Investing in changing education

Wealthy investors are putting their money and business expertise into education reform, reports the New York Sun. They’ve started Democrats for Education Reform, run by Joe Williams, formerly of Chalkboard and author of Cheating Our Kids. The goal isn’t just to start “a few cute little schools,” says Williams.

They want to shift the political debate by getting the Democratic Party to back innovations such as merit pay for teachers, a longer school day, and charter schools.

Three of the founders sit on charter school boards.

As investors, the group’s leaders spend their days searching for hidden diamonds in the rough: businesses the market has left for dead, but a savvy investor could turn for a profit. A big inner-city school system, (Whitney) Tilson explained, is kind of like that — the General Motors of the education world. “I see very, very similar dynamics: very large bureaucratic organizations that have become increasingly disconnected from their customers; that are producing an inferior product and losing customers; that are heavily unionized,” he said. A successful charter school, on the other hand, is like “Toyota 20 years ago.”

I’m headed for a wedding this weekend uniting a Wall Street guy with a charter management gal. Wave of the future.

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