Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes wants his old job back so badly that he’s abandoned the one issue that made him exceptional.
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At the national level, Obama’s embrace of school reform — the only part of his agenda that has proven to be a singular success — along with the success of teacher quality reform efforts in Colorado, California, and even New York have shown that teachers unions no longer hold the high ground on education policy. Barnes is not only abandoning an issue just as he can actually win on it — and keep office — he is also abandoning one of the proudest legacies of Southern governors. After all, it was the efforts of Clinton, George W. Bush, Lamar Alexander, and other Southern governors that helped usher in the modern school reform movement.
Meanwhile Barnes’s apologies aren’t working with teachers union officials or the rank-and-file. A week after Barnes released one of his video mea culpas, the GAE refused to endorse him or any other Democrat; it may still endorse a Republican candidate in a likely Republican run-off for the gubernatorial nod. Barnes also came in a pathetic fifth place in a straw poll held by the traditional education circle-allied Georgia Education Alliance. Many teachers share the same feelings as Mary Ann Ellis, who complained about receiving so many of Barnes’s targeted e-mails. Wrote Ellis in the Baxley News-Banner: “As you speak, humility cakes your face like too much makeup on a strumpet.”
The chances of a second term for Barnes, especially in light of the struggles of fellow Democrats in other states, may make all this groveling an exercise in wretched futility.
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