August 25, 2008
Democrat Mayor Corey Booker: "[We] have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education."
Mickey Kaus is at the Democratic convention and reports on the Ed Challenge for Change Meeting he attended.
I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!RI Future is covering the Dem convention with an RI perspective. Kim Ahern attended a meeting for young Democrats that included Newark Mayor Corey Booker (mentioned by Kaus, above), but she doesn't mention whether or not he spoke about how he took on the teacher's unions. (Last year, Steve Malanga of City Journal did a bio piece on Booker, which included a description of his stance on education reform).
As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.
P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)
P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.
Booker is blogging from the convention, too, and writes that he was inspired by the students at the event Ahern posted about, but he also described his excitement regarding the Education meeting that Kaus posted about.
Today I was proud to stand with the Mayors of Denver and DC and other city leaders as well as numerous other education leaders from around the country to hold a press conference and series of panels on education reform.While Booker supports Obama (who also agrees with Booker-at least broadly-on education reform), John McCain has also praised Booker for his education initiatives. I wonder if the RI Futurites are comfortable with Booker's stance against the teacher's unions? Or does such tension within the party not jibe with the type of
There is this powerful convergence happening in America with unifying voices for change. Great groups like the New Schools Venture Fund, the Education Equality Project, Ed in 08, the Black Alliance For Educational Options, Democrats for Education Reform and others are coming together to proclaim that we must change the way we are approaching education in our country or we will continue to fall behind. Today we came together for The Ed Challenge for Change....Visit www.educationequalityproject.org for our statement of principles and to join with us in the most urgent movement in our country.