Saturday, August 11, 2007

Clinton, Obama go easy on school reform talk

Democrats for Education Reform, Joe Williams and I got some nice press in this article in the Boston Globe earlier this week on how Obama and Clinton are emphasizing very different messages on school reform when they're speaking off the record to education reformers vs. at the NEA convention.  (Note that I didn't use the word hypocrisy, which might have sent me off on another multi-email diversion!)  This is not surprising -- they're politicians after all! -- but it highlights how we ed reformers have to keep up the pressure.
Here's the first quote:

Both Obama and Clinton "recognize how badly schools are failing low-income kids in this country," said Whitney Tilson, an investor who is involved with charter schools and helped form a group called Democrats for Education Reform. "But the question is, 'So what?' If they aren't willing to say what they believe and advocate for meaningful reforms for a broken system, does it mean anything that they understand?"

Tilson, who helped found Teach for America, has raised $50,000 for Obama, but is frustrated by what the candidate has had to say on education.

And the second:

Some of those who are criticizing the candidates say they have been more daring in private settings. At a fund-raiser in SoHo in April, which Tilson cohosted, "Obama said that our friends in the union are going to have to decide if they want to be part of the discussions about reinventing the education system, or be left out entirely," recalled Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, who was present.

And at another small event in New York in the spring, Clinton spoke with "real passion and urgency" about the need to strengthen accountability in the schools and promised that she is independent from the unions, Tilson recalled.


Clinton, Obama go easy on school reform talk

Approach reflects appeal to unions for endorsements

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been among the strongest voices in the Democratic Party for education reform. And yet, as they pursue endorsements from the nation's powerful teachers unions, both candidates have avoided reform themes and instead have emphasized union favorites such as increasing federal school aid.

In a speech to the National Education Association last month, Obama focused on the need to pay teachers more and left out his past support for making it easier to get rid of ineffective teachers. And Clinton, talking to teachers in New Hampshire in March, railed that "our children's passion is being killed" by the federal testing regimen, without mentioning her longstanding support for charter schools.

Their reticence has strongly disappointed self-described reformers in the Democratic Party who have long yearned for a candidate courageous enough to take on the teachers unions.


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