Tuesday, September 16, 2008

School reformer for Obama

My friend Angus Davis, who's rocking Rhode Island in a big way on the school reform issue, was asked by a friend why he was supporting Obama, given what the two candidates said in their respective acceptance speeches on this matter:

I saw the convention speeches.  I thought Palin did a good job in her speech given the expectations, although I think she is woefully unprepared to be President, despite being a very capable woman and a strong, inpsiring mother.  The trouble with McCain on education is that it has never been an issue he cared about, and the real problem is that even if he is 80% right on the issue, he will never get anything through the Democratic-controlled congress.  Conversely, Obama may only be 60% right, but I think he would get 80% of it through. 


It's like the recent expansion of the charter school law in Rhode Island -- our Republican Governor would never have gotten that through the Assembly (indeed, all of the Governor's charter school legislative work over the last several years failed to go anywhere), but because it came from the Democratic house leadership, it got through. 


Obama just gave a speech this week on education where he proposed doubling charter schools and replacing ineffective teachers -- stuff the unions typically oppose.  Bottom line, I don't think he is "great" on the ed reform issue, but he is "good" and he moves the Democratic Party towards the center on this issue.  He represents the chance to make a shift in the Democratic Party on this issue an "inside job." 


I think there are real, valid, significant concerns over whether Obama will turn out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing on this issue, and if in fact if he ends up pandering to the left, doing the AFT/NEA's bidding, and following a similar path as Deval Patrick did when he was elected governor to reduce accountability and raise spending with no real reform, I would be deeply disappointed.  However, on a range of other issues (economy, foreign policy, etc.), I still prefer Obama to McCain, so it is a risk I am willing to take.


I will say this, however:  if McCain had picked Mike Bloomberg as his VP, I might be voting differently.


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