Sarah Garland, writing for the HECHINGER Report, says that the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk” (1983) laid the groundwork for today’s regime of high-takes testing, longer school hours, and tougher accountability measures. The conservative Republicans he quotes express satisfaction with the Obama administration’s embrace of their agenda. The enduring puzzle: who stole the Democratic agenda of equity and teacher professionalism?
Readers of this blog are familiar with the many organizations that have been created to attack public schools and teachers’ rights, including groups like Democrats for Education Reform (hedge fund managers); Stand for Children (pro-charter); StudentsFirst (pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-union, anti-teacher); Teach for America; ConnCAN and 50StateCAN (pro-charter); Students for Education Reform; TeachPlus; National Council on Teacher Quality (favors rating teachers by test scores); Education Reform Now; and a bunch of other groups with si,liar names, overlapping boards, and similar funding (Gates, Broad, Walton, Dell, Arnold, Dell, etc.).
On our side, we have the Network for Public Education and dozens of grassroots organizations, some of which are statewide or community-based. None of us has much funding. Now there is a new national organization supporting public schools. This is good news to see elected officials and public citizens standing up for the principle of free public education.
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Contact: Joshua Henne, 732-407-5938
DEMOCRATS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES
Democrats Remain United Around Core Set of Principles To Ensure Public Education Thrives For Generations To Come
(WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Today, national Democratic Party leaders announced the official launch of Democrats For Public Education (DPE) – a new 527 organization rooted in the belief that each and every child deserves access to strong, safe neighborhood schools with well-prepared and supported teachers. DPE represents a diverse coalition of Democrats from throughout the country who support public education. You can learn more at the new website: http://www.DemocratsForPublicEducation.com.
Democrats for Public Education will lift up public education in America. For far too long, a coordinated effort has been successful in framing a radical, false narrative that the Democratic Party is evenly spilt among those who stand strongly for public schools and those who believe public schools are detrimental to student success. This is simply untrue. With a few extremist, well-funded, vocal exceptions, Democrats remain united around a basic set of beliefs when it comes to educating our children.
“A high-quality public education is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy and a moral imperative, “ said former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. “Democrats For Public Education is a diverse coalition of Democrats from all across America. We’ve already received strong early backing from hundreds of leaders and activists at all levels of government, from communities coast-to-coast and states in between. That’s because we share the belief that every child deserves engaging curriculum, as well as social services to meet their mental, social and physical needs.”
“Democrats For Public Education is committed to bringing people together to ensure our public school system endures – and thrives – for generations to come,” said former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. “This is about standing up for our principles, standing up for teachers, standing up for kids and standing up for public education.”
The goal of Democrats For Public Education is to show broad-based support around a core set of principles, which includes:
Fulfilling our collective obligation to help all children succeed;
Fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning;
Ensuring that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have small class sizes, and have time to collaborate to meet the individual needs of every child;
Guaranteeing that all children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education;
Providing children access to wrap-around services to meet their emotional, social and health needs;
Working to provide school districts – particularly those serving the highest concentration of students in need of extra services and support – with the resources required to provide all students with a world-class education; and
Making it clear that public education – for all children – is both an economic necessity and a fundamental civil right.
“As a proud graduate of Louisiana’s public schools, I know the importance of a good public education,” said Donna Brazile, Democratic Strategist and DNC Vice-Chair. “Frankly, it’s the only way we can strengthen, revitalize and grow our middle-class. And it’s the best way we can provide a springboard for the working poor and preserve our American values.”
“As Democrats for Public Education, we’re focused on just that – supporting public education,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, representing Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. “We support superior standards and finding ways to make classrooms challenging and rewarding for both teachers and students. We believe in instilling critical thinking skills needed for 21st century jobs and the new economy. And we’re committed to a level playing field for all, with well-resourced schools responsive to the needs of the community.”
The list of Democrats For Public Education co-chairs includes the following – with more chairs to be announced in the coming weeks:
Governor Jennifer Granholm (MI)
Governor Ted Strickland (OH)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
State Superintendent Denise Juneau (MT)
Donna Brazile – Democratic Strategist & DNC Vice-Chair
At DemocratsForPublicEducation.com, visitors can continue adding their name to those all across America who have already signed up to show their solidarity. The DPE website will be a resource and information hub for supporters, activists and the press to keep up-to-date with the latest news on Democrats For Public Education, as well as education issues of interest in general.
