Split in Democrat Ranks Over Education?

M. Catharine Evans
The screening of the education movement's parent-trigger film Won't Back Down at the Democratic National Convention this week is causing turmoil among Democrats. The movie, much like the documentary Waiting for Superman, has prompted strong reactions from union leaders, activists and teachers. 

Most Democrats view the public education system as the country's great equalizer and see movies like Won't Back Down as anti-teacher, anti-union and as a slick way to win people over to the side of those who want to privatize education.

Therefore, it came as no surprise to rank and file Democrats the movie received a warm welcome when viewed and discussed at the Republican National Convention last week. Republicans like Jeb Bush, Governor Rick Scott, Condoleezza Rice and a host of others across the country are on board with reforms like charter schools and vouchers.

But unlike Tampa, the decision to show the movie in Charlotte was so controversial it went all the way to the higher ups in the Obama administration.  The education issue has caused a rift between teachers unions who have been steadfastly loyal to Democrat politicians, and those within the Party that say they want more teacher accountability and school choice.

...the request for a Charlotte screening went to the highest levels of the Obama administration, which passed the decision off to the Democratic National Committee, according to a source with knowledge of the chain of events. 

According to this source, Valerie Jarrett, Obama's close personal adviser, and David Plouffe, his top political adviser, both saw the request but eventually handed the decision over to the DNC's political director, Patrick Gaspard, who raised no objections.

Why all the brouhaha over a PR film that purportedly tugs at the heart strings while pushing parent-trigger legislation?

For one, former union organizer and now chairman of the Democratic convention this year, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is backing the movie.  Villaraigosa is considered far left of center, so his involvement with a movie produced by Walden Media owner, the conservative Philip Anschutz, has rankled his fellow leftists.

Villaraigosa is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and in June, with the support of several high-profile Democratic mayors, that group included support for "parent trigger" legislation in its platform.

Then there's Randi Weingarten president of the American Federation of Teachers, who saw the movie in mid-August and surprisingly conceded unions had lost their edge when it comes to education.

We bear a lot of responsibility for this...We were focused -- as unions are -- on fairness and not as much on quality.

Weingarten's own ties to the White House (her partner Hilary Rosen was a frequent WH visitor according to Michelle Malkin, meeting with Obama, Jarrett and Axelrod on separate occasions) may have been the reason for her statement.  If there's trouble in paradise between traditional unions and the Chicagoans in DC, who Ok'd the movie's premiere at the DNC, it would make sense Weingarten might go easy on the movie.

Ten days later, however, Weingarten changed her tune. The President of the second largest teachers union in the country wrote a letter to "interested parties" denouncing the movie. Weingarten accused the moviemakers of "using the most blatant stereotypes and caricatures I have ever seen" and "affixing blame on the wrong culprit: America's teachers unions."

What prompted Weingarten's sudden reversal?  Is the Democratic Party showing signs of a complete ideological split: the new left on one side pushing charters, partnering with conservative billionaires and Hollywood to produce anti-union, anti-teacher movies; while on the other side stand the old union stalwarts who see reformers like Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson as entrepreneurial opportunists?

Rhee and husband Mayor Johnson who appeared at the RNC will also be at the DNC screening. Interestingly, Republicans Jeb Bush and Condoleezza Rice who attended the Tampa showing will not be in Charlotte.

Looks like the power shift within the Democratic Party is taking place before our very eyes.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report


The screening of the education movement's parent-trigger film Won't Back Down at the Democratic National Convention this week is causing turmoil among Democrats. The movie, much like the documentary Waiting for Superman, has prompted strong reactions from union leaders, activists and teachers. 

Most Democrats view the public education system as the country's great equalizer and see movies like Won't Back Down as anti-teacher, anti-union and as a slick way to win people over to the side of those who want to privatize education.

Therefore, it came as no surprise to rank and file Democrats the movie received a warm welcome when viewed and discussed at the Republican National Convention last week. Republicans like Jeb Bush, Governor Rick Scott, Condoleezza Rice and a host of others across the country are on board with reforms like charter schools and vouchers.

But unlike Tampa, the decision to show the movie in Charlotte was so controversial it went all the way to the higher ups in the Obama administration.  The education issue has caused a rift between teachers unions who have been steadfastly loyal to Democrat politicians, and those within the Party that say they want more teacher accountability and school choice.

...the request for a Charlotte screening went to the highest levels of the Obama administration, which passed the decision off to the Democratic National Committee, according to a source with knowledge of the chain of events. 

According to this source, Valerie Jarrett, Obama's close personal adviser, and David Plouffe, his top political adviser, both saw the request but eventually handed the decision over to the DNC's political director, Patrick Gaspard, who raised no objections.

Why all the brouhaha over a PR film that purportedly tugs at the heart strings while pushing parent-trigger legislation?

For one, former union organizer and now chairman of the Democratic convention this year, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is backing the movie.  Villaraigosa is considered far left of center, so his involvement with a movie produced by Walden Media owner, the conservative Philip Anschutz, has rankled his fellow leftists.

Villaraigosa is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and in June, with the support of several high-profile Democratic mayors, that group included support for "parent trigger" legislation in its platform.

Then there's Randi Weingarten president of the American Federation of Teachers, who saw the movie in mid-August and surprisingly conceded unions had lost their edge when it comes to education.

We bear a lot of responsibility for this...We were focused -- as unions are -- on fairness and not as much on quality.

Weingarten's own ties to the White House (her partner Hilary Rosen was a frequent WH visitor according to Michelle Malkin, meeting with Obama, Jarrett and Axelrod on separate occasions) may have been the reason for her statement.  If there's trouble in paradise between traditional unions and the Chicagoans in DC, who Ok'd the movie's premiere at the DNC, it would make sense Weingarten might go easy on the movie.

Ten days later, however, Weingarten changed her tune. The President of the second largest teachers union in the country wrote a letter to "interested parties" denouncing the movie. Weingarten accused the moviemakers of "using the most blatant stereotypes and caricatures I have ever seen" and "affixing blame on the wrong culprit: America's teachers unions."

What prompted Weingarten's sudden reversal?  Is the Democratic Party showing signs of a complete ideological split: the new left on one side pushing charters, partnering with conservative billionaires and Hollywood to produce anti-union, anti-teacher movies; while on the other side stand the old union stalwarts who see reformers like Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson as entrepreneurial opportunists?

Rhee and husband Mayor Johnson who appeared at the RNC will also be at the DNC screening. Interestingly, Republicans Jeb Bush and Condoleezza Rice who attended the Tampa showing will not be in Charlotte.

Looks like the power shift within the Democratic Party is taking place before our very eyes.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report