It was a long time coming, but education reformers have realized a new political necessity: bucks to back their bang. And the bucks seem willing and able. A number of New York financiers have taken an increasing interest in education reform, charter schools in particular, under the leadership and guidance of Democrats for Education Reform. These folks (and their firms) are giving speeches, attending fundraisers, and sitting on charter school boards—and could be the much needed counterbalance to the political and monetary heft of the nation’s teachers’ unions, by far the biggest political spenders. DFER, along with Harlem Village Academies and Teach For America, has even hired a top-notch lobbyist and PR firm to advance their cause in the statehouse. Undemocratic? Maybe, but no less so than teachers’ unions extracting dues from their (taxpayer-supported) members to fill the coffers of friendly candidates and pols. Some will say “two wrongs don’t make a right” but we’d prefer to call this leveling the playing field.
“Charter schools’ new cheerleaders: Financiers,” by Trip Gabriel and Jennifer Medina, New York Times, May 9, 2010
“Reformers’ secret weapon: Class-act lobbyist,” New York Post, May 5, 2010