Two non-profit organizations involved in education reform – including working for controversial goals such as tying teacher evaluations to student achievement, eliminating tenure, and instituting merit pay – are now working together in New Jersey.
StudentsFirst, an organization formed by former Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Better Education for Kids, formed earlier this year to promote Gov. Chris Christie’s education reform agenda, announced they will work together in New Jersey to promote those goals.
Both Rhee and Dmitri Mehlhorn, chief operating officer at StudentsFirst, will join the B4K board of trustees.
The objectives of these groups, however, have drawn the ire of the N.J. Education Association, which see their presence as an attack on their members.
Christie, among other things, has called for more private involvement in running troubled public schools.
Derrell Bradford, executive director of Better Education for Kids, said in a release today that StudentsFirst is a grassroots movement that will work for all students.
The NJEA, however, has said such non-profit initiatives are a concerted, national attack on unions.
Statehouse as battleground
In many ways, this is a battle that will be fought in the Statehouse, and a key initiative will be access to lawmakers.
Bradford said their group will “absolutely’’ be involved in lobbying legislators and working to defeat candidates not supportive of their reform goals.
Steve Baker, spokesman for NJEA, said they, too, have relationships with lawmakers that they will rely on in fighting the non-profits’ goals.
“We’re not surprised’’ by the partnership, Baker said. “It’s the same big-money, national people behind these organizations that are working toward privatization, charters, and monetizing education.”
Baker said NJEA, on the other hand, is composed of educators who have been on the front lines in classrooms.
“We’re going to continue to do what we do,’’ he said, “and point out when there are misguided attempts at reform.’’
But Bradford said their groups also have the expertise as well, considering Rhee ran one of the nation’s most high-profile districts.
“The pushback from NJEA is that their standard for being able to participate in the reform discussion excludes every parent,” Bradford said.
He said their groups are not arguing that the entire current system must be done away with, just that there are aspects of it in need of change.