Archives for category: Economy

The American Federation of Teachers sent questionnaires to all the candidates. Three responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. I previously posted Sanders’ responses. Here is Hillary’s.

Candidate questionnaire: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Today, almost 50 million students attend our nation’s public schools. Along with their parents, communities, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees, these students have been forced to live under test—and-punish policies that include sanctions and school closings, high-stakes assessments, and federalized teacher evaluations that are counterproductive and have taken the joy out of teaching and learning.
Q. What is your view of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also
known as the No Child Left Behind Act)? What changes, if any, would you make to the law, and
why? Please include positions on:
• The federal government’s role in ensuring equity and access to resources for all children;
• The role of standards, assessments and accountability in public education;
• Ensuring that all students have access to a broad curriculum that includes art and music,
as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
• Professional development for school staff; and
• Community schools.

HRC: I have been working to improve and support our public schools for decades. Throughout my
career I have worked to ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential, and I know a
quality education is essential to reach that goal. When I was First Lady of Arkansas, I chaired
the Arkansas Educational Standards Commission where I worked to raise standards for
Arkansas’ schools, increase teacher salaries, and lower class size. I continued in this effort as
First Lady of the United States and as a Senator, working throughout my career to provide
dedicated resources and support to teachers and to recruit, support, and retain more outstanding
teachers. We need to attract a whole new generation to teaching because it is critical that our
students have well-prepared and well-supported teachers.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, I viewed it as a historic promise between the
federal government and educators. I hoped that it would lead to a greater sense of shared
responsibility for our schools’ success. Unfortunately, that promise was largely broken because
schools struggled to meet the mandates imposed by the law and the implementation at the federal
level was problematic.

I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB. I believe this bill
addresses some of the real challenges with NCLB while retaining our commitment to high
academic standards, and to assessments that give parents and teachers the information they need
to know how students are performing and if and where they need help to improve. I believe that
this bill will correct for some of the real challenges that schools and communities experienced in
implementing the law and will ensure that principals, educators and local communities are lifted
up as full partners and innovators in improving public education. I also applaud the forward-
looking investments in education contained in the bill, including a new commitment to improving
early learning.One of the issues that I am most concerned about is testing. Tests are intended to provide parents and educators with an understanding of how well kids are learning. Having that
understanding is crucial. And it is important to remember that testing provides communities with
full information about how our low-income students and students of color are doing in
comparison to other groups so that we can continue to improve our educational system for all

But I understand the frustration many parents and educators feel about tests. Teachers and
parents alike are concerned about the amount of time being spent on test preparation, and worry
that children are missing out on the most valuable experience in the classroom– a teacher
sparking a student’s curiosity and love for learning.

So I am mindful that we need to find the right balance—and that starts with bringing parents
and educators back into this conversation about how we ensure a robust and engaging
curriculum that engages students in the love of learning rather than narrowing our schools to
focus primarily on test preparation.

I do think that Senators Murray and Alexander struck the right balance in the Every Child
Achieves Act by continuing to maintain the federal requirement for annual statewide testing in
grades 3-8, but ensuring that accountability for improving schools will be based on multiple
measures of performance. And I think it will be critical for states and communities to continue to
strike the right balance and not layer test upon test. There must be room for invigorating
teaching and learning in the classroom.

Q. Do you support any of the current reauthorization proposals under consideration in the 114th

HRC: I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB.

Q. What role do you think the federal government can play in providing access to early childhood
education? What specific policy proposals would your administration pursue?

HRC: I believe we need to improve access to quality child care and early learning opportunities for all
children. Every child, regardless of parental income, deserves access to high-quality pre-K. I
think any discussion of improving our public schools must include universal access to pre-
kindergarten. I believe we can start to close the achievement gap by investing in programs that
increase children’s school readiness and academic preparation while making it easier for
parents to balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities to their children. We
know children’s brains develop more rapidly at this time in their lives than at any other and that
high quality interventions make a real difference in the outcomes of children from low-income
families. . In the months ahead, I look forward to laying out a significant agenda to improve
early learning in our country.

