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January 23, 2012

1) Whatever Happened to Communities for Quality Education? There have been a host of National Education Association initiatives launched with a burst of money and manpower only to disappear without a trace. The NEA Charter School Initiative and come immediately to mind, but I never expected Communities for Quality Education to join that list. Maybe CQE isn't really gone, but don't expect an announcement if it is.

For those of you unfamiliar with its history, CQE sprang into existence in February 2004 as "America Learns," armed with NEA officers, staff, a 401k plan, and what ended up being $8.9 million in NEA national and state affiliate dues money that year. Its mission was to spread NEA's message on the No Child Left Behind Act, but to remain ostensibly independent and incognito.

The group was active during the 2004 Presidential campaign, airing ads against NCLB in battleground states, and famously sending a basket of red apples to PBS' Gwen Ifill, who was moderating the vice presidential debate in Ohio. CQE was trying to persuade her to ask an NCLB question, which she didn't do.

CQE continued to be funded exclusively by NEA for the next few years, though its activities concerning NCLB dropped off significantly after the re-election of George W. Bush. In 2007, CQE provided cash and staff to overturn the Utah school voucher law.

Since then, the group has been involved in the Save Pennsylvania's Schools campaign, contributed $250,000 to the anti-TABOR Citizens Unified for Maine's Future, created Schoolhouse Talk, an Internet radio show, sent out mailers during the 2010 Ohio gubernatorial campaign, and most recently delivered more direct mail to defeat Issue 2 in Ohio.

In fact, it seems CQE's mission has devolved into funding direct mail. Out of the $1 million in the CQE budget for 2010, more than $435,000 went to the Mack/Crounse Group for campaign direct mail.

As the scope of CQE's activities have diminished, so has its profile. Though its NEA roots have always been kept hidden from the public eye, CQE is fading further. If you try to visit the CQE web site you get a "403 Forbidden" error. If you go to its Facebook page, you get a "No information has been provided... yet" message. The Schoolhouse Talk site yields only a directory of files. (Interestingly, the CQE site continues to host Utahns for Public Schools and the Ohio Education Opportunity Act.)

There is only one remaining page on the NEA web site that mentions CQE - last updated in 2008.

Communities for Quality Education may be vanishing due to NEA budgetary realities or it might just be working exclusively below the radar from now on. Either way, it ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

2)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 18-23:

*  Aloha, Race to the Top. Wisconsin may be a hyper-partisan battle, but there isn't a Republican in sight in Hawaii (or New York, as one blog commenter noted).

Card Check Writ Large in Wisconsin. And it's unbelievable that unions are trying to make Gov. Walker's recall about anything except unions.

Twinkie Defense. Meeting the unions halfway across the soy lecithin bridge.

Cutting Edge. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

3) Quote of the Week. "There are so many moving parts to this initiative that no voter will be able to understand it in a short period of time." - Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, commenting on a Stand for Children ballot initiative that would alter the system of teacher evaluations in the state. The union filed suit against the measure's placement on the November 2012 ballot, claiming it is too broad. You can read both the seven-page initiative here and the large-print four-page summary by clicking this link. (January 23 Boston Globe)


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