Journalist-turned-education-reformer Campbell Brown has gained national attention after filing a lawsuit that challenges New York’s teacher tenure laws.
Opponents have already begun to question Brown’s motives and credentials. US News & World Report reported on why Brown’s opponents are so terrified of her.
1) Education reformers have tended to focus too much on trying to persuade lawmakers of the merits of our ideas and not enough on winning the hearts and minds of the voters. This approach to advocacy may work if the issue is not controversial, but it is not a sustainable strategy when the idea challenges the status quo and requires sustained change management. Brown’s plainspoken approach to one of the key problems in our education system helps get the public to focus on teacher tenure reform.
2) Brown’s fight for teacher tenure reform is not just designed to challenge the antiquated practice; it’s a tactic aimed at challenging education reform’s greatest foe: the teachers unions. She is not just interested in tenure reform – she’s fighting on behalf of parents who don’t have a voice or the means to select better schools.
3) Using the courtroom as a venue to fight for change is not the norm in education reform circles, but for most major movements it has been a key element of their strategy – think the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Women. Because education is a state and local issue, most reformers have shied away from making big investments in the courtroom, since it’s difficult to envision a transformative case that could be taken all the way to the Supreme Court. But Brown’s focus on the courts may be able to deliver the kind of big-bang legal victory that paves the way for comprehensive education reform.