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The Changing Face of Ed. Advocacy, Plus Evergreen State News

If you thought that Education Week reporters Stephen Sawchuk and Sean Cavanagh did a great job in their first installment last week on new education advocacy groups, check out "The Changing Face of Education Advocacy" again this week to read more about the way these groups are operating in local school board races and their relationship with teachers' unions. In Colorado, for example, Stand for Children and the Colorado Education Association have a more interesting relationship than you might think. It's very important reading.

In fact, mentioning Stand for Children is a perfect segue into a piece of news from last Friday: Stand for Children's Washington state chapter, which in 2008 endorsed outgoing Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire and largely backed Democrats in the 2010 state legislative races, announced it had decided to endorse GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob McKenna, over Democrat and former congressman Jay Inslee.

In a May 18 statement accompanying the endorsement announcement, Jennifer Vranek, a board member of the group's political action committee, stressed that as a lifelong Democrat she "struggled" with the decision. But the key language in the statement from the group's executive director, Shannon Campion, does not sound particularly conflicted: "McKenna is incredibly aligned with our policy goals for kids, has the track record of entrepreneurial leadership, and will make improving outcomes for students and closing the achievement gap a top priority for his administration. ... Our kids need and deserve a governor who will put them first."

Stand for Children in Washington said it conducted a "blind taste test" among its members by showing them answers to its questionnaire from Candidate A and Candidate B and having them pick their preferred candidate before they knew their names. McKenna turned out to be the candidate with the best flavor, winning 50 percent of respondents, compared to only 38 percent for Inslee. Logic tells us that in the advocacy group's view, Inslee would put children somewhere other than first, although perhaps that's an unfair linguistic quibble.

Savvy readers of Education Week will remember that I touched on the Evergreen State's gubernatorial race in an April article. The piece mentioned that on some education issues it was hard to tell Inslee and McKenna apart, and McKenna even went so far as to accuse Inslee of pinching his ideas. How much Stand for Children's endorsement will mean is up for debate, but it shouldn't come as a shock to any student of these advocacy-related battles.

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