It's A Civil War, Not A Partisan One

Things almost always go awry when the national media get involved in local news stories, and that was the case earlier this week when MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell weighed in on the much-discussed Denver school board race taking place next week. Following up on recent coverage in The Nation and on Salon, O’Donnell did a segment with Denver school board candidate Emily Sirota in which he seemed to  have the view that the big-money opposition to union-supported Sirota was coming entirely from pro-voucher Republicans.

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The Denver race may make the case for campaign limits for school board elections but let’s be clear that this fight is not really between Democrats and Republicans but between Democrats who favor charters and other reforms being undertaken by the current superintendent and those who who oppose them or at very least want to go slower.  Pro-voucher Republicans are in there, too, but the mayor of Denver, the Governor, and several others are all supportive of Sirota’s opponent.

Indeed, education reform makes for strange bedfellows. Witness last week’s startling scene in which Senator Rand Paul read from an NEA letter in opposition to proposed changes to NCLB.  That being said, education debates these days are too often viewed (or cast) as liberal vs. conservative (or Democrat vs. Republican) when they are really internal Democratic debates in which Republicans and conservatives are gleeful observers or only somewhat involved.

Also, as Denver’s alt weekly Westword noted, O’Donnell’s viewers might have wanted to know that Sirota’s husband is a columnist who’s been writing about the race — the likely source of the segment idea in the first place.

Revised and updated from TWIE (my other blog).




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  • Clearly having an elected school board makes things messy for privatization, things are so much simpler here in Chicago with an appointed Board of Education.

    Rod Estvan

  • Ha! :)

  • Interesting comments at the end of this story: "Huge turnout for Chicago Teachers Union LEAD dinner shows growing power of CTU, honors legislators and aldermen who supported the union and public schools"

  • And the CTU legislative goals are also interesting:
    "The event also was the stage on which the CTU unveiled its legislative priorities for the coming year, including major reforms within Chicago's public schools (lower class size; and end to the '20th Day Rule') and, for the City of Chicago, an end to mayoral control via an elected school board. The fourth of four legislative priorities for the CTU in the coming year will be "End Pension Attacks" according to the LEAD program."

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