1.Democrats for Education Reform
Hoping to shake-up the Democrat party’s view and opposition to education reform, a new grassroots lobbying, funding and advocacy group has been formed, as reported in the article,“Democrats for Education Reform,” by the Philanthropy Roundtable. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) plan to “challenge the entrenched party power of teachers’ unions and other education sector interests, who largely define the official Democratic position on education issues,” according to the article. “DFER believes that high standards, innovation and accountability for success — qualities in short supply among the establishment — are essential for fueling excellence in education and giving all children an opportunity to succeed.”
“This new group within the Democratic Party comes at an important time for Utah given our upcoming referendum on vouchers,” said Lyall Swim, Sutherland’s director of operations. “It is just one more example of people on both sides of the aisle realizing the need for dramatic change in our education system.”
2.Local NAACP Runs from Sutherland Challenge on Vouchers
Following a public attack on Sutherland Institute, published in the Salt Lake Tribune on May 28, 2007, Institute President Paul T. Mero extended a formal invitation to Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, to participate in an open televised public dialogue regarding the voucher law referendum. To date, Ms. Williams has ignored Sutherland Institute’s formal request.
“I find it ironic that Ms. Williams was so quick to react to my opinion editorial with false accusations and inaccurate assumptions concerning my intent and feelings, but will not agree to engage in a public dialogue,” said Mero. “Given her accusations and stance, we feel she has a responsibility to step forward and defend those claims in a public-debate format that would help Utahns see if minorities and low-income families are actually helped or hurt by our current voucher law.”
While Ms. Williams’ letter claimed that minorities will be adversely affected by the current voucher law,Sutherland points to many credible sources which show that private schools across the nation, including Utah, are more integrated racially and/or socio-economically than public schools.
“Ms. Williams has thrown out some fairly substantial negative accusations regarding vouchers and public schools and their effect on minorities and low income families. What is interesting is that our experience shows the exact opposite of what Ms. Williams claims. What’s more is that the loudest supporters of vouchers are the poor and minority families in Utah, the very people Ms. Williams claims to represent,” Mero continued.
The Institute is hoping the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP will still act on the invitation for a televised public dialogue in which Ms. Williams could select a four-member team of her choosing, while Mero does the same. Sutherland believes this dialogue would provide a tremendous public service to the citizens of Utah as they prepare to go to the polls in November to decide on the school voucher issue.