Reason.tv: NBC's Education Nation Summit - Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee, & More

Now that the final bell has rung on NBC’s week-long Education Nation conference, we can ask the extra credit question: When did school choice go mainstream?

The "summit," held at NBC's New York studios at Rockefeller Center, almost felt like a publicity junket for Waiting for Superman, a highly praised new documentary advocating for charter schools. A national TV audience watched as D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee chewed out teachers union honcho Randi Weingarten for spending $1 million in campaign funds to halt Rhee's reform agenda. Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski took a shot at Weingarten for resisting merit pay for teachers. And what to make of former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi working to promote National School Choice Week, slated for January 2011?

Will Democrats turn their newfound zeal for school choice into policies that actually banish unions from the classroom and empower parents and students? Reason.tv’s Michael Moynihan went to Education Nation to find out.

For more on Michelle Rhee and Washington, D.C.'s now aborted school reforms, read Katherine Mangu-Ward's feature story from Reason's May 2010 issue.

Produced by Jim Epstein and Michael Moynihan, with help from Joshua Swain. Approximately 4.15 minutes.

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  • Old school gentleman||

    Can't anyone button a shirt or wear a t-shirt under a dress shirt anymore? Oh, and my liberal friends are still telling me that the schools aren't fully funded.

  • No||

    Oh, that's suprising, and hopefully it will go somewhere.

    I suppose I wouldn't mind more school funding, (on a local level) if there was a 100% guraranteed way for the community to force the school to put the money where the community wants it. Yet again, the community itself might kill a school buy putting it into useless endeavors.

    Can't we just abolish public schools and kill this demon forever?

  • Paul||

    Will Democrats turn their newfound zeal for school choice into policies that actually banish unions from the classroom and empower parents and students?

    In all earnestness, I really wish they would. And Democrats could actually take this political hydra on because it's a win-win situation for them.

    Unions support Democrats. Full stop. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If Democrats take a position which takes on entrenched union interests, Democrats still won't lose union support.

    Sure the unions will grumble, sure they might pull some money out of democratic races, but who else are the unions going to support? Do we really see union muscle being thrown behind Sarah Palin (whoever she is) or Mike Huckabee? No, union support will never abandon the democrats. Essentially, Democrats can treat unions like they treat the black constituency. They don't have to do anything concrete to actively help them, but they'll never lose their support. They can, in fact, take their vote for granted.

  • KingTaco||

    "Sure the unions will grumble, sure they might pull some money out of democratic races, but who else are the unions going to support? Do we really see union muscle being thrown behind Sarah Palin (whoever she is) or Mike Huckabee?"

    Individual union members, demographically, fit much more into a Huckabee or Palin camp than an Obama camp by a long-shot.

    Unions adhere to the Democratic party because the Democrats make life, financially, extremely lucrative for the Uunion collective. If the 'collective's' power is reduced and your looking at individual members voting more on natural fit, there's more than a few going Republican.

    However, 1. I don't think the union 'collective' will be stopped, and 2. It's power comes from $$$ contributions and mass-electoral strategies. Broken into smaller individuals the 'union vote' loses much of it's current political importance.

  • Paul||

    However, 1. I don't think the union 'collective' will be stopped, and 2. It's power comes from $$$ contributions and mass-electoral strategies. Broken into smaller individuals the 'union vote' loses much of it's current political importance.

    Doesn't really change my point. The only time that these strategies have a concrete effect is you're getting Democrat on Democrat violence.

    In my area, where the state and municipalities are uniformly controlled by Democrats, yes, the actively pro-union Democrat get union support over the Democrat who has either tepid support or might be an incumbent that voted for some pro-business legislation.

    But on the national front where power swings between Democrats and Republicans, the Unions won't back or finance a republican candidate. Therefore the Democrats can take on school choice, can ge to claim that they made (or attempted to make) real, meaningful school reform, and they still get their union backing.

    Union rank and file membership has been 40% republican for as far back as I can remember, but the union muscle still goes behind Democrats. Because 60% of union membership is... Democrat.

  • Colin||

    Joe Trippi's one of the good liberals.

  • Matt||

    There are a lot of liberals who want school reform. New Orleans is the best example of school reform here in America.

  • -||

    almost felt like a publicity junket for Waiting for Superman

    "Almost"? Color me cynical.

  • mitch||

    I still don't understand why anybody pays attention to Trippi. How many primaries did Howard Dean win? It was one, right? And he won that one after he had already dropped out of the race, right?
    Trippi should be about as well respected as Mussolini's best general.

  • Wegie||

    While teachers unions are a big problem....some kids are just stupid and you can't fix that!

  • Apogee||

    While teachers unions are a big problem....some kids are just stupid and you can't fix that!

    Yes, but I can guarantee you that 25-50% of the kids aren't stupid.(depending on who you ask for drop out statistics)

    It's the Teacher's Union and the corrupt political system that has let them down.

  • Dave||

    A lot of people have been working on this for a long time, but I think changes in strategy have helped.

    If you talk about vouchers allowing parents to send their kids to religious schools they approve of, liberals are firmly against.

    If you say that funds should follow the students, the same way they do in Scandinavia and Japan, liberals think "Oh, Scandinavia and Japan are good! let's look into that!"

