Josh Greenman of the New York Daily News writes today that President Obama has been terrific on education reform issues: he has challenged teachers’ unions, pushed for merit pay, encouraged the expansion of charter schools, and used billions of dollars in stimulus funds (via Race to the Top) to promote an agenda that either President Bush would envy. In its editorials, the Daily News has stridently defended charters, testing, and accountability, and has led the charge against the teachers’ union. The billionaire owner of the Daily News, Mort Zuckerman, is on the board of the Broad Foundation, which avidly promotes school closings and privatization.
So imagine Josh’s disappointment that the President is now kowtowing to those teachers unions and saying that more money will solve the problems. He writes, “So count me disappointed that Obama is campaigning for reelection with education rhetoric that is ripped right out of a dusty old Democratic Party playbook.” Wow. A Democratic President actually sounding like a Democrat on education.
Josh wonders why the President doesn’t stick up for his strong testing-and-accountabiilty and school choice agenda. Why doesn’t he boldly admit that his program is not all that different from Romney’s? (There are two big issues where they differ: Romney supports vouchers, Obama doesn’t; Obama wants to help students with their crushing student loans, Romney doesn’t.) UPDATE: (One other major difference: Romney thinks anyone should be allowed to teach, without any certification or standards, and you can bet that he will continue the Republican assault on teachers’ unions.)
Josh implies that the President is reaching out to teachers and their unions and supporters of public education because–guess what?–it is an election year. With a few more eloquent speeches, maybe he can persuade them that his agenda has some resemblance to the traditional Democratic view that schools should have adequate resources, that teachers have a right to bargain collectively, that the federal government has a responsibility to promote equity (not competition), and that school choice is the rightwing plan to privatize the public schools.
Well, it is good to hear the rhetoric. That’s a change. We can always hope that he means it. But that, of course, would mean ditching Race to the Top and all that absurd rightwing rhetoric about how schools can fix poverty, all by themselves.