnerable time."

Hardcore testing opponents would not be appeased, of course -- look no further than the reactions to the New York State attempts to compromise on Common Core implementation for evidence of that. But, depending on the results such an audit provided, everyone else might be reassured and glad to know how different states and districts compare.

No word back yet about whether the USDE had taken a position on the language or not -- or what they think of the idea now.   

Maps: 17 States Forced To Adopt Common Core But Rejected ObamaCare

image from blogs.edweek.org

Much has been made of the fact that states were "forced" to adopt Common Core for financial and other reasons, but if that was the case then why would 17 of them have adopted Common Core but not the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act? EdWeek's Andrew Ujifusa delves into the apparent paradox.

Charts: Check Out The NEA's $5.6M Super PAC Contribution (2013)

The nation's largest teachers union comes in 4th on this CPI listing of top Super PAC donors, with $5.6 million in contributions, right after the DGA, Mike Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer:

image from 31.media.tumblr.comThink about this next time you hear or read someone like Diane Ravitch talking about corporate involvement in education -- or -- even more important! -- are about to say or write something about school reform involvement in electoral politics.  via I Love Charts.

TV Shows: Thinking "West Wing" In A "House Of Cards" World

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 1.03.12 PMThere are lots of lessons reformers might glean from the NYT Sunday Magazine preview of season two of House of Cards -- greatest among them the dangers of imagining they're working in a "West Wing" world where good ideas, research results, and smarts prevail when the reality is much more "House Of Cards" (in which idealism and book smarts matter less than street savvy and knowing how to work the media).

Of particular note, the article focuses on the young(ish) show-runner, who worked on the Howard Dean campaign and watched as it responded to the press frenzy surrounding the "Dean Scream" by taking the higher ground rather than responding vigorously -- and in the end let Dean's opponents (and the media) define him and derail his campaign.

Sound familiar? 

To be sure, both shows are exaggerated, fictionalized versions of reality.  But there are real-world historical lessons to be gleaned from the show and article.  

For reform opponents, the dangers illustrated by the show are the ever-present possibility of public revulsion and political excommunication that would likely follow revelation of cut-throat tactics no matter how worthwhile or well-intended the aims.   

 Previous posts:  House Of Cards Revisits 2000's ESEA Authorization EdWeek's Take On "House Of Cards"

Quotes: How To Pull The Levers Of Power

Quotes2Organizing is about more than having a good idea. It's about knowing how to pull the levers of power: by having strength in numbers at a board meeting, by having a clear, consistent "ask," and by being prepared to respond to any and all objections. – Paraphrase of LEE's Joy Silvern in EdWeek (Teach For America Spinoff Helps Alumni Gain Influence)

Charts: So Much For All Those "I'm Quitting" Testimonials

You'd think from the way it sounds online these days that teaching is the worst profession ever and that teachers were leaving in droves, but this new chart from CAP suggests that's not the case:

image from www.americanprogress.orgSure, an awful economy gets some of the credit for folks staying in the classroom even if they'd rather be doing something else.  But reform critics and gullible and/or sympathetic reporters might have contributed to the apparently false impression of droves of departures more than has happened in reality. Teachers surveyed by CAP don't indicate any widespread or massive unhappiness with their treatment or with Obama era reform efforts. 

Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed

Some fascinating reads from over the long MLK weekend, including a bunch of stuff about politics, advocacy, and over-reaching, a smattering of pieces about parenting and teaching, and the usual edtech trends and troubles:

Flickr albastrica mititicaHow Organized Minorities Defeat Disorganized Majorities - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society http://ht.ly/sLTTt 

Extreme voices: Interest groups and the misrepresentation of issue publics - Harvard Shorenstein Center http://ht.ly/sKTyF 

Manufacturing Dissent: What happens when “community activists” falsely claim they have community support http://ht.ly/sMqr0  @petercook

Teachers Unions and Democracy | Jacobin http://ht.ly/sKNMt  Lois Weiner on internal pressures @rweingarten faces leading @AFTunion

What If These TED Talks Were Horribly, Unspeakably Wrong? The Awl http://ht.ly/sIq3h  [incl Gladwell, Mitra]

Why Adolescence Is More Brutal for Parents Than Teenagers -- New York Magazine http://ht.ly/sIpm0 

More items below and via @alexanderrusso

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed" »

Quotes: "The Facts Need a Champion"

Quotes2Those engaged in reform don’t see countering misinformation as a core part of their mission. Reformers have been under the mistaken impression that the facts—both about the need for and the direction of change—will, by themselves, carry the day. They won’t. -- TNTP's Dan Weisberg (The Facts Need a Champion)

Quotes: "The [Education] Battle Within the Democratic Party"

Quotes2Education reform is another point of contention: Teachers unions loathe the pro-charter-school policies embraced by Obama’s education department and many Democratic elites. -- The Atlantic's Molly Ball (The Battle Within the Democratic Party).

