For two days day in a row, at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., a handful of moms bearing flyers and large yellow pencils made out of pool noodles were denied admission to events organized by the corporate-focused education “reform” groups Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Students First, headed by Michelle Rhee.
On Tuesday, Carol Sawyer and Pam Grundy, co-chairs of the Charlotte-based MecklenburgACTS.org (which is affiliated with Parents Across America) had signed up in advance for what was billed as a DFER “Town Hall.” They had also received e-mail confirmation of their registration. An hour before the program was scheduled to begin, they stationed themselves outside the entrance and distributed flyers to other attendees which questioned the effectiveness of DFER’s strategies for improving education.
Shortly before the event was to begin, Carol went to take her seat. She was told at the door that she would not be allowed in, even though she had a confirmed registration. The reason she was given was that the MecklenbugACTS representatives were discouraging people from attending. This was patently untrue, as Carol and others were in fact directing attendees towards the entrance, which was somewhat complicated to locate.
The denial at the Students First event the previous day more closely resembled a comedy of errors, as Pam described in a blog post following the events.
“We find it somewhat amusing that these well-funded groups seem to regard us as such a threat,” Carol observed. “But more important, we are troubled by the way that these forums on education – a subject which is so essential to our children’s and our nation’s future – seem to be so thoroughly orchestrated that they leave no room for real debate or discussion. Many, many Democrats agree with us on issues of high-stakes testing, treatment of teachers and rampant privatization. We call on President Obama to use his influence to open up the debate to other voices and other points of view.”