Archives for category: Democrats

New Jersey Democrat Theresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has a truly terrible idea. She wants to introduce “social impact bonds” that would pay off investors to reduce special education referrals. The assumption behind the bonds is that high-quality pre-K can reduce the need for special education.

A parent blogger was aghast and sees these bonds as an effort to end special education.

The blogger writes:

“What is Senator Ruiz attempting to achieve? Her statement, “we won’t have to have early-intervention programs and classification and wrap-around services because we did the work early on” is naive at best and potentially destructive at worst.

“High quality” Pre-K is not a magic bullet. Students with disabilities will not be magically cured by attending preschool. It sounds too good to be true because it is. New Jersey’s classification rate is about 14.5%, higher in low-income districts where this program will take place.

“Will preschool help decrease the percentage of students who need special education services in those districts? I have no doubt that it will. The research supports that presumption.

“Are you going to end the need for Early Intervention, classification, and wrap-around services? No. You aren’t. There will always be students who would have been classified no matter how much preschool they had. There will always be students who need wrap-around services because we, as country, much less as a state, are doing nothing to address the poverty that creates the need for these services.

“Big picture here is, Goldman Sachs is going to make money on students NOT being classified. RtI is going to become the framework for K-12, delaying as long as possible the identification and classification of students with disabilities. And the Special Education Ombudsman position the Senator is trying to create (because constituents have been begging for help) will work for the NJ Department of Education.”

A reader posted a comment about her own children.

“OMG! We won’t have to have early intervention because we have high quality PreK!

“I have three kids. One reg ed., one legally blind, one entered school as profoundly autistic.

“How, precisely, would the most awesome preK in the world have helped my one year old legally blind child? Who would have taught me to teach him?

“Would great preK have made my autistic kid neurally typical?

“Would NOT classifying them have led to educational success? Does Ruiz honestly believe that neither kid would need special ed if they got great preK?
$1700 a year would not have paid for OT!(and, strangely enough, legally blind kids have issues with hand eye coordination !)

“I am way to hot to write to her right now. I will gather my thoughts and write a letter.

“Thanks. I didn’t know Ruiz was so short sighted as to believe no child could possibly remain disabled when they had great preK.”

This seems like a strange question, but it is real. The political buzz around New York is the question of whether the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo will support a Democrat running for election to take the place of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who was convicted of various financial crimes.


Skelos represented a majority-Democratic district in Long Island, and his seat is up for grabs. Will Cuomo support a Democrat? The Governor has had more power by working with a Republican-dominated State Senate, which agrees with him about keeping taxes low for the rich and for corporations.


When the Working Families Party appeared about to endorse insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo changed the party’s mind by pledging to help elect Democrats to the State Senate, where progressive legislation goes to die. He won the WFP nomination, but he didn’t work to elect Democrats to the State Senate.


Once again, the Governor will have a chance to show whether he prefers a Democratic-controlled State Senate or a Republican-controlled State Senate.

Arthur Camins posted this thoughtful critique of the rush to replace democratically controlled public schools with privately managed charters and vouchers for private schools. He expects Republicans to embrace charters and vouchers, given their love of the marketplace. Camins is the director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.


But he criticizes Democrats for failing to defend the public nature of a public institution.


He writes:




As policy framing rhetoric, the word choice is meant evoke the imagery of democracy and equity. Words are powerful, especially in framing and influencing political debates. Words can conjure positive or negative emotional responses. However, sometimes words clarify and sometimes they obscure underlying values. So it is with choice.


In our culture the “the right to choose” suggests an almost inalienable individual right, making for powerfully resonant political rhetoric. However, behind the easy-to-swallow positive connotation of choice, there is underlying message in its use in the context of education. If stated explicitly, the message might cause a little indigestion: Be out for yourself and don’t worry so much about your neighbors or community.


I do not say this to castigate parents who choose to send their children to charter schools or the teachers who work in them. However, what is moral or sensible for an individual does not make for sound or just education policy for a society. The moral burden falls not on parents, but on those who knowingly advance the wellbeing of the at the expense of the many.