People: Former AFT Director Named Among Clinton Insiders

image from www.iop.harvard.edu

You're going to see lots of articles and blog posts in coming days about the relationship between Hillary Clinton, the teachers unions, and the implications of that relationiship for the direction of school reform heading into the 2014 and 2016 political caimpaigns.  

For example, Tina Flournoy, currently Bill Clinton's chief of staff, is named #28 in Politico's recent rundown of Hillary Clinton's 50 influentials, where she's described as "A former teachers union official and campaign adviser to Clinton in 2008, she’s now Bill Clinton’s personal chief of staff and Hillary’s main point of contact in his office." Her AFT-related experience is listed here, along with DNC and Gore campaign stints. 

Remember also that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio worked on Clinton's 2008 campaign, and that Bill Clinton swore de Blasio in.

While you're thinking about it check out Politico's snapshot of the debate among Clinton supporters about whether she should run and if so who should be in charge (Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign). There's nothing specifically education-related but it's a good reminder that professional politicians aren't fixed in their beliefs, allies, or behaviors.  

Last but not least, in case I don't get back to it, check out a recent Molly Ball article on conflicts within the Democratic party between progressives who want to be as powerful as the Tea Party but haven't shown they can get progressives elected and centrists (The Battle Within the Democratic Party).

If Clinton runs, does that pull Democrats and reform to the left, symbolically or otherwise -- through the primaries at least? If she wins, does she roll back many of Obama's initiatives or govern from the middle like Obama has? 

Image via Harvard's Institute of Politics.

Quotes: Civil Rights Groups "Disappointed" On Teacher Equity

Quotes2The 50-state strategy [to ensure equitable distribution of effective teachers] should have been started 12 years ago. [The new waiver renewal guidance is] disappointing, and it sends a message that it's not at the top of their agenda. -- EdTrust's Kate Tromble in EdWeek (Civil Rights Groups Wary on Waiver-Renewal Guidelines

Quotes: Duncan Only Has Himself To Blame, Says Rotherham

Quotes2One reason the suburbs are complacent is that politicians, notable amongst them Duncan and the President, spent a lot of time telling suburban voters there that any law that said 40 percent of the nation’s schools needed improvement was obviously flawed. - Andy "Eduwonk" Rotherham on Common Core pushback

Teachers: CA's Weakened Classroom Predator Bill Might Get Signed

image from www.edsource.orgThe national education story of the week isn't the shutdown or the charter protests in NYC or anything else going on out East but rather the drama surrounding the much-delayed, much-weakened California law to speed the removal of sexual predators in the classroom that now awaits Governor Brown's decision. 

As EdSource Today explains, many administrator and advocacy groups are against the final version that was passed by the legislature, however teachers unions support it and it's being championed by a legislator who was among those who scuttled last year's much stronger version of the legislation.

Now that I've got your attention, here are some other recent stories about the drama:  Will Sexual Predator Teachers Hide Under California BillAB 375? (LA Weekly);  California school bills show teacherunion power (Sacto Bee); Bill to streamline teacher dismissals heads to governor; critics call it flawed (SJ Mercury News).

How about someone asking Randi Weingarten, Dennis Van Roekel, or Arne Duncan what their positions are on the legislation -- or whether they're going to intervene (as they seem willing to do in many other state and local issues)? How about StudentsFirst, Stand for Children (happy birthday, Jonah!) and DFER getting more active on the issue and letting lawmakers including Brown know that they're being watched. 

Thompson: How "Race To The Top" Went Wrong

Broader_bolderOne of the more damaging aspects of NCLB was that it set impossible targets, contributing to panic and hurried implementation of seemingly quicker and easier policies.  Teachers were essentially deputized as the agents for overcoming the legacies of generational poverty.  NCLB thus failed and undermined more promising methods of improving schools.

