School-Focused Mayors Castro, Taveras, Hancock, and Johnson Against the “r…” Word!

Dear Commons Community,

There’s a new group of Democratic mayors with an interest in education beyond the borders of their cities. And they’re hoping to be more subtle about changing public education than their predecessors.  This week, four mayors from smaller cities — Julián Castro of San Antonio; Angel Taveras of Providence, R.I.; Michael Hancock of Denver; and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif. — kicked off a what they’re calling the “Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour” in Denver. The goal is to “learn how each city is helping spark significant turnarounds in their different regions of the country and how to scale these achievements.” As reported in The Huffington Post:

“The tour is not branded as an education reform effort.

That term often conjures images of Republicans, Democrats and hedge-fund donors who advance policies that promote charter schools and rigorous teacher evaluations, and has become so loaded that a school board candidate in Denver recently referred to it as the “r-word.”

Even so-called reformers have recognized the shortcomings of their good-vs.-evil narrative. John White, the schools chief of Louisiana …recently gave a speech arguing reformers must adapt to survive. He said America’s inherently populist tendencies will topple the movement if it doesn’t move beyond the same old fights and self-righteous justifications.

White may be onto something, If New York’s recent mayoral primary election is a sign. Bill de Blasio (D), the city public advocate, trounced his Democratic opponents by campaigning against Bloomberg’s policies — especially on education. He called for a moratorium on school closures, a centerpiece Bloomberg policy...

“We must not get caught up on the reform word,” said Hancock, of Denver. “Reform has connotations. it brings up a different level of opposition that is not necessary.””

However, we need to be vigilant about the message of these mayors because their tour is being underwritten by Education Reform Now created by Democrats for Education Reform, a political group that has been a driving force behind policies that have pitted mayors and school chancellors against teachers. Democrats for Education Reform have supported the likes of Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, the polarizing prince and princess of education “r…”


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