    Of course, both are essentially saying the same thing. Keep in mind also that the growth in religious private schools was not so much a result of increased religiosity as a cause of it, and the religious private schools prospered largely because so many parents wanted to remove their children from public schools that removed not only religion but order from their classrooms in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Now that a generation of children who attended religious private schools has come of age, their religious education has acted as an inoculation, so things have changed. ;-)

  • ||

    Keep in mind also that the growth in religious private schools was not so much a result of increased religiosity as a cause of it,

    I don't think so. Parents who are send their kids to religious schools are either

    (a) already religious, in which case religiosity precedes religious schooling, or

    (b) fed up with state schools, in which religiosity is irrelevant to religious schooling. A kid who grows up in household that isn't particularly religious isn't going to get religious at school.

    The growth in religious schools is mainly a function of the latter, IMO.

  • ||

    A kid who grows up in household that isn't particularly religious isn't going to get religious at school.

    So you wouldn't mind your kid being taught at a madrassa, I take it.

  • Warty||

    A kid who grows up in household that isn't particularly religious isn't going to get religious at school.

    I went to public schools, mind you, but I didn't understand what the difference was between Catholics and Protestants and Jews until I was about 15 or 16.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    I have two friends who fall into (b).

    ... Hobbit

  • ||

    (b) Applies to me as well (in high school anyway). Went to the Chicago Public Schools in Grammar School.

    Because I wasn't Catholic, I got out of Religion class too. Hated the place nevertheless and would rather have gone to Lane Tech instead.

  • Big Cat Kahuna||

    OT but a friend went to Catholic grade school on the south side (somewhere near Midway) and in her words was 'saved' by getting into IMSA. She attended UI at Urbana and said she felt dumbed-down by that experience after high school.

    From where I sit, education is ultimately a personal choice. Some places make that choice harder, some make it easier. In my experience the largest factor in someone's educational achievements--whether formal or no--is that desire to learn, usually a reflection of their family's in some fashion. Without it, reform is an exercise in angst-riddled activism.

    Just an anecdote.

  • Ron L||

    "I don't think so. Parents who are send their kids to religious schools are either
    (a) already religious, in which case religiosity precedes religious schooling, or
    (b) fed up with state schools, in which religiosity is irrelevant to religious schooling. A kid who grows up in household that isn't particularly religious isn't going to get religious at school."

    Not all of them. A woman I dated in the '80s was an atheist, but put her daughter in a Catholic grammar school. It was the cheapest way to keep her out of the public school system. She sent evenings discussing (debunking) the religion classes.
    Anecdotal, but I don't think she was alone.

  • Liberal Douchebag||

    We should ban all homeschooling and private religious schools. ALL children should be forced to attend public schools.

    Except for the children of Democratic Party politicians, of course.

  • ||

    The nbc coverage was a farce, repeating only what duncan has been saying and highlighting the same old people who do not want public schools to succeed. Not one single good question was asked, not one real issue was explored in any meaningful way, just repetition of talking points from the choice crowd. NBC could have investigated the people behind the false research and behind the promotion of these charters which have failed to perform as promised in their charters, yet authorizers never pull the charter. Duncan had no documented success in Chicago. Nor Klein in NY, nor that rhee in DC. The parents/voters/taxpayers spoke and voted out her and her reforms. Is that not parental choice?

  • Apogee||

    Same old bullshit about the 'magic force' that prevents public schools from succeeding.

    We know you want a cradle to grave guaranteed income, regardless of your performance, but do you have to fuck over children to get it?

  • ||

    Wow, magic force indeed. I think much could be learned from those schools, public and private and even charter, that have succeeded in improving student achievement, as measured by test scores and other measures, among poor and minority students. But that usually takes time to research and understand what really took place-personality of leadership, cheating on test scoring or prompting, improved of teaching techniques, alignment to standards, increasing expectations of all students by all teachers, work in the community to increase and improve parental involvement, etc--that policy makers are not willing to invest--they want the easy, cheap answers and those promoters of choice (charters, vouchers)have fed them a mouthful of bs. The msnbc education nation special was nothing but a paid advertisement for choice. The movie maker could have made the same movie about the lack of medical care for these children, but the right wingers behind anti public school movements would not support that.

    This is about the lack of quality education and resources we as a society have chosen to provide to our poor. We do not address the underlying causes, we just either blame the victims for their choices or blame the unions and public schools. Never ourselves or our leadership in congress and state legislatures. This movie presents us with a false choice--these children will never get into the private schools of our wealthy or legislators, only into the local shop that opens to gather in the tax dollars.

  • Ron L||

    Akla|10.3.10 @ 3:53PM|#
    "But that usually takes time to research and understand what really took place-personality of leadership, cheating on test scoring or prompting, improved of teaching techniques, alignment to standards, increasing expectations of all students by all teachers, work in the community to increase and improve parental involvement, etc-..."

    Like the over one hundred years public schools have had to 'research' all this and haven't? Like the next hundred years you'd spend 'researching' why public schools suck?
    Sorry, the data is pretty robust.
    Are you a teacher's union member by any chance?

  • ||

    This must be an administrator in some district. Nobody I know aside from rule makers write 76 word sentences that no one can understand, unless this person is a lawyer for a school district.

  • Cristina||

    I think a lot of the credit for school choice going mainstream was John Stossel's Stupid In America special on 20/20.

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