I have been highlighting the importance of early childhood education for more than forty years.
As First Lady of Arkansas, I helped bring the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool
Youngsters Program (HIPPY) to Arkansas. As First Lady, I hosted the first White House
conference on early learning and the brain, championed the program “Prescription for
Reading,” in which pediatricians provided free books for new mothers to read to their infants as
their brains were rapidly developing, and supported the Administration’s work to create Early
Head Start, which reaches children from birth to age three throughout country. As Senator, I co-
sponsored the Education Begins at Home Act, which expands the Parents as Teachers program
and other quality programs of early childhood home visitation. As a leader at the Clinton
Foundation, I led a national initiative called “Too Small to Fail” aimed at supporting parents to
improve vocabulary and brain development in the early years to close the “word gap” and
better prepare children for school. As President, I will continue my lifelong work to expand
early childhood and parent education programs.

Q. What are your views on private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter school
accountability and transparency?

HRC: I strongly oppose voucher schemes because they divert precious resources away from financially
strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability
standards or teacher quality standards. It would be harmful to our democracy if we dismantled
our public school system through vouchers, and there is no evidence that doing so would
improve outcomes for children.

Charters should be held to the same standards, and to the same level of accountability and
transparency to which traditional public schools are held. This includes the requirements of civil
rights laws. They can innovate and help improve educational practices. But I also believe that
we must go back to the original purpose of charter schools. Where charters are succeeding, we
should be doing more to ensure that their innovations can be widely disseminated throughout
our traditional public school system. Where they are failing, they should be closed.

Access to an affordable and high-quality system of public higher education is critical to the
health of the nation—both to ensure that students reach their fullest potential, and to
enable the United States to continue to develop as a just society, a vibrant democracy and a
land of economic opportunity.

Q. Escalating tuition and fees are leading to a growing number of students leaving college with
overwhelming debt from student loans. This burden of rising costs and rising debt makes access
to higher education increasingly difficult for many students and their families. What is the role of
the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?

HRC: First, too many young people are struggling under the burden of student debt and too many
families are struggling to pay the rising cost of college. Second, too many students are starting
but never completing college, which means they leave with debt but no degree. I will be offering
my own ideas for how to make college more affordable, how to make sure no one graduates with
crushing debt, and how to hold colleges accountable to help more students graduate. Among
other things, we have to do more to link student loan repayments to income and to help people
refinance their loans. And we have to think about both four-year colleges and community
colleges. I support President Obama’s free community college proposal. I will be talking about
ways to reduce the burdens on those entering four-year colleges too, as well as those who are
out in the world trying to start a business or a family. I intend to introduce significant proposals
on these subjects in the weeks and months ahead.

Q. There has been a nationwide pattern of disinvestment in public higher education such that per-
student funding dropped 26.1 percent between 1990 and 2010. What would your administration
do to remedy this?

HRC: State budget cuts are a primary cause of tuition increases at public universities and reversing
this trend is key to making college more affordable. That’s why I will make incentivizing
increased state funding of higher education a priority, and explore ways to make sure that the
federal government is actively partnering and working with states to address the problem of
college affordability.

Q. Career and technical education programs help ensure that postsecondary credentials and skills
are accessible to all—a necessity in today’s economy. In your view, what is the role of the
federal government in supporting high-quality CTE programs?

HRC: In the months ahead, I will lay out my ideas for a comprehensive proposal to train millions more
workers over the next decade. I am exploring a number of options to incentivize GTE programs
and help provide grants to train workers for the 21st century economy.

Q. What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability
of for-profit institutions?

HRC: We have to do a lot more to protect students and families from unscrupulous institutions and
abusive debt servicers. There are a lot of non-traditional students who want to go back to school
to improve their lives, but don’t have access to much information or support to figure out how
best to do that. Money and time are both tight, with a lot of them trying to juggle family, jobs,
and school all at the same time. So they’re particularly vulnerable to exploitation and

All students need more guidance in making decisions about where to go to school. We should
protect them from institutions that will almost certainly not serve them well. The government
should stop funding colleges where almost no one graduates and where most students
accumulate a lot of debt but can’t get the jobs that would allow them to repay their loans. In the
months ahead, I will be laying out specific ideas and proposals on how to increase
accountability in the for-profit sector.

Having a high-quality healthcare system in the United States is a moral imperative, an
economic necessity and a fundamental right for all. Underpinning this right is a healthcare
system that reflects the needs of the patients, providers and community.

Q. What are your views of the Affordable Care Act? What changes would you make, if any, to
the ACA, including the excise tax on high-cost plans and the provisions on shared responsibility
for employers?

HRC: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million Americans have gained new coverage.
The reduction in the uninsured rate across the country has been staggering, down to roughly
12% for adults.

