Cunningham: On School Segregation, Teacher Union President Randi Weingarten Is Projecting

Sahm: Newark’s Charter Schools Deliver on Their Original Purpose — and Spark Innovation Across the District

Cantor: When a Bounty of Options Aren’t Enough, How Poor Parents Really Practice School Choice

Cook: Pettiness Blocks Progress in Louisiana, as Governor Vetoes Common Sense Education Bill

Analysis: How the California Teachers Union Is Spending Its Summer

Simpson: When Teachers Act as Coaches, Everyone Comes Out a Winner

Ladner: ‘Frontier Justice’ From Parents at ‘Wild West’ Charter Schools Yields Great Results for Students

Cantor: Falling in Love Again (With School Policy) Binge-Watching ‘The West Wing’

Weisberg: Paying Teachers Not to Teach Is Absurd — but Reviving NYC’s ‘Dance of the Lemons’ Hurts Kids

Richmond: Autonomy or Accountability? Good Charter School Authorizing Means Balancing the Two

Union Report: The Sad Triviality of the National Education Association’s Annual Conference

Lieberman: ESSA Allows States to Focus on Often Overlooked Pre-K Ed Players — School Principals

Analysis: Ed Tech Decision Makers Are Under Pressure in Higher Education

Irvin & Gray — Reforming the Way We Govern Schools: Stronger Charter Boards Are Essential to Education Reform

Antonucci: NEA’s New Charter Schools Policy Isn’t New, Just Matches Union’s Long-Held Action Plan

Arnett: Schools Will Be the Beneficiaries, Not the Victims, of K-12 ‘Disruptive Innovation’

Boser and Baffour: Making School Integration Work for the 21st Century

Williams: Raising LA High School Graduation Rates by Any Means Necessary Is an Empty Accomplishment

Rice: Charter Schools Are Advancing the Cause of Black Education in America for the 21st Century

Slover: Remembering Mitchell Chester, the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of U.S. Education Policy

Michael Bloomberg, the Education Candidate?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

January 29, 2016

Richard Whitmire
Richard Whitmire

Richard Whitmire is the author of several books, most recently “The Founders: Inside the Revolution to Invent (and Reinvent) America’s Best Charter Schools.” Whitmire is a member of the Journalism Advisory Board of The 74.

Richard Whitmire is the author of several books, most recently “The Founders: Inside the Revolution to Invent (and Reinvent) America’s Best Charter Schools.” Whitmire is a member of the Journalism Advisory Board of The 74.
Andrew J. Rotherham
Andrew J. Rotherham

Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for low-income students. He is also a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, the executive editor of Real Clear Education; is part of the Real Clear Politics family of news and analysis websites; writes the blog Eduwonk.com; and is the co-publisher of Education Insider, a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors. He serves on The 74’s board of directors.

Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for low-income students. He is also a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, the executive editor of Real Clear Education; is part of the Real Clear Politics family of news and analysis websites; writes the blog Eduwonk.com; and is the co-publisher of Education Insider, a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors. He serves on The 74’s board of directors.
Talking Points

To ed reformers cheering a possible Bloomberg presidential run, don’t pop the champagne corks just yet

Bloomberg has a strong story to tell on ed reform but if he runs for president, will voters listen?

