The Gates and Broad Foundations are pumping $60 million into a campaign called "Strong American Schools," designed to boost consciousness and foster debate about three big education reform ideas during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, and more fundamentally, make sure that candidates don't ignore the issue (see here). Led by ex-Colorado governor, ex-Democratic National Committee chairman, and ex-Los Angeles superintendent Roy Romer, this well-intended venture risks becoming a source of debate only on the Democratic side of the election cycle. Assiduously steering clear of any support for any form of school choice, even charter schools, two of its three ideas (national standards, longer school days and years) are more apt to interest D's than R's. Indeed, many R's (wrongly, in Gadfly's view) run screaming from any mention of national standards. As for the third focus, boosting teacher quality via--among other things--merit pay, Republicans are apt to applaud while many Democrats will look over their shoulders to see what the unions are signaling. All three S.A.S. ideas have merit, but it still looks to Gadfly like a two-to-one advantage for D-type issues. Will Republican candidates engage, sit on their hands, or denounce? Unknowable today. But it's usually a mistake to underestimate Roy Romer.
"Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort," by David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times, April 25, 2007