Reformie School

What I learned when I attended the EdReformies

Well reader: I did it. I attended the education reform event of the year (century?) and lived to tell the tale. In fact, I not only survived but I may have inadvertently learned a thing or two in the process. But from the minute I stepped off of the red reformie carpet I’ve been besieged by questions from readers. Well what are we waiting for—let’s go to the phones!

Did you manage to keep your real identity a secret?
This first question comes courtesy of my delightful father, a long-time advocate for foster children and one of the Last Living Utopians, although not, apparently, a regular reader of my blog. Dad: I came out weeks ago—please pay attention!! In fact, not only did I attend as myself but I was introduced by name to the somewhat puzzled crowd by emcee and friend of choice Michael Musante who announced that I was there thanks to the Chicago Teachers Union Pension Fund. Oh no—not the pension fund! It’s only got $249 left in it! Sorry guys…

What were you most surprised by?
The open bar. Just kidding! When I asked the people I talked to about how they got involved in the education reform movement nearly all could point to a transformative event in which they’d confronted some frustrating aspect of the education bureaucracy. I was struck by how similar their stories were to the ones that teachers tell me—and fascinated by how it is that we could have arrived at such different analyses of both the problem and the solution. For example, one of the reasons I’m so passionate about teachers having some kind—any kind—of job protections is because I’ve seen how often they have to get up in the grill of their principal or other administrators to advocate for their students. But that’s a topic for another day. You want to know if I spotted any celebs…

Is it true that Tony Bennett dropped by?
Jeepers creepers! Was that really headliner Tony Bennett across the room, in town to hang one last time with his Rat Pack pals? It was indeed, reader, albeit the other Tony Bennett, the one who has been making headlines for, ahem, somewhat different reasons. Tony Bennett II was on hand to present top EdReformie honors to William J. Bennett, forever known in this crowd as “The Secretary,” for his stint as Secretary of Education under Reagan. Throughout his acceptance speech, The Secretary referred rather charmingly to his wife as “Mrs. Bennett,” leading some at my table (well, OK, just me) to scan the crowd for yet more celebrities: Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, naughty, naughty Lydia…

Is it considered polite dinner table conversation to bring up a conflict-of-interest in which the evening’s honoree is ensnared?
I believe that the answer to that question would be “no.” In my defense, there was an open bar… Also in my defense, I had just returned from America’s choiciest locale: Douglas County, Colorado, where The Secretary has been enjoying an, ahem, rather unusual compensation arrangement with the school district whose reform fruits he has been publicly touting. Lesson learned: wait until dinner plates are gone along with most guests before introducing uncomfortable topic. Speaking of dinner…

How was the food?
This question comes via the man to whom I’m *technically* married. As the head of a nonprofit, he hosts his own annual dinner each year, famed both for its racetrack location and for the, how shall I put this?, *continuity* of its fare. So when I told him that the food at the EdReformies was good, I held back a bit on the how good part, lest he get the impression that I no longer prefer chicken piccata (or pasta primavera) to all other banquet food. Alas, it turns out that you really can eat choice—and that with a side of pea puree it tastes pretty good…

Are you going over to the dark side?
I received this question from a Boston teacher and am sad to have to inform him that the answer is “yes.” In fact, I’m scheduled to make a return trip to the dark side this very week when the Jeb Bush express, the aptly named Foundation for Excellence in Education or FEE, rolls into Boston for its national summit. I’ll be there on assignment for the best publication in the entire world and, of course, seeking out *edvestors* for my blog. See you there!

Send tips and comments to


  1. I need more details! What about the entertainment? Did you get to see ‘the Reformers’ LIVE, performing their Rat Pack tribute? Did you scream like a star-struck teenager when they took the stage?

    And where’s the picture of you leaning against a motorcycle? No picture props this year?

  2. Alas, it was a grown-up affair so no screaming like star-struck teens when The Reformers took the stage 🙁 But yelling out “ring-a-ding” was just fine! I saved the program book for you and when we *finally* meet, I will show you the autograph book that I prepared just for the occasion. Btw: best moves of the night belonged to Derrell Bradford of Better Education for Kids, Inc. That cat can swing!

    1. Derrell has deep roots in the music/nightlife scene, so I have no doubt he was in his element. Watch him torture an analogy comparing the music industry (which is much more his scene) to the school choice movement.

      Come to New Jersey, and maybe we can have a night on the town with Derrell – he works right across the bridge from me! I saw him on the street in New Brunswick one day. As he approached me I made sure to say, “Hey Derrell.”

      No lie, he stopped and said, “Hey, I know you…” When I introduced myself he kind of shook his head and said, “Was this some late night drunk thing?” I then explained who I am and why he may recognize me, and once he picked his bottom jaw off the sidewalk, he kind of skulked away.

      He’s a real class act.

  3. We were delighted to have you Jennifer! Thanks for your review. The only area where I need to call you on being less than fair us your picture selection. Your deck of Reformer cards is incredibly diverse by occupation, race, gender and politics yet you chose three white, conservatives to share when the deck — and indeed our gala attendees – represents the wide and varied population of diverse players we are proud to work alongside and follow. Just saying – you should give your readers reality – not feed – perhaps accidentally? – an inaccurate perception.

    1. Point taken! I picked some of my personal favorites — but you’re right: my picks may not be the most accurate representation of the entire deck. I’ll reshuffle shortly!

    2. Jeanne,

      Focus on that reality concept yourself since you are suddenly concerned with accurate perceptions.

    3. Diverse? Seriously? Hack, hack, I’m choking on my chicken bone and I’m at home alone! Please, be honest about the ‘diversity’ cry. Who really is behind all the ed-reform and the majority of charter schools? I suppose diversity is only deep at some levels, but not at others. Just saying.

  4. Well, well, well…looks like all that EXLAX I sent down with you Ed, didn’t make it into the punch! Disappointing. Looks like next year I’ll be going. Not to worry Jeanne, I’ll just mossy out to the kitchen mingle and sit with the diversity. Any ed reform hedge funders out there want to join me? The food is better and has a lot less spit! :-0

Comments are closed.