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Local School Districts Are New Target Of Education Reformers

By Sarah Garland

(From The Huffington Post - LA, February 27th, 2013)

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The large amounts of outside money flowing into the Los Angeles Unified school board election represent a new front in the reform battles that have shaken up education politics over the last decade. Donations of $1 million by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and $250,000 by former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, in particular, have sparked controversy.

But the involvement of national school reform players in local district politics is a trend likely to accelerate now that would-be reformers have won major policy victories at the state and federal levels, experts and advocates say. Upcoming races in Denver and Newark, N.J., may be the next target for national groups like Rhee’s advocacy organization, StudentsFirst, and major donors like Bloomberg and his former school chancellor, Joel Klein, who has also contributed money to the Los Angeles race.

“A lot of the reform success started at the federal level with Race to the Top, it moved to states and now it’s very much in the implementation phase at the district level,” said Joe Williams, director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), an advocacy group that supports charter schools and teacher accountability. “How implementation is handled is important to a lot of people.”

Read the full post here.