You can also follow Democrats for Public Education on Twitter (@Dems4PublicEd) and on Facebook (Facebook.com/DemsforPublicEd).
David Sirota, one of the nation’s top investigative reporters, is now writing for International Business Times. In this article, he describes the differences between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.
The following letter appeared as a guest post on Anthony Cody’s blog:
Paul Horton’s Open Letter to President Obama: Listen to Committed
Dear Mr. President,
Like thousands of experienced classroom teachers throughout our great country, I am very concerned about how you decided to go the way that you did with your Education policies. I was recently told by a close friend of the yours that “Arne’s Team looked at all of the options” and decided to go with its current policies because “they would get us where we needed to go more quickly than any other set of alternatives.” I was also told, “that not everybody could be in the room.”
The problem was that you and Mr. Duncan did not listen to experience. The blueprint for Arne’s plan for stimulus investment that morphed into the Race to the Top Mandates (RTTT) featured advisers from the Gates and Broad Foundations, analysts from McKinsey Consulting, and a couple of dozen superintendents who were connected, like Mr. Duncan, to the Broad Foundation. Most of those who were invited to advise you were committed supporters of heavy private investment in Education who favored high stakes testing tied to teacher evaluations. Most of these advisers also favored the scaling up of measurable data collection as a way to measure progress or lack of progress in American Education.
If you had listened to the leading experts on standardized testing and the achievement gap, you would have learned that your policies were bound to fail. Our former colleague here at the U of C, Professor James Coleman, was the first to establish this empirically. You should have taken the time to learn learn about Campbell’s Law, a concept that is taught in every graduate level statistics course here at the University of Chicago.
On a more personal level, Mr. President, you consulted many of your contacts in Democrats for Education Reform, an organization funded mostly by Democratic leaning Wall Street investment firms. And you were also very impressed by the ideas and passion of a Denver charter school principal and Democratic activist, Michael Johnston….
Thousands of teachers possess the experience, training, and commitment to advise you on Education matters. But you chose to listen to those who went to places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford who have only two years of classroom experience. Commitment, I submit, is a very important word.
The true measure of one’s commitment to Education is one’s willingness to sacrifice one’s will to power and economic potential to be successful in the classroom. TFA kids who go back to grad school after two years in the classroom and buy into corporate education reform are embracing their will to power. Most of these kids tend to have every advantage to begin with, they get an Ivy League education, and they are ambitious young liberals. Rather than staying in the classroom and truly making a difference by developing their teaching skills over twenty or thirty years, they can achieve administrative positions in the charter world that have far more economic potential than teaching positions by buying into the mantra of data-driven corporate reform lingo.
You have left thousands of us behind and allowed inexperienced “experts” yellow-brick road access to take charge. You and your administration have encouraged a “Cultural Revolution” in American education. Your Education Secretary embraced and applauded the Madame Mao of this movement and allowed his Inspector General to whitewash an investigation of cheating in DC Schools. You promoted your basketball buddy and very close friend of your campaign finance manager to be Secretary of Education. You chose someone with a Broad Foundation background. The Broad Foundation has written a “toolkit” for the destruction of public schools that is being used in Chicago, Philly, and New Yorks and in many cities across the country.
Your policies represent a new elitism. You seem to think that: “if we can get these really smart Ivy League educated former TFA people in senior policy, superintendent, and administrative positions, then we can turn this whole thing around.”
This idea is arrogant beyond belief, the equivalent of the “best and the brightest” idea that drove us into the ground in Vietnam, only you have decided to do it in Education. Robert McNamara was brilliant, he had an analytical razor, but he lacked a moral compass and anything resembling empathy for the lives of those who were dying in a “winnable” war. Mr. Duncan has a great deal of empathy, however his policies are misguided. Indeed, in my humble opinion, his department’s policies are an inarticulate mess. If he were ever asked the tough questions under oath in senator Harkin’s committee, we could very well discover that his use of the authority of his office overstepped the legal parameters of the laws circumscribing federal involvement in the formulation of Education policy. Ms. Weiss and Mr. Sheldon III, two of Secretary Duncan’s advisors who worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to serving under Secretary Duncan, articulated what Mr. Gates wanted on his terms in exchange for tacit support for your campaigns. Several Wall Street investing firms also made it clear to you and to Mr. Emanuel that they were willing to support you if your Education policies encouraged private investment in charter schools.
