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.
“New force in Illinois quickly pushes state toward school reform,” by Ray Long, Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2011.
“State Legislation: ‘Don’t Believe Everything You DON’T Read,” by Ron Tupa, Democrats for Education Reform Blog, June 7, 2011.
“Illinois’ New Teacher Law: Model for Other States, or Outlier?,” by Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, June 13, 2011.
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