Wednesday, October 8, 2008

True Systemic Change

The biggest "no surprise" of last week was that ED 08 has died of natural causes. Gates and Broad initially said they would put up $60 million to get education in the forefront of the election. They apparently spent $24 million and really don’t have much to show for it. I saw Roy Romer speak a couple of times and I was not impressed and wondered why he was chosen.

If you want education to be a campaign issue, then you have to get parents irate about our pathetic education system. Giving out fancy buttons and brochures to education think tank people is not going to bring about systemic change. All these think tanks around Washington suck up lots of money and don’t actually “do” anything. And because parents don’t read think tank stuff, there is no grassroots push for change.

If foundations would move all of their money away from think tanks that theorize and push issues, it would create a budget for a network of statewide parent groups. Those groups would then educate parents on the state of education in their state and build the outrage that should be there. That outrage will become votes that are the one thing (besides cold hard cash) that actually move politicians.

You could call the group - Parents for Quality Education - and they would be able to do what the unions do. They would attend every state board meeting and push for changes at the granular level that can help students. They would have someone at every state senate and house education committee looking for bills that would hurt or help students and mobilize concerned parents. They could become the advocates for change that is so desperately needed. They could shift the discussion away from adults and move it to the students.

It is time to stop talking and theorizing about education change and start making it happen. I applaud Gates and Broad for moving their money out of an ineffective campaign and hope that foundations will start investing in true systemic change that starts with parents.

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