Five years ago today I was in New York to celebrate the launch of Democrats for Education Reform, an organization on whose board I’ve been incredibly honored to serve. At that point, I could never imagine what an impact DFER would have in the coming years, including fostering an impressive and growing team of Democratic elected education reformers at the state and local level, raising the profile of ed reform in the 2008 election, providing ground cover for Democratic elected officials supporting the Obama administration’s education reforms, creating on the ground presence for Democrat-led education reform in 10 states, and helping blaze a path for a growing number of state and national education reform advocacy organizations. Most importantly, DFER has articulated a Democratic vision for education that places bold reforms focused on equity, accountability, teacher effectiveness, and access to high-quality choices within the broader context of Democrats’ historical commitment to advance equity and justice for the most disadvantaged in our society, and encouraged and supported a growing number of Democrats--both elected officials and those who vote for them-who embrace that vision. Just to be clear, while I’m proud to serve on DFER’s board, I claim exactly zero credit for these accomplishments. They’re the product of the exceptional leadership of DFER ED Joe Williams and the truly impressive staff he has built. But the greatest credit goes to Democratic elected officials--from President Obama, to Secretary Duncan, to Rep. George Miller, to Sen. Michael Bennet, to state and local leaders like Mike Johnston, Bill Ferguson, Kira Orange Jones and other to numerous to list here who illustrate every day that support for education reform is not only consistent with Democratic values but made imperative by them. There’s a tremendous amount of work left to do, but the conversation and political valence of education issues for Democrats have changed dramatically in recent years. So, happy birthday, DFER!
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.