Hired Guns on Astroturf: How to Buy and Sell School Reform

Joanne Barkan, via a kind email:

If you want to change government policy, change the politicians who make it. The implications of this truism have now taken hold in the market-modeled “education reform movement.” As a result, the private funders and nonprofit groups that run the movement have overhauled their strategy. They’ve gone political as never before–like the National Rifle Association or Big Pharma or (ed reformers emphasize) the teachers’ unions.
Devolution of a Movement
For the last decade or so, this generation of ed reformers has been setting up programs to show the power of competition and market-style accountability to transform inner-city public schools: establishing nonprofit and for-profit charter schools, hiring business executives to run school districts, and calculating a teacher’s worth based on student test scores. Along the way, the reformers recognized the value of public promotion and persuasion (called “advocacy”) for their agenda, and they started pouring more money into media outlets, friendly think tanks, and the work of well-disposed researchers. By 2010 critics of the movement saw “reform-think” dominating national discourse about education, but key reform players judged the pace of change too slow.

I’m glad Joanne mentioned teachers’ unions among the other lobbyists. There are a number of useful notes and links on this topic, here and here.