New groups poised to change state education landscape
In recent months, most attention has focused on traditional power centers of educational politics in California, including the governor, the State Board of Education, local school boards, and teachers' unions. But the appearance of new players, some with substantial financial backing, has added an element of unpredictability to the mix.
…Another group to watch is Democrats for Education Reform, a New York-based group established with the backing of hedge fund billionaires like David Einhorn. Until now it has not been active in California, but it recently hired former State Sen. Gloria Romero, the former chair of the Senate Education Committee, and author of the controversial "parent trigger" law allowing a majority of parents to force major changes in their children's school.
Romero ran unsuccessfully for Superintendent of Public Instruction last year, and was defeated at least in part because of opposition from the California Teachers Association which backed the ultimate winner, Tom Torlakson.
Romero's hiring was announced explicitly as part of the group's strategy to expand its activities in California. She has already allied herself with Rhee and her agenda. "I am proud to march shoulder to shoulder with Michelle Rhee and millions of parents and children. ... Si se puede – yes we can!" Romero was quoted as saying in the press release announcing the formation of StudentsFirst in December.
Its major focus will be on the Democratic Party in California, Romero explained in an interview. Because of Democratic dominance here, that would inevitably touch the core of the political power structure.
"We have to tackle the special interests which for too long have dominated the education discourse in our party," Romero said in an interview. By special interests, Romero had in mind not only teachers unions, but also school administrators represented by the Association of California School Administrators. "There has been a reluctance to embrace reform that has been good for kids, because of the political interests that have supported the Democratic Party," she said. Charter schools will be "a part, but not the main part" of its agenda.