Much as McNamara destroyed the U.S. Army in Vietnam, your Education policies are destroying two or three generations of dedicated and excellent classroom teachers by allowing them to be humiliated by young people who have very little experience. The policies that you have endorsed will set the teaching profession back twenty years much as the Cultural Revolution set China back twenty years. While recent studies have indicated that only two to three percent of classroom teachers are ineffective, your policies vilify the 98% who are effective and exemplary. Your policy makers would have done well to examine the teacher assessment policies of Montgomery County, Maryland that are based on the AFT’s Toledo Plan to learn how to deal with ineffective teachers.
You have bought into a corporate model of Education Reform: you seek to create competition among public and private schools, you encourage the “creative destruction” that your University of Chicago Business School buddies and Judge Posner love, and you seem to be gung-ho about selling off the public commons of American Education that were built with the sweat and blood of American farmers and workers. Do your policies work for young people who need stability in their lives? Creative destruction might benefit some kids (I was a military brat), but it probably does not benefit most.
Your Education policies embrace the management tactics of McKinsey Consulting that call for the firing of twenty to twenty-five percent of the teacher workforce every two years. You have said that Education should not “all be about bubble tests,” but your policies measure progress by bubble tests and they narrow the curriculum when they require standardized testing in some subjects, but not in others.
Your campaign pledged to address income inequality, but you and many of the mayors that you support are actively working to destroy what is left of the American middle class. Your Education policies work actively to destroy teacher unions. Many of your mayors and governors are working to bust teacher, hospital, public employee, firemen’s, and police unions….
The questions that you need to examine more closely are:
How do we get and keep candidates who would be brilliant in any career into the classroom?
How do you increase the size of the quality teaching pool?
The answers are clear and they don’t have anything to do with charter schools.
If Mr. Gates were really serious about Education in this country, he could invest in creating a system like Finland’s. The problem is that he is more interested in selling product than investing in four well qualified and well trained teachers in every classroom.
Progress in Education is not about buildings, it is not about technology: It is about human investment, not the expansion of markets.
President Obama, I have great respect for you. I have taught many of the young people who work for you. Ask the young man who has cooked for you for many years what a hard ass teacher I was. Please find the time to talk to committed teachers who have given their entire professional careers to improving Education in this country. This would require you to step outside of your comfort zone inside of Democrats for Education Reform and Teach for America circles. It will also require you to look beyond the mess that Ms. Weiss, Mr. Shelton III, and Bill Gates have helped to create. It will require you to talk to exemplary, veteran teachers about teaching and schools rather than to Arne Duncan
Please encourage Senator Durbin and his committee to completely defund No Child Left Behind. Do you prefer to fund Pearson Education or allow thousands of teachers to be laid off? This is what it is coming down to. Will you allow the middle class to be further eroded? Or will you fight for the jobs of teachers? Will you reward Wall Street investors in Education and Bill Gates, or are you willing to fight for neighborhood schools and arts and humanities programs? Will you use Value Added Measures tied to standardized testing to further discredit teachers? Or will you begin to understand how complex real learning is, learning that can not be measured by “bubble tests.” These are your choices, Mr. President. Please look beyond your current Education advisors if you want to explore complex questions and solutions.
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
Leading Democrats have announced the creation of a new organization called Democrats for Public Education.
It will be led by Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, and Donna Brazile, political consultant.
Its name is a swipe at Democrats for Education Reform, which is dominated by hedge fund managers, and which funds candidates who support charter schools, Teach for America, and any other group that is antagonistic to public education.
Last year, the California Democratic Party passed a resolution calling on DFER to cease using the name “Democrats,” since their program is a front for the Republican and corporate agenda.
Well, we got to know a little bit about Zephyr Teachout, who was supposedly the chosen candidate of the Working Families Party. But in the last 48 hours, it became clear that Governor Cuomo wasn’t going to let that party line slip away from him. It is impossible to know what promises were made, whose arms were twisted, what deals were struck, but Governor Cuomo got the endorsement of the WFP tonight.
Lest we forget, this is the Governor who made a deal with the hedge fund crowd to assure that New York City could not charge rent to charter schools; that the city could not reject any of the co-locations hurriedly approved by Mayor Bloomberg’s lame-duck school board last October; that the city would be required to pay the rent of charter schools that rented private space; and that co-located charter schools could expand at will. Lest we forget, this is the Governor that insisted on a 2% tax cap for school districts, which can be lifted only with a supermajority of a 60% approval vote. Lest we forget, this is the Governor who insisted that test scores had to count for much more as part of every educators’ evaluation. This is a Governor of a state with highly inequitable funding. This is a Governor who loves charter schools, corporate tax breaks, and high-stakes testing. He is not a friend of public schools.
