Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times is reporting that leaders of a national education reform movement, including Joel I. Klein and Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellors in New York and Washington, have formed a statewide political group in New York with an eye toward being a counterweight to the powerful teachers’ union in the 2013 mayoral election.
“The group, called StudentsFirstNY, is an arm of a national advocacy organization that Ms. Rhee founded in 2010. Like the national group, the state branch will promote the expansion of charter schools and the firing of ineffective schoolteachers, while opposing tenure.
Led by Micah Lasher, who is leaving his job next week as the director of state legislative affairs for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the campaign is beginning while advocates of reform have an ally in the mayor. But their eyes are focused on 2014, when a new mayor — most likely one who is more sympathetic to the teachers’ union than Mr. Bloomberg has been — enters office.
Members of the group worry that without a significant marshaling of forces, their achievements could be dismantled. Their aim is to raise $10 million annually for five years, hoping to make an imprint throughout the next mayor’s first term. On the board are some of the most well-known and polarizing figures in public education, including Ms. Rhee; Mr. Klein, now a News Corporation executive who oversees selling education software systems; and Eva S. Moskowitz, the former councilwoman who now runs a chain of charter schools. Also on the board are former Mayor Edward I. Koch; Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone organization, a network of charter schools; and a number of venture capitalists and hedge fund managers, who have served as the movement’s financial backers.
There is a quote from Mr. Canada that tends to support Ms. Rhee and Mr. Klein confrontational approach with teachers’ unions at a time when some political and education leaders have spoken of the need to lower the temperature of the debate.
“Folks are genuinely looking for opportunities to make peace and not war,” Mr. Canada said. “And I think that’s terrific. But someone has to make war.”
Not a good way to make peace!