I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reformy Turf Wars?

Speaking of Derrell Bradford: we never really did get a full accounting of how and why he left Excellent Eduction for Everyone (E3), the voucher... uh, sorry, scholarship proponents here in New Jersey. Derrell went to Better Education for Kids (B4K), a shop set up using scads of hedge fund money, with great fanfare. I read a fair bit of the coverage when he left, and I don't remember anyone asking him who was going to step in at E3.

These days, it looks like B4K is a bit cooler to the idea of vouchers than E3 was under Bradford; a little odd considering he used his life story to sell the idea of vouchers while he was at E3. And while B4K took over the spotlight, E3 seemed to disappear - until now:
The new group will join another stalwart of the voucher wars, Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), now in its 13th year. E3 is a cosponsor of the rally on December 1 and also continues media buys across the state, with funding as well from the Walton Foundation.
Norm Alworth, president of E3, said he's pleased with the addition of the Eriksen's group to put more feet on the ground at a time when the legislation may be closer than ever to passage.
"We are alive and well, doing better than ever and right in the thick of it in making sure this gets done," Alworth said. "And it's great to have as many groups as possible engaged to make sure it happens." [emphasis mine]
Does that strike anyone else as a bit defensive? Was Alworth worried that a lot of folks in the reformy world were thinking what I was thinking: that B4K was taking the spotlight, and E3's time had passed?

(By the way - last I checked, Alworth was the Interim President, having previously served on the board of directors for E3. He said here he wanted Bradford's old gig; I guess he got the job. He has zero experience in education, which makes him a perfect replacement for the last guy. )

We've seen some of this before:
Recently, I was in a meeting with a colleague from the public sector and the subject of education advocacy organizations came up --- in reference to those groups working nationwide as well as those already in or slated to come to New Jersey. Before the discussion even started, my colleague stopped and rolling his eyes said, "Oh that's right...I've heard you advocacy people don't play nice in the sandbox together." This surprised me, as I hadn't realized education advocates had a reputation of not working well together. My colleague, however, assured me that this was common knowledge. 
Why it's hard to play nice: If you think about it, the ugly truth is there seem to be many reasons education advocates might not get along --- all of which tend to involve resources. There is a limited donor pool interested in advocacy, a limited number of political leaders willing to take on the issues, a limited number of experts who can speak with authority to those issues, and a limited attention span of the public and media to compete for. Even more, it's difficult to prove worth and earn credibility when so many factors play into the outcome of education policy and legislation. [emphasis mine]
I know it sometimes seems like the pot of billionaire money is endless, but there is a limit to the number of six-figure jobs available pushing corporate "reform." I mean, these swells didn't get rich just throwing good money after bad. And Tom Moran only has so much space to give to these guys to spout their ill-informed views. At some point, one of these reformy shops is going to have to come out on top, and that's where the money will flow.

Until that day arrives, we can all just listen to them tell us how "pure" they are because - unlike teachers - they don't have a financial stake in the game.


Anonymous said...

Alworth was been on BOEs from the 1990s, including presidential duties, and has been on the board of E3 -- unpaid-- for many years. Look at the NJ Spotlight interview...Alworth got involved in training local Patterson kids out of his own pocket when he was trying to hire them to his own busienss. Your hatred is misplaced with Alworth, Jazzman. He has earned his stripes.

Duke said...

Hatred? What hatred? I don't know Alworth at all - I don't hate him.

I am pointing out two things:

1) Alworth is not an educator and is ill-qualified to make education policy, just like Bradford.

2) He sound to me like he's worried about being relevant in a reformy world where Bradford is getting all the glory.

That's it.

By the way: if you own a business, you train your people, especially if you can't hire them with the skills you need right away. That's the way things work.

And working for free for E3 all these years is not exactly a plus with me. I am staunchly against OSA.

But I'm sure Alworth is a perfectly fine person - until I get indications otherwise, I'll take your word on that.

Anonymous said...

Everything I needed to know about Norm Alworth was revealed when I heard him refer to public schools as "government schools" -- the code extreme right-wingers use to degrade public education, driven by their hatred of all things provided by the public sector.

Anonymous said...

Alworth was a former BOE President in his home town of Washington Township (Morris). He is well known in BOE circles for making a major gaffe during teacher negotiations, now referred as "An Alworth". New board members learn about it during their board member training with NJ School Boards. He is a legend in his own mind.