Here is the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WORKING FAMILIES PARTY, GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAYOR DE BLASIO, ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHNEIDERMAN, COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI, AND NEW YORK’S MAJOR UNIONS ANNOUNCE HISTORIC COALITION TO SECURE DEMOCRAT-WORKING FAMILIES MAJORITY IN STATE SENATE, DELIVER KEY PROGRESSIVE VICTORIES
Contact: Khan Shoieb, New York Communications Director, 347 596-6389
NEW YORK, NY – On Saturday, May 31st, at the Working Families Party Convention, the Working Families Party, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Schneiderman, Comptroller DiNapoli, and 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, CWA District One, UFT, HTC, UAW Region 9A, UFCW Local 1500, RWDSU, MTDC, and the Teamsters announced a unified, unprecedented coalition to secure a Democrat-Working Families majority in the New York State Senate and deliver progressive victories on a number of key priorities in the early months of the next legislative session. The legislative commitments include a robust, statewide system of public financing of elections, funding 200 community schools, a commitment to fix the school funding formula to invest more money in high-need schools, the DREAM Act, the Women’s Equality Act, decriminalization of marijuana, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 while indexing it to inflation and allowing localities to raise it up to 30% higher than the state minimum wage.
Mayor Bill de Blasio:
I was there at the beginning of the Working Families Party. And I’m proud to be with you today.
From the beginning, the Working Families Party has been the party that has stood up an economy that works for everyone and a democracy in which every voice was heard.
Tonight, that has happened again, because of the WFP, an unprecedented coalition is now committed to making a progressive vision for New York a reality.
Bill Lipton, New York State Director, Working Families Party:
The WFP stuck to its values. Tonight was about fighting to give New Yorkers a better job, a stronger school, and a government that actually hears their voice. Tomorrow, New Yorkers will be closer than ever before to seeing a real wage increase. They will be closer to having justice for immigrants, women, and young people of color. They will be closer to having a government that works for them, not just the wealthy and well-connected. And that’s where a real commitment to progressive principles can get you.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:
Our coalition has never been stronger and our team has never been better. The Governor, the Comptroller and I are committed to transforming the state senate and then following through to transform the great state of New York.
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli:
I am proud to stand with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Working Families Party and New York’s labor community in the fight for New York’s progressive future. Together, we are restoring New York’s reputation as the state that leads the nation in the fight to end income inequality and stands strong for working and middle class families.
George Gresham, President 1199SEIU:
1199 SEIU’s 250,000 New York members are proud to stand together with our leaders to support a strong Democratic majority for the New York State Senate. Together with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio, labor and the Working Families Party we will deliver a progressive future for New York’s families.
Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU:
We are proud to stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party today and show what’s possible when progressives, unions and elected officials put the interest of working families first. We are committed to mobilizing our members statewide to take back the state Senate and ensure the passage of legislation that will raise wages, provide educational opportunity for all, including immigrants, and improve the lives of working people throughout New York.
Chris Shelton, Vice President, CWA District One:
For decades, CWA has fought against an entrenched Senate majority opposed to the progressive, pro-labor policies working people need. Now, standing united with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and all labor unions and the Working Families Party, we are in a position to win reforms we’ve fought for all these many years, including public financing of elections, the DREAM Act, a minimum wage increase tied to an index, the right for localities to raise their own wages, greater educational justice, marijuana decriminalization, and [anything i don't know about]. It’s quite a list, and finally within reach. We urge the Working Families Party to support Governor Cuomo for re-election to achieve the progressive victories this state needs
UFT President Michael Mulgrew:
We look forward to working with the state’s leaders and a Democratic majority in the State Senate to bring real innovation to our schools, and to stop the privatization and “corporatization” that have done so much harm to our children’s education.
Peter Ward, President of the Hotels Trades Council:
We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and all New York Democrats in electing a unified Democratic government that fights for working people and progressive values.
Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A:
Today is an historic moment, creating a grand coalition thathas the potential to bring real change to the hard working people of New York. I am proud to stand today withMayor deBlasio and Governor Cuomo in building this coalition that will begintoday to take on the hard job of winning back the NYS Senate so together we canenact laws that will change the day-to-day experience of millions of workingpeople in our communities. UAW membersare ready to win transformative legislation that will protect womens’reproductive rights, decriminalize marijuana, improve funding for our schools,recognize our DREAMERS, raise the minimum wage and deliver fair elections forall of New York. This is a great day anda great beginning. Let’s get to work.
Anthony Speelman, Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW Local 1500:
UFCW Local 1500 proudly stands alongside the Governor, the Mayor, and labor in supporting a unified Democratic Party. This unity will bring a real progressive agenda to our members, New York State, and the entire labor movement.
Stuart Applebaum, RWDSU:
“The RWDSU is proud to stand with Governor Cuomo and Mayor Deblasio in calling for a governing democratic majority in the State Senate. With a democratic majority, progressive and pro-labor legislation can be moved forward to better the lives of New Yorkers.”
Mike McGuire, Political Director, Mason Tenders District Council:
“The Mason Tenders’ District Council supports the concept of a unified democratic government because that is the best way to advance the cause of organized labor in New York State. We are proud to follow in the footsteps of or friends Gov. Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and our colleagues in organized labor in achieving this goal.”
Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda:
The Teamsters stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party in working with all Democrats for a stronger more equitable New York. Organized labor has always been the path to equality for workers, immigrants, the downtrodden and the poor. A unified Democratic Party can only stand to strengthen organized labor in the sectors that need it most, such as our burgeoning immigrant workforce.
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb
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Governor Cuomo is trying to persuade other statewide candidates to refuse the Working Families Party endorsement if they choose an independent to run against him. His goal is to punish the party if it does not endorse him.
There is a battle going on for the future of the Democratic Party. Will it be a progressive party, or will it vie with Republicans to hold the line on taxes and budgets? Will it fight for public education or for privatization?
Peter Goodman, a political analyst who is close to the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, concludes that the November elections are looking increasingly bleak for President Obama and the Democrats. It is beginning to look like Democrats could lose control of the Senate, which would leave Obama with little more than veto power.
This could have serious consequences. Credit Obama with two excellent Supreme Court appointments–Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. With a Republican Senate, there would be no more. A Republican House and Senate would spend two years rolling back whatever Obama has done.
The election will turn on motivating core constituencies and getting them out to vote.
One of the most loyal Obama blocs has been teachers. To say the least, they are angry and alienated by Arne Duncan’s policies.
There are three million teachers who may sit on their hands on Election Day because of the misguided policies of Race to the Top.
Goodman says that if President Obama has any hope of winning back the teacher vote, he must fire Arne.
That would be a start. But he also would have to fire Ted Mitchell, who was just confirmed as Undersecretary of Education. Mitchell is a prominent proponent of privatization, charters, and for-profit colleges. Almost all of Duncan’s assistant secretaries share his love of high-stakes testing.
Would Obama fire his basketball buddy? Not likely. But what if he could find a new job for him in another agency or make him an ambassador? If control of the Senate is the prize, firing Arne might not be such a bad idea.
Donna Brazile, Democratic Party strategist, laments the nation’s retreat from school integration in recent years.
Vouchers and charters are no substitute for integrated schools with equitable resources.
She cites the example of Milwaukee, which has had vouchers and charters since 1990.
Today, Milwaukee has low performance on national tests, and neither the voucher schools nor the charter schools outperform public schools.
“Sixty years later, “separate and unequal” is still alive.
“To fix the problem, we must recognize the problem. First, privatizing our school systems results in increased segregation, not improved opportunities. Whether in New Orleans or Philadelphia or Detroit or New York, legislative schemes perpetuate separate and unequal by privatizing large swaths of public school districts — and in some cases, entire districts.
“Second, education doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Students and their families need access to health care, decent wages and affordable housing in integrated neighborhoods. Thus, Brown’s legacy includes economic improvements for children and families.
“Third, neither high-quality public schools nor economic improvements can occur when voters are disenfranchised. Only the right to vote protects access to education and movement toward economic improvement. Yet 34 states — most under Republican control — have passed laws to make it harder for minorities, the elderly, and young people to vote, including so-called voter ID laws and regulations that limit early voting.
“The economic and racial inequities that existed 60 years ago persist in our communities today. They must be addressed. In the spirit of Brown, students, parents and educators are demanding solutions that go beyond the dysfunctional “education reforms” and address a wide range of community concerns, from stopping school privatization to providing universal early childhood education to raising the minimum wage.”
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