Elaine Weiss, of the Broader, Bolder Approach, shows how Race to the Top committed the same mistake.  Her new report (Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Education Improvement) recounts the “unrealistic and impossible” promises made by states to win federal grants.

Weiss draws on studies by the U.S. Department of Education, the Center for American Progress, numerous journalism sources, an email survey of the experiences of district superintendents from the RTTT states, and over two dozen interviews with state and community education leaders to explain why the rush to reform now threatens early education, college readiness standards, and sustainable efforts to improve teacher quality. 

Not surprisingly, the USDOE and NCLB co-author  Charlie Barone complain about Weiss’ study.  But, if it was as biased as Barone implies, would Weiss have buried her lede?  The real meat of her report is found in the appendices.  

Continue reading "Thompson: How "Race To The Top" Went Wrong" »

Events: PIE Annual Summit (Boston September 19-20)

Going to the PIE Policy Summit in Boston later this month?  Me, too -- finally.  Not invited?  Too bad, it's invite-only and I had to bother them for months to get invited. Not already registered?  Tough luck.  It's sold out. 

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 1.31.20 PM

Then again, the event is off the record so it's not like I can tweet out whatever juicy tidbits I find without specific approval.  All the more reason to come up and say hello if you're there.  I'm hoping to learn a lot.

Previous posts about PIE:  Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics Reform Celebration In SeattleHow Organizers See The Parent TriggerEducate Texas

Morning Video: Derrell Bradford (In Honor Of Fashion Week)

Here's NJ ed reformer Derrell Bradford, from last month, talking about education and music (apparently). He really should be talking about education and fashion, but that's ok -- maybe next time. 

Afternoon Video: NJ Governor Christie At KIPP Summit


Interesting that KIPP invited him -- and that his scheduling team decided he should go.  KIPP schools are called Team in New Jersey, FYI. See lots of other videos from the conference here. Via Whitney Tilson.

Reform: Debate Erupts Over Matt Damon Sending Kids to Private School

Doing publicity for his new film, Elsyium, actor and celebrity school reform critic Matt Damon revealed to the Guardian that he couldn't find a public school that was progressive enough in LA and was sending his kids to private school.  

image from cdn.breitbart.com

"Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. And it was a giant family discussion. But it was a circular conversation, really, because ultimately we don't have a choice. I mean, I pay for a private education and I'm trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It's unfair." Damon has campaigned against teachers' pay being pegged to children's test results: "So we agitate about those things, and try to change them, and try to change the policy, but you know, it's a tough one."

Conservatives outlets like Brietbart.com picked up the tidbit and slammed Damon for hypocrisy.  Damon defenders defended Damon, or said it didn't matter, etc.  Image via Breitbart.

Morning Video: Hayes & Merrow Discuss Bennett

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Via MSNBC: Chris Hayes talks with PBS Education Correspondent John Merrow about the fallout.

Morning Charts: Labor PACs Remain, No Longer Dominant

image from cdn.theatlantic.com
Back in the day, labor PACs spent more than corporate groups and nearly as much as trade groups, notes The Atlantic's David Graham.  (And they still spend a lot of money.)  It's just that trade and especially corporate PACs have risen sharply. Via The Atlantic.

Maps: Many States Still Limit Dreamers' College Options

image from 4.bp.blogspot.com
Here's a Washington Monthly map of how states are treating undocumented kids once they graduate from high school -- regardless of what the Obama administration has to say.

Morning Video: The *New* Schoolhouse Rock


How Congress Works, care of Jimmy Kimmel, starts at about the 3 minute mark.

Advocacy: How StudentsFirst Botched Things In TN -- Or Didn't

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 4.48.15 PMThe curious thing about Jeff Guo's recent New Republic article about StudentsFirst's efforts in Tennessee  Michelle Rhee in Tennessee) is that @_jeffguo starts out blaming StudentsFirst for botching things in Tennessee but later on admitting that it was infighting among legislators that led to the dismal results.

These things happen all the time -- screaming headlines and bold claims in the first few paragraphs of a story that never quite backs up what it (or its editors) promise.

Let's see if I back up my claims against the piece, or suffer the same humiliating dropoff in the last few sentences.