These statistics translate into real change in people’s lives. Families who no longer have to face
the threat of bankruptcy because of catastrophic health care costs. Parents who now have health
care when only their children were covered before. Women can no longer be charged higher
rates solely because of their gender. People with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied
coverage. Americans can make the leap of changing jobs or starting a business without
worrying about whether they’ll still be able to buy insurance — because now they know they can
purchase it on the marketplace. So this is a real accomplishment we should be proud of

As with any piece of major legislation, it’s not perfect and would benefit from updates and fixes.
One area of the ACA that I am examining is the so-called “Cadillac” tax. As currently
structured, I worry that it may create an incentive to substantially lower the value of the benefits
package and shift more and more costs to consumers. As President, I would work to ensure that
our tax code appropriately advances the health care interests of lower-income and middle class

We also need to take steps beyond the ACA. We should crack down on the drug companies that
charge too much and the insurance companies that offer too little. And we need to tackling
rising out-of-pocket health care costs for consumers across the board.

Q. Do you support initiatives designed to move health insurance coverage away from an
employer-based model? If so, what would you propose as an alternative to the current system for
covering working adults?

HRC: I’ve long believed that progress on health care is only possible if there is a principle of shared
responsibility among every major actor in our health care system. Employers have always
played a critical role in ensuring working families have access to coverage — in fact more than
96% of firms with 50 or more employees already offer health insurance.

Q. Many licensed healthcare professionals, particularly RNs, are leaving hospital service
because of difficult working conditions, including excessive and unsafe workloads, understaffing
and mandatory overtime. What would you do to address these problems and to improve
recruitment and retention of nurses and other healthcare professionals?

HRC: I know that we must address the nursing shortage in this country and give nurses the training,
education, and support they need to provide the care patients deserve. We need appropriate
nurse-to-patient ratios in order to improve patient care and working conditions for nurses.
I have a history of working for America’s nurses. As Senator, I was proud to champion
provisions in the Nurse Reinvestment Act that provided significant resources to recruit and train
nurses, and I introduced the Nursing Education and Quality of Health Care Act.

I believe it is important that all American employees are safe and protected where they work In
particular, I believe that we need to consider the effects of ergonomic hazards in order to quickly
and effectively address musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. I know that this is a problem
for nurses, who often suffer from back-related injuries as a result of having to move and lift

Q. Merger and acquisition activity continues to consolidate the U.S. healthcare system into the
hands of a few corporations, many of which are for-profit. What would you do to ensure
competition in the healthcare industry is fair and protects the American consumer?

HRC: The federal government plays a critical role in evaluating and enforcing health care mergers to
ensure that they do not stymie competition, burdening consumers with fewer choices and higher
prices. Anti-competitive and costly market consolidation in health care or other markets should
not be permitted. While the Affordable Care Act created incentives for providers to better
coordinate care and pass those savings onto consumers, we need to make sure that acquisitions
and integration of health care stakeholders will ultimately lower cost growth and increase
quality of care. To that end, in addition to providing necessary guidance to health care providers
about appropriate and beneficial ways to better integrate their services, the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) should be funded and directed to be ever-vigilant in halting anti-competitive
health care arrangements through robust enforcement.

Q. What would you do to ensure that communities have access to public health services?

HRC: I believe we must take full advantage of the movement from volume to value purchasing of health
care to encourage much more of a focus on the value of prevention and the imperative of
population health. My record shows my dedication to this issue. As Senator, I led a bipartisan
coalition to fight for legislation to combat childhood obesity, helped pass legislation to provide
extra funding for flu vaccine and proposed legislation that would raise public awareness and
speed up production of the vaccine, and proposed legislation to combat diabetes, asthma and
HIV/AIDS. As the chairperson of the Superfund and Environmental Health Subcommittee of the
Environmental and Public Works Committee, I held the first-ever congressional hearing on
environmental justice, bringing much-needed attention to the fact that certain environmental
conditions cause health problems, which is often the case in low-income or underserved
communities. Following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, providers are being more
appropriately rewarded on their success in ensuring wellness and good health and not on
unnecessary, wasteful, expensive and, all-too-frequently, dangerous health care interventions.
By focusing on prevention and the necessity of population health, we have a real opportunity to
finally make long-overdue inroads in the public’s health.

