Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama's role chairing the Chicago Annenberg Challenge

The right-wing blogosphere and talk shows are going nuts over this ( WSJ article yesterday about Obama's role chairing the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which spent $100 million in the late 1990s trying to help the lowest-income kids in Chicago's public schools.  The claims are that: A) CAC has ties to leftist Bill Ayers (the usual guilt-by-association technique the right uses to smear Obama; see the rebuttal in the last paragraph below); B) CAC funded left-wing/liberal nonprofit groups (is there any other type?  LOL!); and C) CAC's money apparently didn't do much good (joining the long list of nearly every other foundation (certainly prior to this decade) that had the wrong approach to education reform).  In case you're asked about it, this is the Obama's campaign's statement about this:
The Annenberg Challenge records only serve to establish clearly that while Barack Obama and Ayers had occasional contact during Obama’s 6 years of service on the bipartisan board, they did not work closely together to exchange and develop policy ideas. In fact, as these records show, Ayers attended a total 6 meetings of the Board during the 6 years of Obama’s Board service. And, as these same records also demonstrate, the advisory committee that Ayers co-chaired played no operational role whatsoever once the Challenge hired its Executive Director at the end of its first year.

Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s recruitment to the Board. Barack Obama was encouraged to run for Chair by Deborah Leff, with whom he served on another board, recommended by Pat Graham, and elected by the bipartisan founding board members: Susan Crown, Pat Graham, Stanley Ikenberry, Ray Romero, Arnold Weber, and Wanda White.

Barack Obama months ago confirmed that he had contact with Ayers during the course of his foundation work, and he pointed out that “We served on a board together that had Republicans, bankers, lawyers, focused on education”. Senator Obama also said earlier this year that Ayers was “not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis”, a fact that is not in any way contradicted by their contact through the Annenberg Challenge which ended 12 years ago, or by any of the Challenge records.

The suggestion that Ayers somehow dominated the policy or direction of the bipartisan Challenge Board, imprinting it with radical views, is absurd. The Annenberg Challenge was funded by Nixon Ambassador and Reagan friend Walter Annenberg. Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who wrote to Walter Annenberg to encourage the creation of the Challenge, joined Mayor Daley to announce the formation of the Challenge and his administration continued to work closely on education reform with the Board. John McCain has praised an initiative funded by the Challenge. The Challenge’s work is still carried on today through to the bipartisan Chicago Public Education Fund, which coordinates closely Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan and Mayor Daley to improve teacher performance and has included such board members as Illinois Republican Party Chair Andrew McKenna.

The Challenge was established to allocate grants targeted to improve student performance and promote teacher training and leadership development in the Chicago Public Schools. One objective of the Challenge was to improve education for the bottom quartile of students attending Chicago Public Schools — whose reading, math, and basic skills scores improved markedly during the years in which the Challenge invested in city schools. Due to the work of the Challenge and the Fund, the number of board certified teachers in Chicago Public Schools has increased by the hundreds.

As is well known, by the time Barack Obama met him, Ayers was a faculty member at the University of Illinois, and he has held the title of ‘distinguished scholar’ the University of South Carolina for many years — Ayers held both positions at universities while Republican Governors served on their Boards of Trustees. The detestable acts that Ayers committed decades before occurred when Senator Obama was 8 years old and the Senator has condemned them in no uncertain terms.


Blogger Steve Diamond said...

And you believe this?

2:49 AM  

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