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Opinion: High-octane ed reform campaign coming

National education blogger Alexander Russo broke news yesterday about a new and well-funded education reform advocacy campaign that will launch in Denver next week.

Called “One Chance Colorado,” the eight- to 10-week campaign will use billboards, slick, political campaign-style TV ads, bus stop posters and web-based strategies to push for “accountability at every level;” recruiting and supporting strong teachers and getting rid of weak ones; investing in good schools and “rapidly addressing” underperforming schools; and putting education ahead of politics.

There will also be a “field organizing” component to the campaign.

People involved in the campaign were reluctant to discuss it ahead of next week’s official launch. But here’s what I’ve learned:

  •  It is being funded by local foundations with an interest in education reform issues. Some said the campaign budget could approach $1 million.
  • Local education advocacy groups will put their efforts into the campaign, spearheaded by the Colorado chapter of Stand for Children. Others involved include A+ Denver, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Succeeds, Get Smart Schools, Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado and Education Reform Now. Up to seven or eight additional groups will sign on before next week’s launch.
  • Although the timing might suggest otherwise, the campaign will not involve itself in the upcoming Denver Public Schools board elections.  Because all the groups involved are 501 (c) (3) non-profits, advocating for certain candidates would violate Internal Revenue Service regulations governing non-profits. (Stand for Children has a 501 (c) (4) arm, which can lobby and campaign but only the (c) (3) will be involved with One Chance Colorado, I’m told).

Why foundations would pump significant money into a general advocacy campaign of this sort isn’t clear to me. What are they hoping to accomplish? What kind of return on their investment do they want? Since people aren’t saying much at this point, we may just have to wait until next week for the answers.

Earlier this week someone not sympathetic to the campaign’s goal or its players got hold of a solicitation memo sent to various advocacy groups by Lindsay Neil, executive director of Stand for Children Colorado. The memo was gussied up, made into a flyer and sent to various bloggers and news organizations. Russo and others sent it to me.

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