An administration’s economic policy has far-reaching implications for the United States
and the world. It also says a great deal about a president’s priorities and general
philosophy about the federal government’s responsibility to its citizens.

Q. What are your priorities for revitalizing the economy, strengthening the middle class,
creating jobs and ensuring fair taxation? How would your plan help restore funding for
education, healthcare, transportation, public safety and many other services provided to our

HRC: I want to make being middle-class mean something again. I’m going to take on four big fights in
this campaign: (1) building an economy for tomorrow, instead of yesterday; (2) strengthening
our families and communities; (3) fixing our broken political system; (4) protecting our country
from threats.

I will lay out a number of new ideas over the course of the campaign, including helping small
businesses create jobs, making college more affordable, raising workers’ wages and reducing
cost pressures on families, balancing work and family, helping workers get the skills they need to
get ahead in a changing economy, and making sure all our kids have the chance to live up to
their God-given potential.

Q. The United States has a $3.2 trillion infrastructure deficit according to the American Society
of Civil Engineers—and that’s just for repairs. What are the mechanisms (e.g., public, private,
infrastructure bank) through which we can fund the rebuilding of this country, including the
necessary renovation and modernization of our public schools, hospitals and public buildings?

HRC: Ordinary Americans can’t afford failing to invest in our infrastructure. If we don’t repair our
roads and bridges, and upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century, it’s harder for
Americans to get to work, and for our businesses to grow and compete. It’s time for us to invest
in America. That means Congress must make the investments we need in our roads and
highways and that means leveraging investment by the private sector as well. I will be laying out
my own proposals on how to leverage both public and private sources of funding and creative
financing mechanisms to address America’s infrastructure needs.

Q. What would your administration do to build and strengthen retirement security for all
working men and women, including protecting employees’ pensions? What is your plan for
sustaining and strengthening Social Security and Medicare?

HRC: Let me start by saying I’ve fought to defend Social Security for years, including when the Bush
Administration tried to privatize it. We need to keep defending it from attacks and enhance it to
meet new realities. I’m especially focused on the fact that we need to improve how Social
Security works for women. I also want to enhance benefits for our most vulnerable seniors. We
need to reject years of Republican myth-making that claims we cannot afford it and that the only
solution must therefore be to cut benefits.

I will continue to oppose Republican efforts that seek to privatize or gut Medicare.

We need a broader strategy to help Americans with their retirement security. I will have ideas
on that.

Q. What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including
school services and state and local government services?

HRC: I do not believe that we should be contracting, outsourcing, or privatizing work that is inherently
governmental in nature, including school services and state and local government services. In
the Senate, I helped secure a measure that became law that blocked the Bush administration
from downsizing the Federal Protective Service. I cosponsored legislation to protect city and
rural letter carriers from having their work contracted out by the U.S. Postal Service to private
firms and individuals. Lastly, I was an original cosponsor of the Honest Leadership and
Accountability in Contracting Act.

Labor unions give workers a collective voice in the workplace and are integral to the social
and economic health of our country. AFT members are interested in knowing your views
on the role of labor unions.

Q. Current federal laws and policies encourage and promote collective bargaining through the
National Labor Relations Act. What are your views on collective bargaining for the private and
public sectors? What is your view regarding agency fee and so-called right-to-work laws?

HRC: The right to organize is one of our most fundamental human rights. I believe that unions are
critical to a strong American middle class. Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers
as they exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively and was an original co-sponsor
of the Employee Free Choice Act. I’m talking to a lot of labor leaders and labor economists
about what the next president can do to support 21′ century organizing and collective

Q. As president, what would you do to: (a) prevent employers from intimidating and harassing
workers who support union representation, (b) ensure that workers are free to organize and
bargain in the workplace, and (c) protect the rights of American workers?

HRC: Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers as they exercise their right to organize and
bargain collectively and am an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. I actively
opposed anti-collective bargaining provisions contained in the Department of Defense’s
proposed National Security Personnel System and have voted in favor of collective bargaining
rights for TSA screeners. It is also vital that we modernize basic labor standards. Worker
protections and basic labor standards have failed to keep pace with changes over the past half
century. We need to raise wages and reduce poverty among working families, including raising
the minimum wage, eradicating wage theft, promoting collective bargaining, updating overtime
protections, ensuring that employers do not misclassify, true employees as “independent
contractors” to skirt their obligations, and leveling the playing field for women and people of

Q. The federal government has direct responsibility for setting labor standards. There has been a
growing call for changes to those standards, including paid sick days, paid family leave and
higher minimum wages. What changes, if any, would you prioritize?

