Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gates & Broad Initiate $60 Million Campaign to Inject Education into Presidential Race

The good news is that more of the '08 Presidental Candidates [not just Obama] may bring issues of public education and equity to the forefront of their campaigns beacuse of a new $60 million initiative called 'Strong American Schools'. The bad news is that the campaign is driven by Eli Broad, Bill Gates and other big business interests. From today's LA Times:

Romer tapped to lead learning initiative
Philanthropists will dedicate millions to make education a top issue in the presidential campaign.
By Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writer
April 26, 2007

Disillusioned with the pace of reform in America's public schools, two of the country's leading education philanthropists have tapped ex-Los Angeles schools chief and former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer to head a campaign aimed at forcing education into the forefront of the 2008 presidential campaign.

The charitable foundations controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad have committed up to $60 million to the nonpartisan initiative, which organizers say will be run with the tactics and aggressiveness of the presidential campaigns they will hound in the run-up to next year's elections.

"We've been involved in education reform for seven, eight, nine years," Broad said of the two foundations, which together have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on education reform. "We feel good about what we've accomplished, but it's been very incremental. We think it's time to rouse the American public. They need a wake-up call."

Romer, 78, who ended a six-year tenure as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District late last year, will head the Strong American Schools campaign. His success in getting new schools built and raising test scores in Los Angeles, along with his three terms as governor of Colorado and stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made the straight-talking elder statesman an obvious choice, Broad said.

Navigating the politics, public scrutiny and bureaucracy that come with running the nation's second-largest school system "prepares you for a lot of things," Romer quipped. "Including a tour in Vietnam."

Romer, Broad and Allan C. Golston, head of the Gates Foundation's U.S. endeavors, pointed to high dropout rates, declining test scores and other signs that American students are falling behind those from other countries in calling for education to have a place alongside the war in Iraq, terrorism and other major campaign issues.

"We do not want the pablum from candidates of 'It's a big priority and we need better schools,' " Broad said. "We want to nail them down on specific issues."

No comments: