Reform is in the eye of the beholder

Several lessons can be distilled from the nearly
unanimous passage of Illinois’s
widely noticed education-reform legislation, SB7. Notably: Money matters, and reform is
in the eye of the beholder. To clear the lane for SB7—lauded by many (including
Arne Duncan) as a slam dunk for both reformers and the notion of
“collaboration”—Stand for Children went straight to the wealthy in the Land of Lincoln, and leaned on them hard. In
just over three months, the organization pulled in about $3.5 million in
political contributions—money they used to finance key campaigns and to hire
over a dozen lobbyists. Money matters (and so do the political connections that
go with it); the unions saw the writing on the wall and decided to play ball.
While Stand celebrates the passage of SB7 (which Governor Pat Quinn signed into
law on Monday), some other reformers remain skeptical. Most notably, Ron Tupa
of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) worries about loopholes in the measure
that might nullify its most significant provisions. The teacher-evaluation
provisions in SB7 “are not required to be enacted if funding is not
forthcoming,” for example. Still, from our perspective, SB7 really does move
the ball forward, and Stand deserves our respect (as does Advance Illinois, the other key player in all
of this). The education-reform movement is quickly moving
past the days when it fought brute political strength only with white papers
and op-eds. Three cheers for this new brand of advocacy.

force in Illinois quickly pushes state toward school reform
,” by Ray Long, Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2011.

Legislation: ‘Don’t Believe Everything You DON’T Read
,” by Ron Tupa, Democrats for Education Reform Blog,
June 7, 2011.

New Teacher Law: Model for Other States, or Outlier?
,” by Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, June 13, 2011.