Many centuries ago Rabbi Hillel sagely wrote,


“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14.
It is time to reframe the policy dialog from choosing just for me to choosing to ensure better schools for us.


There is reason for hope. While choice is a deeply held American value, so is community responsibility. In fact, reference to individualism and community responsibility in politics has ebbed and flowed in recent American history. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960’s- catalyzed by the labor and civil rights movements- represented high points for collective solutions, such as Social Security or Medicare, to complex problems. Alternatively, the election of Ronald Reagan initiated a sustained period of individualism. In periods of relative or growing equity and shared prosperity individualism may foster personal interests and creativity. However, in periods of scarcity a selfish brand of individualism diminishes equity by diverting attention from more systemic solutions that can only be achieved by collective action. Such is the case with charter schools. Only some are superior, and there is no evidence that a market-based, all-charter system will lead to overall improvement. On the contrary, charter school expansion is more likely to lead to market volatility and disruption in children’s lives.


With individualism in ascendancy, few current politicians challenge structural inequality or run for office on an explicit program of equity. Sadly, faith in the prospect of voting as a route to greater equity is at a low point while cynicism about the viability political process grows. As a result, the self-interested perspective of those with relatively more privilege leads to holding fast what they have. In the context of scarce federal and state education resources, that means protecting their community’s property tax resource advantage. It means maintaining various in-school segregative tracking mechanisms that privilege some children over others. Similarly, from the perspective of the disempowered and disadvantaged in urban areas, charter schools and vouchers may represent an individual choice in the apparent absence of viable community alternatives.


Supporters of equity and democracy must depend upon and develop agency and hope for community solutions because when there is only despair, the only rational course of action is individual survival. Ideological supporters of privatization understand this and actively undermine democratic participation and the promise of collective solutions. That is why since the 1980’s they have followed an explicit starve-the-beast strategy to defund public institutions in order to undermine quality, public trust, and confidence. That is why they favor private charter boards over elected school boards.


I have come to believe that the struggle for equity must include a tandem strategy of opposition and advocacy.


Friends of equity need to oppose funding charter schools, not because choice is inherently a bad idea but because the spread of charter schools is morally corrosive and drains money from other local schools. Since funds are always limited, the opportunities for the few come with the sacrifice of others. “They are stealing your child’s future,” might be an appropriate opposition slogan.


Developments outside of education, such as adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage in several cities, may represent the beginning of a climb out of the valley of individualism. In education, the fledgling opt-out movement in response to the misuse of testing may represent a resurgence of hope in the power of agency through collective action.


Progress requires an opt-in campaign for local public schools based on community rather than individualist values. Advocacy should highlight the fundamental characteristics of effective public schools both in the U.S. and abroad and contrast these with prevalent market-based solutions.


These are the factors that make for the oft-mentioned great schools and teachers in which children flourish. Many already exist. The public needs to hear their stories. Friends of equity and democracy need to relentlessly offer these factors as a viable alternative for better schools.


Change will only happen when a movement demands these factors from the people we elect- from school boards to presidents. What we need is better choices in who we elect to guide education policy. Candidates need to hear from the public: There are better choices than school choice to improve education.




