Obama and Ayers

In todays WSJ, Stanley Kurtz writes:

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

[Obama and Ayers] AP

Bill Ayers.

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama’s first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers’s home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis.” Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I’ve recently spent days looking through them.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago’s public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation’s other key body, the “Collaborative,” which shaped education policy.

The CAC’s basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda….

read the rest of the article

And then, there’s a more extensive article at National Review which concludes:

….The Obama campaign notes that during the CAC years, achievement test scores improved markedly in the Chicago public schools. That’s true, but deeply misleading. The real source of improvement was the leadership of accountability-oriented Chicago Public School (CPS) CEO, Paul Vallas, who began to reform CPS in 1995, the year of CAC’s founding. Vallas established clear standards, began high-stakes testing, ended social promotion, forced thousands of students to attend summer school to advance a grade, and put failing schools on probation. That’s what pushed up Chicago test scores. CAC’s own final evaluation carefully compared students at schools with Annenberg projects and schools without. According to CAC’s own report: “There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.” It also indicates that Annenberg failed, not because it’s altogether impossible to improve urban schools, but because CAC’s heavily politicized community-organizer partners weren’t any good at doing so.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge stands as Barack Obama’s most important executive experience to date. By its own account, CAC was a largely a failure. And a series of critical evaluations point to reasons for that failure, including a poor strategy, to which the foundation over-committed in 1995, and over-reliance on community organizers with insufficient education expertise. The failure of CAC thus raises entirely legitimate questions, both about Obama’s competence, his alliances with radical community organizers, and about Ayers’s continuing influence over CAC and its board, headed by Obama. Above all, by continuing to fund Ayers’s personal projects, and those of his political-educational allies, Obama was lending moral and material support to Ayers’s profoundly radical efforts. Ayers’s terrorist history aside, that makes the Ayers-Obama relationship a perfectly legitimate issue in this campaign.

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