Archives for category: Democrats

A reader responds to Jeff Bryant’s
article by
wondering why so many Democrats in office are
ignoring their base by aligning themselves with the free-market GOP


“Yes, yes, yes. Lately Democratic operatives have been
moaning and groaning about lack of excitement among their voters.
Supposedly this is a law of nature. Democrats just don’t get
excited about midterms. Yet, “school reform” is demobilizing
important elements of that base vote. This is one of the most
vibrant web sites around these days, and unfortunately, we have to
fight not only the GOP but also our “own” party – from President
Obama to Arne Duncan to Rahm Emanuel to Pat Quinn (who couldn’t
wait to make Paul Vallas his Lt. Gov. Running mate, within days of
Vallas being run out of Bridgeport, CT on a rail). “Stop doing
things to harm your base voters. What a concept! Maybe then we’d
vote. Don’t you realize you’re going to need every vote you can

Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network writes in Salon that voters are increasingly disenchanted with the bipartisan Bush-Obama education policies of high-stakes testing, Common Core, and privatization.

He points out that the attacks on public education are not playing well at all in the political arena. The overwhelming majority of parents are very happy with their local public schools and respect their teachers. The public is beginning to see through the lies they have been told about their schools. So much of the rhetoric of the “reformers” sounds appealing and benign, if not downright inspirational, but it ends up as nonstop testing, the closing of local public schools, merit pay, union-busting, the enrichment of multinational corporations, and standardization.

Bryant predicts that Democrats will suffer at the polls for their slavish espousal of hard-right GOP doctrine.

He writes:

“The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!

“Many observers, including journalists at The Wall Street Journal, have accurately surmised that the American public is currently deeply divided on education policy. But that analysis barely scratches the surface.

“Go much deeper and you find that the “new liberal consensus” that Adam Serwer wrote about in Mother Jones, which propelled Obama into a second term, believes in funding the nation’s public schools but has little to no allegiance to Obama’s education reform policies.

“Outside of the elite circles of the Beltway and the very rich, who continue to be the main proponents of these education policies, it is getting harder and harder to discern who exactly is the constituency being served by the reform agenda.

“Most Americans do not see any evidence that punitive measures aimed at their local schools are in any way beneficial to their children and grandchildren. In fact, there’s some reasonable doubt whether the president himself understands it.

So is Arne Duncan making education policy on his own? Or is the policy agenda of the Obama administration indistinguishable from that of rightwing Republicans like Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Tom Corbett?

Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester visited New Zealand, where he explained so-called “education reform” in the United States. He very bluntly describes the bipartisan agenda that is proving to be harmful to students, teachers, and public education.

Hursh met with educators in Australia and New Zealand over a five-week period, encouraging them to resist the high-stakes testing movement.

In an article about the retirement of veteran Democratic Congressman George Miller, a favorite of hedge fund managers (DFER) and other supporters of high-stakes testing and privatization, used language that showed a partisan bent.

It wrote:

Miller exit leaves hole in ed leadership

“Rep. George Miller’s departure coincides with that of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate education committee. Will their replacements be reformers or establishment-oriented Democrats?”

So a Congressman who is supported by Wall Street billionaires and by advocates of privatization is a “reformer,” while those who fight for equity of funding and support for teachers and public schools are “establishment-oriented Democrats”?

Are Duncan and Obama “establishment-oriented Democrats” or are they “reformers” fighting “establishment-oriented Democrats”? If the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education are not “establishment-oriented Democrats,” who is?

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to refer to a combination of the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, Rupert Murdoch, Art Pope, Democrats for Education Reform, ALEC, and a galaxy of other powerhouses as “the establishment” or “the status quo”?

This is called “framing the narrative.”

Is supported by Walton, Broad, and Gates, or are they merely innocent dupes of the billionaire-funded status quo?

In case you have any doubt, I have given up on both political parties when it comes to the present corporate assault on public education.

Arne Duncan could be Secretary of Education for either Obama or Romney. He cheerleads for rightwing governors like Bobby Jindal and hails privatizers like Jeb Bush. On education, the two parties are interchangeable.

Frankly, the public education system was better off when George W. Bush was president because Democrats fought him. Under Obama, Democrats fall in line behind the bipartisan (Republican) agenda. No one in D.C. fights the privatization and data gathering and standardization movement. No one stands up and says bluntly that Race to the Top is a failed extension of Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind. No one says that Congress and the administration have overreached for the past dozen years and are hurting children.

