Dems Draw Fire from Top Donors in Rift Over Education Reform

Judy Hartnett's picture
Monday, February 27, 2012

Several well-heeled Democratic donors have openly split with the state party and legislative leaders over education reform, arguing Washington is falling behind because lawmakers are afraid to buck the teachers union.

Donors say they fear the Democratic Party could lose ground to Republicans on the issue. Some even say they're on the fence when it comes to supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna or Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, given the candidates' stances on education.

It's rare for what amounts to a Democratic family fight to get aired in public, but the parties to this feud are dragging out the dirty laundry with gusto as they argue over what reform really means.

The dispute boiled to the surface this month when venture capitalist Nick Hanauer fired off a widely circulated email saying, "I have seen the enemy, and it is us. It is impossible to escape the painful reality that we Democrats are now on the wrong side of every important education-reform issue."

Hanauer, who's contributed more than $2.5 million to Democratic campaigns and causes since 2001, is particularly ticked off about what he considers a lack of progress this year on beefing up teacher evaluations and allowing charter schools. The Obama administration has advocated both on a national level.

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