Democrats Have Taken Over Education Reform

Jay Greene and Frederick Hess:

We tracked staff contributions to political campaigns in a sample of 73 education-reform organizations funded by the Gates Foundation, including Achieve, Teach For America, the New Schools Venture Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, Jobs for the Future, Turnaround for Children, and Bellwether Education Partners. In total, we found 2,625 political campaign contributions from the staff of Gates grantees. Of those contributions, more than 99% supported Democratic candidates or the Democratic Party. Only eight (that’s eight, not 8%) of the 2,625 campaign contributions went to Republicans.

The political imbalance among Walton grantees was somewhat less pronounced. Our sample of 194 organizations receiving support from the Walton Foundation included Teach For America, KIPP, Education Reform Now, 50CAN, the 74 Media, Chalkbeat, and the Education Trust. In total, we found 3,887 political campaign contributions from employees of these organizations, of which 3,377, or 87%, went to Democrats.

The deep-blue hue of education reformers rivals that of famously Democratic precincts like Hollywood and public-employee unions. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that 78% of campaign dollars from the “TV, movies, and music industry” have gone to Democrats since 2000. Even the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher union, gives a larger slice of its campaign money to Republicans (7%) than do the employees of Gates education grantees (less than 1%).

Does the education-reform sector lean so far left simply because everyone in education is progressive? No. An Education Week poll shows that 41% of educators identify as Democrats while 27% identify as Republicans and 30% as independents.

The virtual nonrepresentation of conservatives has made school reformers more open about their political convictions, even on unrelated issues. Many school-reform groups, including KIPP, Teach for America and Education Trust, have energetically embraced the anti-Trump “resistance,” adopting outspoken progressive stances on hot-button issues like immigration, tax policy and gun control. The education-reform sector risks appearing as one more progressive lobby. This appearance undermines its authority when it pushes for crucial changes like school choice, transparency and experimental new learning methods.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Yet, Madison spends far more than most, now around $20,000 per student.