Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from ...
Wales, right? 12:51 A.M.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
T hings We Thought We'd Never See: Democrats Rally Against the Teachers' Unions! I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!
As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.
P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)
P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.
P.P.P.S.: Mickey's Assignment Desk: Has someone done the trend piece on all these smart, young, powerful bald,** black state and local elected officials--e.g., Fenty, Booker, Groff, Nutter--who are taking on their unions? You'd need a name. Hair Club for Men is already taken. Domeboys? ...
**--Nutter has a bit of hair on the sides. Maybe Groff too. Close enough for a trend. 5:12 P.M. link