Hillary Clinton Caught Between Dueling Forces on Education
And the financiers say they want Mrs. Clinton to declare herself.
"This is an issue that's important to a lot of Democratic donors," said John Petry, a hedge fund manager who was a founder of the Harlem Success Academy, a New York charter school. "Donors want to hear where she stands."
The growing pressure on education points out a deeper problem that Mrs. Clinton will have to contend with repeatedly, at least until the Iowa caucuses: On a number of divisive domestic issues that flared up during the Obama administration — trade pacts, regulation of Wall Street, tax policy — she will face dueling demands from centrists and the liberal base of the Democratic Party.
Her allies believe that with no strong primary opponent to force her into the open, Mrs. Clinton has plenty of time to maneuver before taking sides. But advocates will be using what leverage they possess to draw her out sooner.
Mr. Petry said there were many other political contests where wealthy Democrats who favor sweeping changes to education — including a more businesslike approach, and tying teacher tenure to performance as measured by student scores — could focus their resources next year instead, including congressional, state and local races.
…Not surprisingly, supporters of an education overhaul speak apprehensively about Mrs. Clinton's longstanding friendship with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed her in 2007.
"I hope she sees this as a winning political issue," said Whitney Tilson, manager of Kase Capital and a board member of Democrats for Education Reform, a leading left-of-center advocacy group on the subject.
But he said he was concerned: "She has had more longstanding ties to the teachers' union, certainly, than Obama ever had. She's thrown some bones to both sides and I think is sort of trying to triangulate on this."
In another sign of that anxiety, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, Joe Williams, recently circulated a memo to its board members highlighting the "strong ally" the group has had in the White House over the past six years and describing the "stiff pushback" the group and its allies are now facing.
Presumably in an attempt to set the terms for a policy discussion with Mrs. Clinton and other candidates, the memo said the group had commissioned polling showing that "voters support our policies, and if candidates want to meet voters where they are, they should, too," according to a copy obtained from a recipient.
Mr. Williams concluded, "Democratic candidates who support education reform are representative of where the American people are, and those who want to roll back progress risk becoming outliers."