Experience shows that policies that are good for middle-class families are good for everyone—including businesses. These policies are pro-growth, and pro-family, and that’s a pretty good

HRC: It is long past time for the U.S. to join every other nation in the developed world in having paid
leave, which is critical to ensuring that workers do not have to choose between caring for their
family and keeping a job. I’m not under any illusions that this will be easy. We had to fight for
years to pass the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act, and the day my husband signed that law
was a day I’ll never forget. I look forward to talking about how we move forward on this.

I have fought to raise the minimum wage for many years, and I strongly support the fast food
workers and others who are out there asking for a living wage and a fair shot at success. A
higher minimum wage doesn’t just help those at the bottom of the pay scale, it has a ripple effect
across the economy and helps millions of American workers and middle class families. As we
work to raise the federal minimum wage, we should also support state and local efforts to go
above the federal floor where it makes sense to do so.

Q. More than 8 million public employees in 25 states currently have no OSHA protection or
entitlement to a safe and healthful workplace. Do you support universal OSHA coverage for all
public employees?

HRC: I believe it is important that American employees are safe and protected where they work In the
decades since OSHA has been enacted, we’ve made great strides in strengthening the safety of
work environments for our workers. But there are improvements that need to be made. In
particular, too few workers are protected by OSHA. That’s why in the Senate I was an original
cosponsor of the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would extend OSHA protections to all
federal, state, and local public employees.

The AFT and our members are champions of fairness; democracy; economic opportunity;
and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their
families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through
community engagement. Our members are interested in knowing your views on the
following important community issues:

Q. What policies would your administration pursue to ensure that all people—regardless of who
they are, where they live or where they come from—are able to climb the ladder of opportunity
and participate fully in our economy and democracy?

HRC: Today, there are nearly 6 million young people in America who are out of school and out of
work The unemployment rate for this rising generation is double what it is for the rest of the
population. It wasn’t like that in 2000. Young people were getting jobs, they were climbing the
ladder of opportunity. Millions more of our young people are underemployed because the jobs
that are available just aren’t sufficient. They don’t offer the kind of income and growth potential
that should be more broadly accessible. For young people of color things are even harder. And
if you don’t have a college degree or didn’t graduate from high school, most doors just aren’t
open, no matter how hard you knock.

That is why education at all levels — from birth through higher education — is so important to
helping all people climb that ladder of opportunity. I have worked hard throughout my career to
make sure that every child gets a chance to develop his or her mental capacity by developing
their brain from the very earliest age, because if your vocabulary is so far behind by the time
you’re five years old, through no fault of your own but because the adults in your life are so
busy, so stressed or don’t know how you build brain cells, by talking and singing and reading to
babies, then you enter kindergarten having heard 30 million less words than a child from one of
our families. And that’s very hard to overcome. It’s not that when you’re 18 you’re not trying,
it’s when you’re five you were already left behind.

Q. In your opinion, what are the elements of comprehensive immigration reform? How would
your administration’s stance on immigration reform fight back against inequality, promote
economic justice and increase wages for all workers?

HRC: I support comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and a path to citizenship not just because it’s
the right thing to do, but because it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and
strengthens our country. I was a strong supporter of CIR as a Senator, cosponsoring Senator
Ted Kennedy’s 2004 bill and supporting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2006
and 2007. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, I cosponsored the Dream Act in the Senate. I also support
President Obama’s DACA/DAPA executive actions. And if Congress continues to refuse to act,
as President I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.

Q. What are your views on campaign finance reform? Do you support a constitutional
amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?

HRC: We have to reduce the influence of big money in politics. As I said recently, I support a
constitutional amendment to get unaccountable money out of politics.

Q. What would your administration do to ensure that voting in elections is free, fair and
available to all Americans? Do you oppose policies that restrict access to voting and voter

HRC: As I said recently, the assault on voting rights threatens to block millions of Americans from fully
participating in our democracy. We need to fix the holes opened up by the Supreme Court’s
ruling. Congress should pass legislation to replace those portions of the act that the Court struck
down, and as President I would work to ensure that all citizens have the information and access
they need to fully participate in our democracy.

Q. What do you think this nation’s priorities should be during the next decade? How would your
presidency advance those priorities?