Continue reading "Advocacy: How StudentsFirst Botched Things In TN -- Or Didn't" »

Charts: StudentsFirst 2012 Spending On Local Board Races

Here's a chart from StudentsFirst following up on my post last week about the mix of candidates funded by the advocacy organization (StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate Spending) showing the 2012 local board candidates that SF funded:Screen shot 2013-07-02 at 4.43.32 PM
See also Byron Tau's POLITICO piece (Michelle Rhee’s group tripled its budget) for more numbers and perspectives, based on 990 forms and other disclosure documents, and Joy Resmovits' Huffington Post article (Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst Missed Its Fundraising Goal, Tax Documents Reveal).

Exclusive: StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate Spending

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 1.35.12 PMA few months ago it was being noted that StudentsFirst's candidate endorsements skewed overwhelmingly Republican, which was surprising to some and disqualifying to others.  

But no one seemed to know about its candidate contributions, which are an even more powerful indication of the organization's focus (and the state of education reform).

Now, thanks to a source inside StudentsFirst, I can share some interesting (if self-reported) information about the organization's 2012 election cycle contributions, which balance out pretty evenly for 2012 at 42 percent Democratic / 58 percent Republican.  

Click below to see the documents and some preliminary observations.

Continue reading "Exclusive: StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate Spending " »

Advocacy: Rabble Rousers, Revisited

Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 3.11.21 PM Six years after it was first published and four years since it was updated, Rabble Rousers is still in circulation -- though not necessarily easy to find. 
That's pretty good for an online publication, most of which disappear as soon as they're published.
There's no section on evaluating advocacy efforts, which is my current obsession.   But it's still full of interesting ideas for anyone involved in ed advocacy -- on the reform side or not.
Here you go.
Read it?  Liked it?  Let us know what you learned (or thought was wrong).

AM News: Duncan's All-Out Effort on "Preschool For All"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Education Secretary Arne Duncan works to sell Obama administration’s preschool initiative Washington Post: He is reaching out to Republican governors, hoping they will help him persuade GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill to embrace the “Preschool for All” initiative. But it’s a tall order for many Republican governors who are cool to the notion of new taxes.

Senate Committee Passes Democratic NCLB Renewal Bill EdWeek: On a completely predictable party-line vote, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill to reauthorize the long-stalled renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Senate committee approves bill updating federal education law Washington Post: On a party line vote, a Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday to update the country’s main federal education law by erasing some of its most punitive aspects.

No Child Left Behind Bill Passes Senate Committee, But No End In Sight For Recasting Bush Law Huffington Post:  Harkin says he intends to bring his bill to the Senate floor sometime this year -- hopefully by the fall -- and would allow amendments to be made during that process. But even if the overhaul makes it through the floor vote, it is unlikely to be signed into law because the predominant legislative vision in the House varies significantly. 

States Seek Flexibility During Common-Test Transition EdWeek: A flurry of education groups are staking out positions on the role tests should play in evaluating teachers and labeling schools.

Continue reading "AM News: Duncan's All-Out Effort on "Preschool For All"" »

Lessons From LA: Sentimental Selections, Bad Polling, Unintended Results

Bus-LAUSDThere are some obvious lessons from Monica Ratliff's stunning and instructive defeat of Antonio Sanchez in this week's LAUSD School Board runoff for District 6. 

Ratliff went from having come in ten points behind Sanchez in the primary (34-44) to beating Sanchez by four points in the runoff (52-48).  The Coalition and the SEIU spent over $2 million to elect Sanchez. Ratliff, meanwhile, spent roughly $50,000 and had no special interest support.

Many of these are covered in Valerie Strauss's latest piece (The billionaires lose one), and I hope they'll be remembered the next time there's a race like this.  Money and political pedigree are no guarantee of victory.  Sometimes at least the underdog wins.  

But there are other less obvious lessons and considerations:

Sanchez was recruited and selected by Mayor Villaraigosa in what seems like a sentimental move more than a clear-eyed decision about who would stand the best chances of winning the seat.[Rumors are that Ratliff was recruited to run by the UTLA from her spot as a House of Representatives delegate have never been confirmed.] There were other candidates that could have been chosen, none of them perfect but in hindsight Sanchez seems extremely weak.