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The heart rates of all education reformers soared at the news that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was considering jumping into the presidential race.
Wow, that could mean an unapologetic charter school/accountability advocate taking political center stage. Take that, Hillary and Bernie! And it could mean a clean counterpoint to the politicized Common Core-bashing on the right. Take that, (almost) entire Republican field!
Maybe, just maybe, education as a national issue would finally emerge.
But here’s the cold water. Perhaps it’s Bloomberg’s moment and the country is ready for a serious third party run. But it’s pretty unlikely this is his education moment. Bloomberg’s got the record on education, yes, but his pragmatism — let’s do what works and nothing else — is far out of fashion among Democrats and Republicans.
With Bernie Sanders hammering Hillary Clinton from the “progressive” left, reform is again a four-letter word among Democrats. Bill Clinton’s New Democrats prided themselves on making government work. Hillary Clinton was an aggressive reformer as First Lady of Arkansas. The current crowd tiptoes around the party’s interest groups and rejects policies that upset the delicate balance of interests within the party fold.
It’s a play-it-safe strategy and it’s working. The issue is not a liability for Clinton and, right now, as seen by the throngs turning out for Sanders rallies, the energy isn’t there for education reform anyway. Those crowds aren’t going to warm to do-what-works Mike. They want a double shot of ideology with those lattes.
The Republicans are even worse. In the mayhem of the primary season, being associated with education reform is inversely correlated with success. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a good (and somewhat Bloomberg-like) education record: Ask him how it’s working out on the campaign trail. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-teachers union education record may enrage Democrats but you would have thought it would at least work with the Republican base. He didn’t even make it through 2015.
Among the current Republican front-runners, there’s absolutely no appetite for education reform. The voters crowding Trump and Cruz rallies want their anger stoked — they don’t want to hear about Common Core or holding schools accountable through public rating systems.  
It’s too bad because Bloomberg has a record and a story to tell on schools.
He had years of experience actually overseeing a school system in New York City, a process he kicked off with the unthinkable: appointing as his turnaround chancellor tough-guy prosecutor Joel Klein, someone with no traditional education background but a no-nonsense manner and a deep affection for New York Public Schools.

New Research: Closing NYC Schools Helped Students

As a result, there were clear wins in New York: Graduation rates soared, more than 90 awful schools got closed and about 140 charters schools were opened — schools that researchers say are outperforming traditional schools with similar student populations.  Klein also championed small schools run by the school district and they, too, are improving outcomes for city students, according to independent evaluations. All New York families, including middle-class parents hoping to raise children in the city, now have fresh options.

Bloomberg also signed off on landmark raises for the city’s teachers. Education politics being what they are you rarely hear Klein and Bloomberg credited for raising salaries so dramatically but the fact is Mike Bloomberg has a better story to tell on teacher pay than anyone else in the race.
And he championed accountability for schools and teachers. Bloomberg issued school report cards with grades and oversaw a controversial evaluation system for teachers to hold them accountable for student results.
His record isn’t without blemishes (though you are hard-pressed to find a serious person in New York who doesn’t prefer it to the current regime). New York’s test scores are going in the right direction but not fast enough. The teacher evaluation system remains bumpy. And Bloomberg replaced Klein with newspaper executive Cathie Black in what turned out to be an epically bad personnel decision. Critics also think he didn’t get enough reform in exchange for the resources he poured into the city’s schools.
So there is something there for everyone ... to hate. Republicans, drunk again on Tocquevilleian nostalgia, bristle at the technocratic nature of the Bloomberg approach and any national reform efforts; Democrats, especially their again-ascendant interest groups, bristle at the mention of charter schools and teacher evaluation. You get the idea.
So Bloomberg’s education challenge isn’t his education record; it’s how it fits with the politics of the moment.
Education reform enthusiasts might hope that Bloomberg’s commitment to charter schools could allow Clinton to edge back to the political center, perhaps tacking back from her recent anti-charter musings. Or that a Bloomberg candidacy might drag Republicans back from the cliff they’re heading over. But in practice Bloomberg’s education history and credibility is more likely to land with a deafening silence.
Gun safety, Wall Street, the economy and the role of billionaires in American life are the kind of issues that will define a Bloomberg candidacy if one emerges. Sorry education reformers.
In the unlikely chance Bloomberg wins the presidency, all this would change. At that point his core philosophy, that unacceptable schools are no longer acceptable, would shake up Washington’s comfortable political arrangements around education policy. But the path to that catalytic moment runs through an angry electorate and a gauntlet of issues that, unfortunately for Mike Bloomberg, have little to do with one of his strong suits — schools.
Disclosure: The Seventy Four is partially funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Howard Wolfson, head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ education programs, serves on The Seventy Four’s Board of Directors. Co-founder Romy Drucker previously worked in the New York City Department of Education.