This is ironic. While many readers of the blog question Hillary Clinton’s sincerity in her recent criticism of charters (all of which was true), the Wall Street Journal accuses her of selling out to Randi Weingarten. The editorial offers Eva Moskowitz’s charters as an example of charter excellence, even though they typify what Hillary was describing. I seem to recall that the owner of the WSJ, Rupert Murdoch, is a generous contributer to the Success Academy network.
Anyone who sells out would certainly find far more money on Wall Street than in the coffers of the AFT and the NEA.
The editorial says:
“Hillary Clinton has moved to the left of President Obama on trade, energy, immigration, student loans, health care and entitlements. But even we’re surprised by her latest move, which is to turn against charter schools as an engine of education opportunity.
“Most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation,” Mrs. Clinton said last weekend in South Carolina. She also acknowledged that “for many years now” she has “supported the idea of charter schools,” though “not as a substitute for the public schools.”
“Well, as Mrs. Clinton used to appreciate, charter schools are public schools—albeit freed from bureaucracy and union work rules. In her 1996 memoir, “It Takes a Village,” she wrote that “I favor promoting choice among public schools, much as the President’s Charter Schools Initiative encourages.” In 2007 she told a teachers-union conference in New York that “I actually do believe in charter schools.”
“Why the sudden change? Her press assistant explained to Politico that “Hillary Clinton looks at the evidence. That’s what she did here.” Sorry, that quote is from Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers that endorsed Mrs. Clinton in July, 16 months before Election Day. The National Education Association followed. Unions loathe charter competition, and Mrs. Clinton is returning the favor of these early endorsements.
“If Mrs. Clinton had looked at the evidence, she’d have seen a different story about charters and “the hardest-to-teach kids.” Charters don’t exclude difficult students. Like other public schools, they aren’t allowed to discriminate. Nearly every state requires a random lottery to choose students if there are more applicants than openings. The reason some charters turn away students is that they lack the resources to accommodate every desperate family trapped in a teachers-union compound.
“Charters serve some of the most troubled students, including a higher percentage in poverty than all public schools, according to Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. In urban centers in particular, charters serve mostly minority students and include more who are learning English than do public schools as a whole.
“Mrs. Clinton knows these basic facts, so she may be tapping into the recent political melodrama over New York City’s Success Academy charter schools. Founder Eva Moskowitz runs tight ships, and students who misbehave can expect the once typical response called discipline. Ms. Weingarten has been running a political and media campaign against Success Academy, though its attrition levels are lower than district averages in the Big Apple. If you want to see public schools that really don’t tolerate disruptive students, go to your average rich suburban school.”

Campbell Brown announced she was holding a televised debate on education issues for Democratic candidates, and no one accepted her invitation. She blames the teachers’ unions, and the media are parroting her.

Are they shunning her because they know she is a far-right Republican, and Dems don’t participate in debates organized by the other party?

Peter Greene explains the real reason.

She is just not that important.

Frankly, I have been trying to interest public education groups to organize a forum for Democratic candidates on education. There are many tough questions we need to ask them about equity, testing, privatization, strengthening the teaching profession, resources, and many other issues.

Now, that would be a newsworthy forum, and I hope to find a leader among public education advocates to make it happen.

Nicholas Tampio seeks to understand why the Democratic Party abandoned public education.

Some part of the explanation, he believe, can be found in the leadership’s limited personal engagement with public schools.

“The key to understanding Obama’s education policy, according to Maranto and McShane, is his biography. Obama attended the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii, an experience that prepared him for college and law school. Obama also observed from a distance a Hawaiian public school system rife with ethnic violence, low academic standards and an unresponsive bureaucracy. These experiences influenced Obama’s decision to send his daughters to Sidwell Friends, the elite Washington, D.C. institution whose alumni include the younger Albert Gore and Chelsea Clinton.

“As president, Obama has advocated reforms to the public education system that include upping merit pay, weakening tenure rules and evaluating teachers by student test scores. Obama’s most controversial education policy, however, was the Race to the Top program that gave states additional incentives to adopt the Common Core standards.”

“There is nothing wrong with private school. The problem here, though, is that too many Democratic elites advocate education reforms such as the Common Core standards, charter schools, and high-stakes testing with minimal first-hand knowledge of how they affect schools or children. In sending their children to private schools, Democratic elites exempt themselves from policies that they might oppose if they saw their own children being harmed by them.”

Peter Greene intermittently watched the Republicans debate education in a friendly setting created by Campbell Brown and the American Federation for Children, both representing privatization and union-bashing perspectives.

He concluded that the GOP has an education problem. Their positions are incoherent, aside from the obvious fact that they are eager to get rid of traditional public schools.

The love teachers, but hate their unions and want to get rid of them. They seem to think that unions are run by space aliens and are somehow disconnected from the teachers they allegedly represent. They love teachers, except for all those very bad ones who cause poor kids to get low scores.