The hope for the future is a grassroots movement so vocal and so numerous that the national and state leaders cannot ignore us.

The election of Bill de Blasio in New York City suggests that the change is beginning. The voters in New York turned against the demonizing of teachers and the closing of public schools.

The movement is building against the corporate takeover of public education.

By 2016, we hope to have at least one candidate in either party who speaks out for American kids, for a stable public education system, for equitable funding, for student privacy, and for a dramatic reduction in high-stakes testing, which should never have been a federal role or mandate.

Who will stand up for better education? Who will stop the war on the profession of education? Who will save our kids from the corporate predators?

Here’s one possible face off: Hillary vs. Elizabeth Warren.

Maybe others will emerge. Who is most likely to resist the lure of Wall Street campaign cash?

What do you think?

This letter was posted as a comment: “I just sent the
following post to the White House: Dear David Simas, I have
supported President Obama and the Democratic Party for some time.
However, I’m totally fed up and dismayed by Arne Duncan and the US
Department of Education’s assault on Public Education in America.
There are a lot of subjects I don’t have much in-depth knowledge
about. However, I have been a science teacher for the past 27 years
and I believe that I do know a little about educating children. I
want to tell you that the Race To The Top and it’s predecessor, No
Child Left Behind along with the excessive emphasis on Standardized
Testing are KILLING PUBLIC EDUCATION. “There are a lot of
experienced, knowledgeable, and well educated, respected educators
who are screaming at you to please stop this nutty policy which
includes Pay for Performance and the Common Core Curriculum. It is
certainly true that public education in America can be improved,
but not with the solutions that are now being implemented (without
documentation that they will actually work). “These thoughtless
policies are destroying communities, families, children and
teacher’s lives–all in the name of “improving education”. I now
believe that RTTT, NCLB, and the associated standardized testing
that now drives instruction throughout the country is doing greater
harm to our nation that George Bush’s War in Iraq. In its simplest
terms, children cannot be effectively educated by a top down,
force-fed curriculum. They hate it, get bored, and don’t see the
relevance of this test driven education to their lives. “Teachers
are not given the freedom to teach to the kids where they are and
build on their knowledge base. Curriculum content is dictated from
on high. This is the same concept that Joseph Stalin had in Russia
with his 5-year central economic plans. Didn’t work then, won’t
work now. “Educating children is a complex undertaking. It requires
two way, personal interaction between a teacher and student. If
class sizes are too large, that just can’t happen. If a teacher
cannot get his/her students interested and excited about learning,
educating the child is not going to be effective. There are 4 basic
ingredients to a good education: 1) Well trained and dedicated
teachers, 2) small class sizes, 3) adequate resources and a decent
environment to teach in, and 4) giving the teachers freedom to
teach. “Some will argue that this will just cost too much money and
that there are cheaper ways to educate kids. But it just ain’t so.
“Education is not about the money, it’s about the kids. It’s not
about international competition on standardized tests. Those tests
actually measure the wrong things anyway and cost waaaay too much
money. Public education is perhaps the most important bedrock
pillar that makes our nation great. Policies now being put in
place, including RTTT and Common Core Curriculum are destroying it.
Our children and our nation deserve better from you. I will no
longer support this President or the Democratic Party if they
continue on this self destructive path. “Al Tate”

William Mathis, a former school superintendent in Vermont, now associated with the National Education Policy Center, analyzed the proposed legislation of both Democrats and Republicans and finds that both parties have no understanding of the damage wrought by No Child Left Behind.

Washington insiders continue their hapless crusade to “reform” the schools by high-stakes testing and privatization. The Democrats want the federal government to do more of it, and the Republicans want the states to do it. Neither has a vision for the future.

Neither shows the slightest indication that they understand the real problems of American education, many of which have been inflicted by NCLB and Race to the Top.

So instead of ditching the failed policies of the past dozen years, both parties cling tenaciously to them.

He concludes:

“When Abraham Lincoln called on the mystic chords of memory, he drew upon those principles that bind us together. He drew upon the common good. At that time, equality was so embraced that it found Constitutional power and protection in the thirteenth amendment. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a wave of state Constitutional amendments enshrined public education because a functioning democracy demanded education and equality for all. In 1965, when we dreamed of a great society, we furthered our reach with the supportive help of the ESEA.