HRC: I am committed to being a champion for everyday Americans and American families. That’s
what I’ve been devoted to my entire adult life, starting with my first job out of law school when I
went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, all the way through to the work that I did as
Secretary of State promoting women’s rights, promoting the rights of people who would
otherwise be marginalized or left on the sidelines. And I know that although we have begun to
move forward again, it is still hard to imagine exactly how we’re going to get to the point where
people are not just getting by but getting ahead again and staying ahead. Because the deck is
still stacked in favor of those at the top.

We have to be focused on how we’re going to bring about the changes that will ignite
opportunity for everybody willing to work hard for it again. We have to build an economy that’s
innovative, sustainable, and producing good jobs with rising wages. We need to actually reward
workers with increases in their paychecks for the increases in productivity and profitability.

It’s also imperative that we give people the tools through education and job training, so that they
can make the most out of their own lives. And for me that starts at the very beginning. I have
been a child advocate and a child development proponent for my entire adult life, because it’s
what I really care about and believe in. Then we have to make sure that we are doing all we can
to empower our educators, to make sure that they have the support of parents so that they can do
the job they have been trained to do to help prepare our kids. And then we’ve got to make sure
that college is affordable.

One of the biggest stresses in anybody’s life is healthcare. I’m going to support and defend the
Affordable Care Act, and I will work to fix those parts of it that need fixing. But, we have made a
great step forward as a nation to provide a mechanism for people to get access to healthcare,
some for the first time.

We also have to address the unaccountable dark money in politics. I think the Supreme Court
made a grave error with its Citizens United decision. And I will do everything I can do to
appoint Supreme Court Justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires
to buy elections.

Finally, we have challenges around the world. But we have to be confident and strong in
understanding that there are many ways to approach the problems that America will be
confronting in the world, and we must do so in cooperation with our friends, our allies, our
fellow democracies around the world. I am convinced that the 21st century can once again be a
century in which the United States leads and helps to set the values and standards.

– See more at:

Laura Chapman, a frequent contributor to the blog, comments here in response to an article in the Boston Globe about whether the Common Core was “killing” kindergarten:

THE BIG LIE: “The United States is falling behind other countries in the resource that matters most in the new global economy: human capital,” declared a 2008 report from the National Governors Association. Creating a common set of “internationally benchmarked” standards was seen as the best way to close the persistent achievement gaps between students of different races and between rich and poor school districts.”

THE BIG LIE: I have found only two international benchmarking documents in the early history of the Common Core. The first was in 1998 with comparisons of standards in two states and the math and science standards in Japan and standards available from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS). The second report in 2008. titled “Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education,” was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and GE Foundations. The author was a professional writer of reports. The advisory committee included seven governors or former governors, CEOs at Intel and Microsoft, three senior state and large metro area education officials, three advocates for minority groups, one foundation, and five university faculty, only two of these scholars in education. The most important source of information was the data analytics expert at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). In this report, benchmarking is little more than a process of: (a) identifying the nations that score high on international tests, then (b) assuming the scores reflect higher expectations, and then (c) looking at some economic descriptors for those countries.

The result is a set of dubious inferences– high test scores and high standards are predicates for economic prosperity. Dubious should be written DUBIOUS, especially because this publication was rolled out with great fanfare in the midst of the 2008 crash of the world economy…for reasons that have no bearing on international test scores, no bearing on educational standards, no bearing on the nation’s children and teachers and public schools.

Nevertheless, “The executive summary (p.6) calls for the following:
Action 1: Upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.

This is a very big lie. It is a dangerously misleading one when tossed into a discussion of kindergarten. There is no way to internationally benchmark standards or tests for every grade or subject because the meaning of “internationally benchmarked” is limited to test scores on international tests in at most three subjects, no international tests yet in kindergarten.

On top of those insistent misrepresentations from the nation’s governors and those involved in the whole Common Core Experiment to save the economy is it not strange that we find no demand at all for more and better knowledge of geography, cultural history including the arts, political history, and world languages–all of which might actually bear on functioning with savvy and grace on an international stage?

If the only or the prime value of our nation’s children and youth is economic, we are back to the same wretched outlook on children as that which existed before child labor laws. The Governors are still using this appalling rhetoric, treating the nation’s children and youth as more or less useful and productive for the economy. The same for their teachers. What will it take to get a reversal of this narrow and attitude that “It is perfectly OK to think of kids as economically worthless, or worthwhile, or somewhere in between?

