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Step One: Spot the Real Reformer

Calling All Advocates
by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
September 10, 2012

Politicians love to say the word “education,” but when it comes to actually doing something about it, outside forces must do the pushing. That is the lesson I learned from the political conventions that took over the airwaves and newsrooms in the last two weeks.

Former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is one such outside force. She was at both the conventions with the same message, which she outlined for me when I sat down with her in Tampa where Republicans gathered. “There is a huge possibility for both parties to say, ‘OK on this issue, because it has to do with our kids, we can disagree about taxes and everything else, but let’s choose this issue that we can show the American people that we can come together,'” she said.

More from that interview here.

Rhee’s grassroots education group StudentsFirst screened Won’t Back Down, a movie about two mothers who take on a failing inner-city public school, for delegates and convention guests.

BELL, a nonprofit summer and after-school learning provider, was another outside force. “I probably lost 10 pounds of perspiration,” said vice president of schools Joe Small about his two days manning a booth at CarolinaFest, an outdoor carnival of good causes–and bands–organized by the Charlotte host committee for the Democratic National Convention. (The Republican convention did not have a similar exhibit space.) In Charlotte, BELL highlighted the benefits of summer learning for at-risk youth, showing the impact its summer programs have made in a low-income district in the city. Small said the reaction from delegates and visitors alike was, “Wow. How do we bring this back to our community? How do we replicate a Bell program?”

These are just two groups that I happened upon in my wanderings. There

Read More …

Reporting From the DNC in Charlotte

Coverage of the conventions continues today in Charlotte, where veteran CER staffer Kara Kerwin has been hob-knobbing with Edreformers… and some not-so-edreformers! Here at a Dems for Ed Reform event the two major union bosses flank entrepreneur, Princeton Review Founder John Katzman. (Note they look a little peeved to have to listen to someone else!) Now that it’s their turn to speak, they use the time to bash organizations like K-12 Inc. and Edison who do good work serving children in non-traditional public schools.

Earlier at the same event, on a panel of state legislators, OH State Senator Nina Turner described the need for education reform in Cleveland: “if your hair is on fire, then you better act like it’s on fire”

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GOP Convention Highlights Ed Reform; Now it's the Dems Turn

It’s the moment one waits for, a bit of a dream come true, when day after day members of a major political party endorse and embrace the work to which you have devoted your professional career. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa was the icing on the cake – demand for high standards, the imperative for school choice, respect for teachers and their good performance, and a resolve to no longer tolerate the false promises of unions who want to defend the status quo of tenure over results. Condoleezza Rice implored us to understand that school choice is the civil rights issue of our time. A parade of Republican Governors who have fought the reform wars and won also embraced the cause and the bi-partisan agreement that has allowed real reform to thrive. Whatever ones politics, it is a real milestone when leaders of a party rarely credited with education as a signature issue demonstrate that it is just that. CER is in the middle of a campaign to educate the public and politicians about what real education reform is and why it is crucial to the future our country. It’s heartening to see that some officials already understand that. With the need for education reform to be a national – not a partisan imperative – the Democrats must now ante up.

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