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Every Education Dem vs. Keegan

By Alyson Klein — July 22, 2008 2 min read
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So there have been a number of events, both inside and outside the Beltway, that have given the education advisers for both presidential candidates a chance to square off. And I couldn’t help but notice that Sen. John McCain’s camp pretty much always sends Lisa Graham Keegan, while Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign has called on a number of different folks to appear.

For instance, my fellow blogger, Michele McNeil, is going to the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting in New Orleans this week, where Keegan, a former Arizona schools chief, will speak for McCain, while Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond will speak for Obama. Darling-Hammond and Keegan also (on separate occasions) have addressed the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Keegan, who must be racking up the frequent-flier miles, is also supposed to speak at the New America Foundation in Washington this week. Jon Schnur (of New Leaders for New Schools and Al Gore’s 2000 campaign) will be there for Obama. And Keegan recently addressed the American Association of Educational Publishers for McCain, while Jeanne Century, the director of science education at the University of Chicago, spoke for Obama. Keegan also addressed a roundtable held at the Fordham Institute in Washington. Mike Johnston, a school principal from Thronton, Colo., will field questions there this week on behalf of the Obama campaign.

Of course, earlier this month, my partner on the federal beat, David Hoff, attended a forum at the Business Roundtable in which former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift represented the McCain camp. (David pointed out to me that Keegan may have been busy helping craft McCain’s NAACP speech, delivered soon after that event.) Jason Kamras, a former national Teacher of the Year, represented the Obama campaign.

It’s hard to say, though, whether Keegan’s frequent appearances on behalf of McCain mean that she’s his top education adviser or if she just has the flexibility, willingness, and oratorical gifts to travel the country addressing education groups.

It’s even harder to say whether the Obama campaign’s decision to send a variety of different folks to these events means that there isn’t a single adviser who has his ear on education issues.

And I’m not sure if this is a deliberate choice or just the way things work out sometimes, but I think it’s potentially pretty interesting that Darling-Hammond (an NCLB critic) is the Obama adviser addressing NCSL, which has also been disparaging of the law. I have to wonder how her remarks would have gone over at the Business Roundtable, which has been more inclined to support NCLB.