The real causes of the so-called achievement gap are the result of thinking that test scores are objective…when they are not. It is the result of thinking that humans should all be thoroughly standardized to perform in the same way, at the same time, to the same level on a set of test questions that only predict scores on other tests. And those tests and scores are the marketing tools of choice for the unregulated testing industry.

Test scores have been a major weapon in the arsenal of federal and state policies designed to produce, reproduce, and not to reduce the huge disparities in income and opportunities in this nation and to distract attention from real fraud and abuse. Children are not responsible for the fate of the economy. They did not tank the economy in 2008. Nor did their teachers.

This nation is in desperate need for more ample education and for more generous views of humanity than has come from the National Governor’s Association, the Secretary of Education, corporate leaders, billionaires, and the press. The press has become too lazy. This piece about kindergarten does little more than recycle talking points from easy to find and ready-made sources.”

Gene V. Glass, emeritus professor at Arizona State University and an associate of the National Education Policy Center, ponders the ubiquity of the “Shoe Button Complex” among leading “reformers” of education.

In this essay, he recalls a story of a man who became the nation’s leading vendor of “shoe buttons” a century ago. He cornered the market on shoe buttons. He knew everything there was to know about shoe buttons, and he became a very rich man. His great success persuaded him that he was an expert on everything. The essay then refers to the “reformers” who think that their fabulous wealth entitles them to opine on how to re-engineer schools. They don’t listen to people who work in schools or people who are researchers and scholars of education, because those people are not fabulously wealthy; in the eyes of those who have cornered the market on shoe buttons or computers, the opinion of mere educators counts for nothing. Educators, in the eyes of “reformers,” are the status quo because they are educators. Better to trust someone who has never taught or studied the subject in depth.

Glass suggests that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda may be prime examples of the Shoe Button Complex. And then there is Arizona, where he finds this scenario:

Jan Brewer, Republican governor of Arizona and famous for issuing a tongue wagging to President Obama, appointed Intel ex-CEO Craig Barrett to chair a council—Ready Arizona–to study and recommend public education reform for the state. It is unclear what Barrett knows about education. One suspects that we are encountering another case of the Shoe Button Complex. Barrett is urging businesses to push school reform. His public utterances strike familiar chords: the future of the entire state rests on the test scores of little kids; more science and math majors will attract businesses to the state; it’s a global economy. After all, the public schools are “suppliers” of labor for businesses. And at Intel, “if a supplier didn’t meet our specifications, we would call the supplier and say, ‘Meet our specifications or we will fire you.’” Apparently, Barrett shares his fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s pleasure in firing people.

Of course, what Barrett is actually and unknowingly talking about is crony capitalism: Linking government and business in relationships that favor the economy. Whether the intellectual, moral, physical, and aesthetic well-being of young people is benefited by their education probably never occurs to Barrett and his ilk. Or perhaps “well-being” to Barrett means having acquired a taste for consumerism and a job to support it. In fact, most industry leaders would like to see specialized training pushed down as early in the curriculum as possible so that high school graduates appear in their HR departments job-ready, trained at public expense. And if training kids for Intel just happens to involve piping a bunch of online courses into Arizona public schools, well so much the better since Barrett also serves on the board of K-12 Inc., the nation’s #1 supplier of cyber-courses. Whether the former CEO of Intel knows everything there is to know about selling microprocessors AND education, or whether this is merely another manifestation of the Shoe Button Complex remains to be seen.

The corporate reformers like to say that “school choice” is the civil rights issue of our time. This is a view shared by Jeb Bush, the Walton family, Scott Walker, and various other rightwingers whose real goal is to shrink the public sector by privatization and to eliminate unions.

But a recent story in the New York Times said that the loss of public sector jobs hurts African American workers disproportionately.

“Roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs. They are about 30 percent more likely to have a public sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics.

“Compared to the private sector, the public sector has offered black and female workers better pay, job stability and more professional and managerial opportunities,” said Jennifer Laird, a sociologist at the University of Washington who has been researching the subject.

“During the Great Recession, though, as tax revenues plunged, federal, state and local governments began shedding jobs. Even now, with the economy regaining strength, public sector employment has still not bounced back. An incomplete recovery is part of the reason, but a combination of strong anti-government and anti-tax sentiment in some places has kept down public payrolls. At the same time, attempts to curb collective bargaining, like those led by Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential candidate, have weakened public unions.

