Well, not actually to DC. More like LA. But our old friends at America's Teachers are having a good time right now making connections with real DC players.
You may recall that we first talked about America's Teachers back in June, when the teacherPAC first showed up on the radar. At the time it looked like they could turn out to be a shadowy dark money funnel aimed at the Clinton campaign. But upon closer examination, and an entirely pleasant phone conversation, America's Teachers turned out to be a couple of young guys with a dream.
Naveed Amalfard and Luke Villalobos are a pair of very recently graduated just-getting-started TFA guys. You will have to take my word for it that Amalfard sounds kind of charmingly pleasant on the phone, because when you read any of his "Hey, I've taught for a year and I'm here to tell you all Great Truths About Teaching" he sounds like a self-important jerk. These two had adapted the Clintonian/Democrat approach of simply ignoring the major issues facing K-12 education and focusing on warm fuzzy things like pre-K and free college; maybe that way they could unite an otherwise world of splintered-over-education folks. In late August, they didn't seem to have gained a lot of traction.
But this week, they surfaced again. Joy Resmovits covered the boys for the LA Times, where they scored some meetings with some heavier hitters.
So how are they doing? Well, apparently they have so far raised a whopping $1,500 so as SuperPAC's go, they are more Clark Kent than Kal-el.
On the other hand, if they were hoping to keep bridging the gap between classroom teachers, the unions, and education reformsters-- well, that bridge seems to have collapsed. When Amalfard talked to me in August, he was unhappy about being lumped in with outfits like CAP and DFER, but here's where Resmovits caught up with him:
Hours after Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not seek the nomination, they joined about 30 people in the 15th-floor mid-Wilshire offices of consulting group Propper Daley. Appearing with them was Clinton advocate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), and Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools and chairman of California Democrats for Education Reform.
Amalfard is a TFA product. When I asked him where he saw himself in ten years, and if he might still be in teaching then, he said, "I surely am considering it." But he seems to understand optics. When I talked to him, he said he had turned down a chance to be an AFT union rep, but in Resmovits piece, he seems to have reconsidered and taken the job, which makes for great PR positioning. Howard Dean also appears in Resmovits piece:
America’s Teachers visited Dean in his Washington, D.C., office, and he agreed to support them because as Teach for America and union members, “they’re the perfect example of how you can work together regardless of your background,” he said.
Dean is a whole reformy story himself.
Standing in the middle of that debate is Dean, who formerly led the Democratic National Committee. “I was a total union person,” he said in an interview. But recently, he warmed to policies that have been less than union-friendly. His views evolved when he visited the school of his son, a former Teach for America teacher, in New Orleans. He started rifling through students’ papers and discovered they were “functionally illiterate.”
"Standing in the middle" would be a generous assessment of Dean's education stance, which is too bad. He has positioned himself as one more Democrat who either cannot or will not see what is going on in education.
But in the meantime, America's Teachers has opened up an internship for anyone who can answer these three question affirmatively:
Are you excited to help elect Hillary Clinton President in 2016?
Are you passionate about improving American education?
Are you skilled at online research, communications, or speaking on the phone?
Are they are real PAC? Are they real players? Are they an actual voice for teachers? On the one hand, I kind of doubt it. Nice guys, earnest guys, but no. On the other hand, we live in an age of powerful wishful thinking. Want to be a teacher? Just join TFA and say you're a teacher? Want to be a superintendent? Just go to Broad Academy and call yourself a superintendent. Want to be an important educational expert? Just get ahold of some Gates money and declare yourself an expert? Hell-- want to be a commentator/journalist about the education world? Just start a blog and get a-typing. Nowadays we can all become anything we want to be-- we just have to say it's so. America's Teachers has moved from a modest two-man operation to a modest two-man operation that gets to meet with major national players in the ed reform politics biz. It's the new American Dream!