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With the primaries over, the final results did not come out how many education reformers had hoped. State Senator Bill Perkins and State Senator Shirley Huntley beat back challenges by charter school supported candidates Basil Smikle and Lynn Nunes respectively – each candidate coming in below 25% of the total vote despite sizable donations from wealthy supporters giving both contests a chance at being competitive races. Whether it was name recognition or a disenchanted electorate, the decisive power of teacher unions proved itself by providing invaluable funds and manpower to their preferred candidates.
In the nation’s capital, education policy dominated this year’s Mayoral Democratic Primary where incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty was unseated by City Council President Vincent Gray. Gray’s victory returned some power to a coalition of supporters that include community groups and unions who in the past, have had strained relations with the controversial chancellor of schools, Michelle Rhee. This development causes many to feel that her future employment with the DC public school system is very much in question. Despite praises from educators coast to coast, local leaders argue that her tactics exacerbate the persisting obstacles to improvement in the classroom – lack of support for teachers and alienating traditional avenues for community input into local schools. Edweek provides an extensive examination of the situation including the political struggle between community and administrator, Rhee’s “no-regret” policy on her break-neck pace of change, and the affect this will have on millions of dollars in generous underwriting provided by hedge-funds and private foundations specifically looking to place their bets on more radical departures from the standard fare in education
That’s all for now on the education front. More to come….