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Book Review                                      Online Exclusive

 

Class Warfare 

Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools  

by Steven Brill, Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., 2011, 496 pp., $28 hardcover

BookClassWarfare

The driving forces that have fueled the move for school choice and the expansion of charter schools are documented clearly in Class Warfare: the Fight to Fix America's Schools by Steven Brill, a publisher and entrepreneur.

Although he may have attempted to write from an objective perspective, from the first few pages a powerful anti-traditional public school bias is obvious. "The war over our public schools,” he writes, “arguably has not two but three camps: the reformers, the unions, and the teachers." Brill operates from a basic premise that public schools are failing, and the author masterfully paints a picture of the key players in the "educational reform" movement and how they influence and drive public education policy.

Brill is drawn especially to Michelle Rhee, a short-term head of the District of Columbia schools; Joel Klein, a former chancellor of the New York City school system; and Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for America.

Labor unions, especially Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers, are vilified with impunity. The labor contract negotiated by the AFT in New York City is cited as a major reason for the failings of the city’s schools. Charter schools are presented as far superior options.
One of the book’s most fascinating elements is the way the author links so many people within the leadership of the reform movement. In chronicling the rise to power of the Democrats for Education Reform, the connections between the high-profile leaders, wealthy conservative foundations and the Obama administration are clearly outlined.

For traditional public school leaders who wonder who is really influencing federal education policy, Brill presents a clear picture of the individuals who are driving the charter school reform movement, the money that supports them and the disproportionate power they can exert.

Reviewed by Paul M. Hewitt, assistant professor of educational leadership, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark.

 

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