But mostly unions are bad because they make us follow all these rules and pay teachers money and keep teacher job securities in place, and our great teachers don’t want any of those obstacles to doing their jobs. We teachers apparently love it when we can be paid whatever and lose our jobs at any time for any reasons. Love it.

They love local control except when they don’t. They love state takeovers of schools and whole districts but that has nothing to do with their love of local control. They love the idea that states can take schools away from districts and turn them over to private entrepreneurs because…well, because choice trumps local control.

They hate red tape, but they love accountability which requires lots and lots of red tape.

Yesterday confirmed what I have suspected, which is that if a GOP candidate talks about education for more than sixty seconds, the raft of self-contradictions come floating in. Standardization is bad, but students should all do the same thing. Local control is great, except when it should be eliminated. Teachers are great. Teachers suck. No federal overreach, but complete accountability for tax dollars.

This is going to be a long primary season. Let’s hope the Democrats can do better.

Now, here is the problem and you can bet Peter Greene will address it. The Democrats have an education problem too. It is called Race to the Top, which looks like the evil twin of the evil No Child Left Behind. They love standardized tests because no one will know that there are achievement gaps unless they are measured yearly. They love charters because…well, just because. They don’t love vouchers but they prefer not to talk about it. They love teachers, and the ones they love best are the ones who can produce the highest test scores year after year.

Which party is more incoherent?

I follow realclearpolitics during campaigns.

They run the latest polls from across the countries. Check in to learn the latest.

Paul Lauter is an emeritus professor of literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is general editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

He writes:

“Why have Democrats been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education?

“There seem to me to be two critical answers. First, the Democrats are very attached to the views of the mainstream civil rights organizations, which have continued to back high-stakes testing. Perhaps those organizations believe that high-stakes testing, reporting of “failing” students and teachers, closing down of schools, substitution of profit-making charters for public education, and the rest will somehow transform the segregated, feeble education provided in most schools of poverty. One would think that after all these years of “No Child Left Behind—Except Ours” they would arrive at another agenda: like joining activist students in demanding full-funding of public schools, enabling them to continue as community centers, supporting (and decently paying) teachers, and the like. Is it cynical to ask whether the organizations pay too much attention to those, including those in the federal government, who fund the attacks on public education?

“Second, the Democrats, for good historical reasons, have been too attached to establishing policy priorities through national elections and legislation, and federal agencies. After all, “States Rights” for years cloaked racist and retrograde local policies. Civil Rights activists therefore tried to move court cases from state to federal jurisdictions; appealed to federal farm bureaus to challenge racist state and local policies regarding support of black and Hispanic farmers and farm workers; and opposed efforts of states like Texas to impose backward ideas on nationally-circulated textbooks (think the Texas Book Depository), and the like. And they have turned to the federal government to fund schools of poverty functionally abandoned by state and local governments. So it’s no surprise that Democrats have paid far more attention to presidential races and too little to local politics; the results of the 2010 and 2014 elections show what a disaster that has been. What, then, to do?

“Republicans are, on the whole, clearer about their policy priority: substitute private for public education. That has the virtue, from their perspective, of getting rid of experienced (aka “expensive”) teachers and their unions, utilizing the idealism of Teach for America and other short-term recruits, and—above all—providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn schools into profit centers. And it fits the Reaganist—and quite stupid—ideology that says government is always the problem and never the solution. One would like to be able to turn from that agenda to positive alternatives fostered by Democrats; instead of which we get Murphy, Cuomo, Rahm and Arnie.

“So, yes, good schools, schools as centers for learning and community, will have to be fought for locally and regionally. With the support of institutions like this blog, and other organizations. And, one would hope, eventually politicians who have detached themselves sufficiently from the past to create a future.”

There has been a powerful backlash against the AFT’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton. Social media are humming with teacher doubts about the polls (“no one called me or anyone I know” is a typical conment) and frustration about the process. Supporters of Bernie Sanders were angry as well.

See here and here.

On principle, I never get involved in union decisionmaking. I am not a member.

What matters most ultimately is to pick the strongest candidate. Who will appoint the next two or three members of the Supreme Court? Jeb Bush? Scott Walker? Donald Trump? Chris Christie? Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders?


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