As a historian, I can assure you that the roots of the current “reform” movement are on the far right. Vouchers began with Milton Friedman in 1955; charters began in 1988 with liberal origins, but were quickly adopted by the right as a substitute for vouchers because voters always defeated voucher proposals. The attacks on teachers’ unions are out of the rightwing playbook. The demands for test-based accountability did not originate in the Democratic party. The effort to remove all job protections–seniority, tenure, the right to due process–did not originate with liberal thinkers or policymakers, but can be traced to the Reagan administration and even earlier to rightwing Republicans who never wanted any unions or job protections for workers. The embrace of privatization and for-profit schooling is neither liberal nor Democratic.
How this happened is a long story.
No matter who supports this agenda, it is not bipartisan. It originated in the ideology of the rightwing extreme of the GOP. Its goal is privatization.
This reader notes the long list of Democrats who have adopted the rightwing GOP agenda:
It’s not just right wing states and politicians that want to harass teachers.
Plenty of Dems are in on the fun.
Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is a nominal Democrat who never saw a teacher he didn’t look upon with suspicion or a test company he didn’t want to give a contract to.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is leading the charge in teacher demonization efforts in the Midwest, and I would argue that his anti-union, anti-teacher track record is beginning to rival that of his brethren to the north, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.
Emanuel is a Democrat in name and once led the DCCC when Dems took back the House of Representatives.
Congressman George Miller, who chairs the House Education Committee, is a Democrat but like Bennet in the Senate, he too never met a teacher he felt could be trusted to teach without “high stakes accountability measures” imposed from afar.
Cory Booker is a Democrat who is currently engaged in the wholesale privatization of the Newark school system. He’s got buddies in the hedge funds and Wall Street who bankroll him, he’s great friends with Chris Christie and loves Christie’s privatization efforts at the state level and his demonization of teachers and teachers unions in the media. That won’t stop Booker from running against Christie for governor next year, however, so those of us who live in NJ can expect privatization of the schools no matter who wins – Christie or Booker.
Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg were all nominal Democrats before they embarked upon their teacher demonization/school privatization agendas as well.
And of course the Democratic politician who has had the most impact in the teacher demonization/school privatization effort is Barack Obama – from Race to the Top to Central Falls, Rhode Island to Race to the Top II: The Municipal Version to Race to the Top III: The District Version, few politicians have been as successful at bringing teacher evaluations tied to test scores and changes to tenure laws or promoting a broad expansion of high stakes testing in every grade in every subject, K-12, as Barack Obama.
I wish it were simply right wingers and Republicans out to harass teachers who were the problem. Unfortunately, because both parties take money from the same corporate masters, politicians in both parties are out to give those masters what they ultimately want when it comes to public education – a privatized system with busted unions, cheap labor costs, and lots and lots of opportunities to cash in on the latest ed buzz craze (these days that being the Common Core Federal Standards, the tests that are going to be aligned to those standards and the test prep materials that are going to be needed to get students prepared for those tests.)