While fans waited to get into Thursday’s taping of The Colbert Report, a small but dedicated group stood outside the studio, protesting Campbell Brown’s appearance on the Comedy Central show that night.
Brown, a former television journalist turned education reformer, announced on Monday that her group, the Partnership for Educational Justice, is helping seven families with a lawsuit against New York State’s tenure laws for teachers. Brown argues that tenure protections make it very difficult to fire incompetent teachers, and that her team is working to fight the cronyism in education.
“We’re under no illusions that this is[n’t] going to be incredibly challenging … when you’re trying to change a system like this, when you’re trying to fight powers that have been fighting to maintain the status quo for as long as they have,” she said at a press conference. “Do you think it’s going to be easy? Of course it’s not.”
The protesters, comprised of about 10 advocates from the Alliance for Quality Education, New York Communities for Change, and a few parents and teachers, could not disagree more. They argue that tenure is an essential protection for teachers.
“Due process is a very important process for our teachers,” Elzora Cleveland, a public school parent and member of New York Communities for Change and the Alliance for Quality Education, told The National Memo. “We want our teachers to be able to teach without worrying about their jobs. It allows them to be more creative, more focused. They can really spend their creative time zooming in on moving children forward in their education as opposed to worrying about whether they’ll have a job tomorrow.”
Cleveland doesn’t think that Brown should be speaking for parents and teachers, especially since she didn’t go to public school herself and her children attend private schools.
“If Campbell Brown is not publicly educated … what could she understand about this process?” Cleveland said. “I believe it is a political stunt.”
Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, agrees. She says that if Brown wants to improve the education system, then she should be focused on funding, and ensuring that students and teachers have access to the resources that they need. She finds it suspicious that this is the issue on which Brown’s chosen to focus.
“I believe the parents’ concerns are real but I don’t believe [Brown’s] intent to support them are real,” she told The National Memo. “The one percent is running around this country shuttering public education.”
Ansari also thinks that tenure is important because it allows so teachers to fight for funding and better opportunities for their students without fearing for their jobs.
“What would happen to those teachers if they didn’t have … the right to due process?” she said.
The group stood outside the studio for about an hour, holding signs such as “Campbell Brown Doesn’t Speak 4 Me,” and chanting, “Campbell, Campbell, who funds you, hedge funds and Wall Street, isn’t that true?”
Maureen Gephardt, a Colbert fan waiting on line to enter the studio, thought that Colbert was a great person to interview Brown because he would “challenge” her.
“I think public education needs to have advocates all over and they should be able to be here,” she told us.
Video of Brown’s interview with Colbert can be seen below, via Comedy Central:
Photo: The National Memo/Rachel Witkin
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