“Today, both Democrat and Republican versions of the reauthorization give vacant, distracted nods to these principles. They fail to ring with great purpose. They do not stir the soul. They are unlovely and parrot our social and economic strategies. In both they punish the poor, loudly proclaim liberty and
equality, and provide only the rhetoric of opportunities.”


Imagine this: An elected official who fought the parent trigger in Florida and worked with parents and civil rights groups to beat it.

Governor Rick Scott has been an enemy of public education throughout his term. His poll numbers are now in the 30s.

We need more public officials like Nan Rich in every state!


Nan Rich for Governor

Dear Xxxxxxxxx,

As the leader of the Senate Democrats last year, I considered the defeat of the Parent Trigger Bill one of the most important bi-partisan efforts in my legislative career.

Forging a coalition of 8 moderate Republicans to join our 12-member Democratic Caucus to kill a bad bill on the last day of the 2012 Legislative Session was an accomplishment few thought possible – but we did it.

And now it’s déjà vu all over again!

Today, a unified Democratic Caucus of 14 Senators was joined by 6 equally-concerned Republicans to defeat the latest version of the bill we stopped last year. It’s truly heartening to see that a legacy of bi-partisan leadership lives on in the Florida Senate.

The so-called “Parent Empowerment Act” (also known as the “Parent Trigger Bill”) had little to do with empowering parents and everything to do with letting for-profit management companies take over public schools.

In fact, all Florida parent groups, as well as the NAACP and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) representing more than 1 million Floridians, raised their voices in unison against this terrible legislation.

Fortunately, their voices were heard – again!

Click here to support Nan’s Campaign

We all want the best for our children, and are constantly searching for new ways to improve their education, but this legislation was not one of them. Relinquishing control of our public education system to for-profit management companies essentially would have put a price tag on every one of our public school students.

But today, the Florida Senate again sent a clear message — our students, our teachers, and our schools are not for sale!

Nan Rich


The California Democratic Party passed a resolution opposing corporate education reform.

It specifically criticized Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group called “Democrats for Education Reform” as fronts for Republicans and corporate interests.

See the story in the Los Angeles Times here. The headline repeats the “reform” claim that they just want to “overhaul” schools, when the resolution below correctly describes their agenda.

The message is getting out. The public is beginning to understand the privatizers’ game of talking “reform” and “great teachers” while dismantling public education and the teaching profession.

This is great news!

Here is the resolution:

Supporting California’s Public Schools and Dispelling the Corporate “Reform” Agenda
Whereas, the reform initiatives of Students First, rely on destructive anti-educator policies that do nothing for students but blame educators and their unions for the ills of society, make testing the goal of education, shatter communities by closing their public schools, and see public schools as potential profit centers and children as measureable commodities; and

Whereas, the political action committee, entitled Democrats for Education Reform is funded by corporations, Republican operatives and wealthy individuals dedicated to privatization and anti-educator initiatives, and not grassroots democrats or classroom educators; and

Whereas, the billionaires funding Students First and Democrats for Education Reform are supporting candidates and local programs that would dismantle a free public education for every student in California and replace it with company run charter schools, non-credentialed teachers and unproven untested so-called “reforms”;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party reaffirms its commitment to free accessible public schools for all which offer a fair, substantive opportunity to learn with educators who have the right to be represented by their union, bargain collectively and have a voice in the policies which affect their schools, classrooms and their students;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party send this resolution to all elected Democratic leaders in California, publicize the corporate and Republican funding of these groups and work with the authors of this resolution to dispel the false reforms and support the real needs of the classroom: trained teachers, adequate funding, safe and clean facilities, diverse and stimulating curriculum and access to pre-school and higher education.

This is a stunning analysis of the relationship between labor unions and the Democratic Party.

It is a must-read.

Many in education have been baffled by the bipartisan consensus around Republican ideology. Micah Uetricht is not baffled. He says without hedging that “Democrats have swallowed the Right’s free market orthodoxy whole. Much of the party appears to have given up on education as a public project.”

Teachers unions, he writes, have been unable to articulate a coherent response to their abandonment.

That is, until last September, when the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike. He writes:

“The union has been unafraid to identify the education reform agenda pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his party nationally as an attempt to exacerbate inequalities within the education system, strip teachers of power and erode their standards of living, and chip away at public education as an institution, and to call such Democrats enemies. Rather than continuing an insider strategy that has netted so little for the rest of labor over the years, the CTU has entered into open opposition with the neoliberal wing of the party.”

This is an important development. And this is an essay you must read.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95,221 other followers