The reform community in LA has been personality-based, an ad hoc set of individuals who come together for a brief period of time and then go back to their day jobs in between elections.  There's an independent expenditure committee, the Coalition for School Reform, that appears every couple of years as a collection point for contributions, but there's no nonprofit c(3) or c(4) organization laying foundations and building relationships in between elections along the lines that UTLA and many other operations have.

Last but not least, the union's decision to endorse all the candidates from the start (rather than have to go through the process of re-endorsing candidates along the way) seemed to most of the world like a big win for Sanchez, who was also getting massive outside support from the Villaraigosa camp, but also prevented Sanchez from attacking Ratliff for her union affiliations. UTLA couldn’t spend any real money on Ratliff, but it also meant that the Coalition couldn’t attack Ratliff for being beholden to the union.

“We took away from the Coaltion the one thing they desperately needed — a negative message,” said Brent Smiley, a Ratliff supporter. “We didn’t let them hit the teachers union. They had absolutely nothing negative to say.”

Tidbits:  Going negative is not a prerequisite for winning. Field work and turnout are key, as are absentee (vote by mail) ballots.  Internal polling isn't reliable.  (The Coalition's polling had Sanchez ahead by 20 points, leading them to pull back on spending the more than $750,000 they had in reserve.) Refrigerator magnets. 

For two post-election reports on what happened, read here and here.

Advocacy: More Ways To Measure Advocacy's Impact

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 3.53.40 PMToday's as good a day as any to share with you the draft report I heard about a couple of weeks back when last discussing the issue of how to assess reform advocacy efforts.

As you may recall, the question keeps coming up if and how funders are going to assess the impact of their advocacy efforts, whether they be grants to nonprofits or direct contributions to campaigns or PACs:

"Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too."  (What About The Impact?)

As with teachers and schools, poor evaluations can lead to poor understanding, however.  It's not so easy to get it right.  Michigan State professor and TWIE contributor Sarah Reckhow took a stern look at several recent recommendations for advocacy evaluation (A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy)

This newest report, called a Media Measurement Framework, is funded by Gates and Knight and produced by the SF-based LFA Group: Learning for Action, who tells us that the Knight Foundation is in the process of creating an online, interactive version of this framework. This static version will become a collection of online resources. 

No word yet on whether the framework is any good or if any advocacy grantees are using it yet.  That's where you come in.

Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share [Reckhow]; EdWeek's Balanced View Of Reform Advocacy

Quotes: Buying School Reform (Facts Are Facts)

Quotes2I support teachers unions. But facts are facts. When it comes to the issue of spending to influence voters, teachers unions take a back seat to no one.  Former LAUSD teacher Walt Gardner) in Education Week (Buying School Reform

Advocacy: Costs Lots, But What About The Impact?

Mystery-manA few months ago contributor Sarah Reckhow wrote a post about philanthropy-funded education advocacy efforts that asked a good question:  "How does the Gates Foundation plan to evaluate its large portfolio of “advocacy” grants?"

Of course, this isn't just an issue for Gates or other reform-minded funders.  Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too.

To get at some of the challenges advocacy evaluation involves, Reckhow recommended a 201 article in the Stanford Social Innoviation Review (The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy).  

I promised myself I'd read it but -- big surprise -- never did. Then yesterday Fordham's Mike Petrilli sent over a link to a Spring 2013 SSIR article (Assessing Advocacy).

Continue reading "Advocacy: Costs Lots, But What About The Impact?" »

Update: Duncan Endorses Parent Trigger -- Sort Of

image from laschoolreport.comAt an education conference in Burlingame earlier today, Obama education secretary Arne Duncan gave a muddled semi-endorsement of the controversial parent trigger law in California.

Specifically, Duncan described the trigger as "an important tool" for parent involvement -- but not the only or even the most important one.

Duncan's answer will likely disappoint trigger proponents and opponents alike.

Continue reading "Update: Duncan Endorses Parent Trigger -- Sort Of" »

Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions

image from mayorschallenge.bloomberg.orgHeading over to the Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored reception to start the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit, I thought there was no time like the present to update you on my progress figuring out the ins and outs of outside spending on local school board elections like that being done by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

As you may recall, Bloomberg and others have been giving funds to various local school board candidates over the past few years, either directly to the candidates or via an independent expenditure committee.  The funding is intended to provide a counterbalance to union contributions, local and otherwise, and is entirely legal but raises lots of issues when it is so new and novel (for a school board race) and also when it comes from outside the city or state where the race is taking place.

