This could be really, really good for American education. Or extremely bad. I fear it will be the later.
Bill Gates and Eli Broad, two billionaires who have been focusing large chunks of their philanthropic money on the issue of reforming our educational system, are going to try and elevate the issue in the current perpetual presidential campaign.
But now, dissatisfied with the pace of change, they are joining forces for a $60 million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race.
Under the slogan “Ed in ’08,” the project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers and a national network of operatives in both parties.
For that kind of money you’d think they could have come up with a better slogan.
The project will be headed by Roy Romer, former governor of Colorado and recently superintendent of the Los Angeles school district, and a Republican lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for W.
The amount these guys plan to spend over the next year and a half of the political cycle is far larger than any single issue advocacy effort from the past.
Which means that the campaign will certainly give the general public (and especially candidates) the impression that “we have got a real problem and we need real reform”.
However, what form will that real reform take? Is spending $60 million on advertising and lobbying really the best way to determine our priorities for American education?
After all, No Child Left Behind is largely the result of political posturing driven by broad generalizations and unsubstantiated sound bites.
It’s scary to think of what might come from an effort with a budget this big.