Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and ex-Washington, D.C., official Michelle Rhee have teamed up to launch StudentsFirstNY, a new lobbying group designed to be a counterweight to the powerful United Federation of Teachers.
Advocating expansion of charter schools and wider flexibility in management of teachers, the group is setting its sights on the 2013 New York mayoral candidates.
Joe Williams is president of Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization aligned with the lobbying group Democrats for Education Reform. Klein resigned his seat as chair of Education Reform Now in order to join the new group. We asked Williams: What can New York expect from the Klein-Rhee alliance?
Is StudentsFirstNY specifically aligned with Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform?
I imagine there is a lot of overlap in policy terms and outlook, but we are not formally aligned with them.
What will Education Reform Now and StudentsFirstNY be looking for in a new mayor in 2014?
I can’t speak for StudentsFirst, but Education Reform Now will most likely be looking for a mayor who will represent management in negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers. We believe that collective bargaining works best when there are actually two sides sitting at the table, so we want to ensure that other side has a seat.
How will Education Reform Now assist StudentsFirstNY in raising the $10 million it needs to push its agenda?
I’m not sure, I imagine there will be a large overlap among the donors, but it’s not clear yet what role we’ll actually play.
In 2015, mayoral control of schools will come up for renewal in Albany. What does your group hope will change?
We haven’t developed an agenda on this yet, but we hope to in the coming months.
What message does the arrival of this new group send to the unions?
StudentsFirstNY and Education Reform Now send a message that the unions are not the only game in town anymore, and that even though this new group may not be able to match the resources of the union, there will be a significant debate on education issues in the public square.