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ERIC Number: EJ833443
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1539-9664
Straddling the Democratic Divide
Colvin, Richard
Education Next, v9 n2 p10-17 Spr 2009
Given the strong union support for the Obama presidency, there was great speculation within education circles throughout the fall as to whether the new president would turn out to be a reformer--willing to challenge existing practices and the teachers unions in order to achieve dramatic changes in schools--or play it politically safe by backing programs that brought only marginal changes. A sharp divide among Democrats was in full view at the party's national convention in Denver, where urban mayors and educators, gathered at a forum sponsored by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), challenged the dominant role of teachers unions in shaping policy. Two manifestoes issued during the Democratic primaries laid out competing philosophies on improving student achievement that were intended to influence the eventual Democratic nominee. A "Broader, Bolder Approach to Education," a letter issued by the liberal Economic Policy Institute, signed by national leaders across much of the political spectrum, and endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), argued that improving schools alone would not close achievement gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged students. It called on policymakers to provide preschool, afterschool programs, and summer school, and take steps to improve students' health and social development. Another letter, issued by a coalition called the Education Equality Project, advocated addressing school system failures through greater accountability, school choice, and changes in compensation that would promote teacher quality. Those who signed on to the project, a diverse group of leaders in education, philanthropy, and public service, vowed to "challenge politicians, public officials, educators, union leaders and anybody else who stands in the way of necessary change." This article reports on the rift in Democratic Party over the nation's education reform agenda that is growing. One side backs strong accountability through reforms, the other looks to augment the current system with social support programs. (Contains 1 figure.)
Hoover Institution. Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Tel: 800-935-2882; Fax: 650-723-8626; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001