My issue is not with the campaign contributions themselves, which are perfectly legal, or even with the need for a counterbalance to union power in low turnout events.  The AFT spent $1M to get rid of Adrien Fenty, and the CTA spent $300K to block board members favorable to former San Diego superintendent Alan Bersin.

My question is whether the funding is worth the blowback, and whether reform advocates like Bloomberg (and DFER, and StudentsFirst) will ever figure out a way to tell their story and give their money without spending all their time defending themselves.  I also want to know how much of it is out there, on both sides.

Continue reading "Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions" »

StudentsFirst: Mismatched Donors, Endorsements, and Contributions?

Michelle rhee book coverIt's not just reform critics and professional opponents who are seeking to define Michelle Rhee's school reform advocacy as predominantly right-leaning and Republican -- and so far at least StudentsFirst seems to be going along with it.

There's no argument that some of the organization's biggest funders like the Walton Family Foundation have Republican roots, or that Rhee will work with Republicans to get policy priorities moved ahead.

But increasingly, mainstream media press accounts of StudentsFirst are describing StudentsFirst's political advocacy (campaign endorsements and contributions) as Republican, too.

The latest example is today's LA Times piece:  "Nationwide, StudentsFirst has overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates, because they best match its policy platform."

The first part of that sentence is where I'm confused.  (About the second half of the sentence, I'd observe that only Rhee's support for the trigger and vouchers -- and her willingness to work across the aisle -- mark her as anything other than a mainstream Democrat.)

The question about Rhee's endorsements and contributions first started coming up for me last Fall, when readers started noting that SF's endorsees in Florida were Republican (See  Eighty Candidates Endorsed By StudentsFirst). It came up again after the general election when I was trying to tally the advocacy groups' performance (See So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?*).

More recently, StudentsFirst keeps telling me that endorsements are one thing, campaign contributions are another.  But so far, at least, they've not provided any documentation about the direct contributions and superPAC contributions in the states they're involved with. All we have are lists of endorsements, which do indeed skew Republican.

The reason I've been asking is that my own limited experience with StudentsFirst and campaign contributions is that they're mostly Democratic.  This includes giving to LAUSD school board candidates, and trying to get Brian Johnson and others elected. (See CA StudentsFirst Candidate Squeaks Through*). 

Is the press getting this wrong and falling for an attack that isn't accurate, or am I just working off of incomplete information?

Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids


This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report.  But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members. 

Continue reading "Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids" »

Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 4.19.59 PM

There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on mobilization, and no shortage of quips from panelists including Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).

Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).

But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.

"The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger," said Kittredge -- even as he listed its flaws. "There's no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger."  

Continue reading "Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger" »

Update: StudentsFirst Continues To Expand Despite Controversy

image from laschoolreport.comAs 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.

Reform: Rapid Response in Connecticut

Most education reformers and funders don't come from politics or organizing so they are loathe to set up or pay for the kinds of "rapid response" operations that professional political operatives use to help minimize the damage that constant attacks can create. 

But -- like the first-term Obama administration with death panels and birthers -- they're starting to learn that there's a price to pay for letting attacks stand, no matter how extreme or ridiculous they may seem.

One small example is CT Education 180, a relatively new spinoff of ConnCAN set up to respond to attacks on elected officials and others who are getting torn down online and in the mainstream media. 

Its stated mission is "setting the record straight on education reform, and exposing those who are more interested in self-preservation than doing what’s right for the more than 65,000 kids in Connecticut who are stuck in low-performing schools."

Eventually, reform advocates may have to not only create and fund rapid response operations like this, but also efforts to criticize their antagonists.  But I'll save that for another post.  

Right now, reformers are fighting with both hands tied behind their backs -- refusing to defend themselves vigorously or in any organized fashion, much less to attack those who are pretty much their sworn enemies at this point.  

It's noble, I suppose.  But even as someone with plenty of complaints about the reform agenda and implementation, it's hard to watch.  

Quotes: Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")

Quotes2They ran campaigns about “love” (a deeply shared emotional value that connects people), not about “rights” (a policy objective that reinforced disconnection between haves and have-nots.) The policy objective of the campaign didn’t change; how they talked about it did.

-- PIE's Suzanne Tacheny Kubach on lessons from the same-sex marriage campaign.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.