For Immediate Release | Sep 3, 2012
Democrats Show Support for Education Reform at Screening of “Won’t Back Down” in Charlotte
Party leaders including DNC Chair Villaraigosa speak before hundreds of convention delegates attending the screening
Charlotte, NC - This afternoon StudentsFirst, Democrats for Education Reform, and Parent Revolution held a screening of "Won’t Back Down," a new major motion picture set to debut in late September. The screening was followed be a panel discussion with progressive Democrats around education reform issues raised in the film. The film features two courageous parents, one a teacher - played by Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis taking bold action to try and make a real difference in the education their children were receiving.
At the panel, a group of progressive education reformers spoke to the growing support for education reform among Democrats - broad-based support that was in evidence at the event. Democratic National Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa opened the panel, while Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke at a reception for movie going delegates and Democratic StudentsFirst members.
During the panel discussion, Joe Williams, founder of Democrats for Education Reform, told attendees, "I'm a liberal Democrat, and I think there's real momentum on the democratic side over the last few years for reform, and that momentum is only growing." Chronicling his time working on five Democratic presidential campaigns and in the Clinton White House, Parent Revolution founder Ben Austin told attendees, "there's a growing group of liberal voters who don't want to keep pouring money into things that aren't working. As progressives, we should all be working to make sure government is really working well, so that people don't lose faith in the idea of government."
StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee praised the progress the Obama administration has helped support, saying, "What President Obama and Secretary Duncan did with Race to the Top was a game changer in helping to improve educational outcomes."
Rhee noted that though some have characterized the movie and the debate around these issues as anti-union, the issues aren't really about teacher unions. "Folks want to blame teacher unions for all of these problems, and that's just patently false," said Rhee. "We support collective bargaining and we support the right to organize. The fact is that it's the job of teacher unions to advocate for their members. We can't hate on them for that. What's been missing is an organization fighting for the interests of students and leveraging the same political resources."
Daniel Barnz, who directed "Won’t Back Down," was also on the panel. Barnz talked about his background in making the movie and added "You can support unions and also criticize unions. There are so many good things that they do, but there isn't a lot of sympathy for that middle ground. With this movie we're trying to say we should be able to have a real conversation about the need for us to be doing what’s best for kids."
Today's screening and panel follows those hosted by StudentsFirst and its partners last week in Tampa that featured Republican education advocates, speaking to the bipartisan support for education reform policies.
StudentsFirst is a bipartisan grassroots movement of more than 1 million members nationwide, working to focus our education system on what's best for students. Today, too many of America's children are not getting the quality education they need and deserve. StudentsFirst is helping to change that with common sense reforms that help make sure all students have great schools and great teachers. We are working to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids’ lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their child's education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids. Launched by former Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in December 2010, StudentsFirst has successfully helped pass more than 70 student-centered policies in 17 states, and our movement continues to grow.