“The Labor Department counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.

“The decline reverses a historical pattern, researchers say, with public sector employees typically holding onto their jobs even during most economic downturns.

“Because blacks hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, relative to their share of the population, the cutbacks naturally hit them harder.”

The decline in unions has also harmed black and Hispanic families, because union jobs provide a path to the middle class with better wages and a measure of job security.

Anyone who claims that privatization promotes civil rights is purposely distorting the facts. Getting a voucher or a charter (to a school thay may be worse than the public school) does not compensate for the loss of your parents’ employment. It is a devil’s bargain.

This is the story of Mell Zinn. She got her teaching credentials, but she couldn’t find a job. She opened a licensed early childhood center in her home. Her husband is earning. Graduate degree. She is the sole support of her family. It is below the poverty line.

This is not what it should mean to be a professional in America in 2015.

The Néw York Times reports that the top 25 hedge fund managers took home $11 + billion in 2014, even though it was not a good year.

Readers of this blog know that certain hedge fund managers have used their wealth to advance the privatization of public education , not only in Néw York, but in other states as well.

If only we could find one hedge fund manager who understood the value of educating all children.

Conor Lynch writes in Salon that the rightwing media is having fun blaming liberals and liberal social policies for the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray.


He quotes commentators from Fox News who see the civil disorders and riots as the fault of the protestors.


What Lynch points out, however, is that Baltimore (like Detroit) was once a thriving industrial city. As globalization and technological change produced deindustrialization, jobs dried up, especially for those striving to rise from poverty to the working class. The war on drugs, he writes, led to mass incarceration of black men, even though whites use drugs as often as blacks. And then there is the historic residential segregation in Baltimore, enforced by federal, state, and local policies.


Back in the mid-20th century, Baltimore was a booming manufacturing hub, as were many other cities that today have become shadows of their former selves, such as Detroit. In 1916, Bethlehem Steel bought a steel plant in Baltimore, and by the Second World War, more than a quarter of a million people were employed in the city’s manufacturing industry. This was the so-called Golden Age of American capitalism, where manufacturing accounted for 50 percent of corporate profits and 30 percent of American employment. Today, by contrast, industry profits have dropped to about 20 percent, and employment has dropped to less than 10 percent. This is not a phenomenon unique to Baltimore — the process of deindustrialization has occurred throughout America, turning formerly thriving cities into impoverished ghost towns.


There are various reasons for why America’s manufacturing industry has fallen from grace, but the two major ones are globalization and technological innovation. Globalization, which really began to take off in the ’70s and ’80s, has made capital much more flexible, and today many companies choose to produce in developing countries where labor costs are significantly lower, owing in large part to scant protection for workers, who make a fraction of what it would take to live a decent middle-class lifestyle. Technology has been even worse for America’s middle class; it has been reported that the great advancements in computer and robotic technology over the past few decades have hollowed out the middle class and destroyed jobs faster than it created them.


Baltimore was hit hard by deindustrialization – in the latter half of the 20th century its industrial workforce was depleted by 75 percent. And as manufacturing jobs left, so did the middle class and white Baltimoreans. Since the death of manufacturing in the city, the economy became a service-based one, and the incomes have dropped significantly.


This is not the story you will hear on Fox News. But it is the context you need to know.

Peter Greene read Marc Tucker’s critique of America’s academic standards and found some things to like, others to sharply disagree with.

Tucker’s essay is titled “Why American Education Standards Collapsed.” He speculates that standards have fallen over the past 40-45 years. Greene reviews Tucker’s economic analysis of the same period, with economic pressure on the middle class and pressure to push everyone to go to college.

It is a good read, and I highly recommend it.

Greene concludes:

Tucker has some points. Accountability has pretty much been a disaster for everybody (except disaster profiteers), and the economic shift in our country has been very, very hard on many of our citizens, making it harder for our children to get the best advantages in life, including education.

And we could certainly use leaders who were better, particularly when we consider that much of disruption of the last forty-five years, from the industrial crash of the seventies to the economic disasters of the 2000s, has been human-created. Here’s the thing– I don’t think the leaders of the car and steel industries, nor the banksters of the Great Recession, would have avoided all that mess if they had had better SAT scores or a better GPA in college.

Tucker reminds me of a person who sits fearfully in his house, hears a gurgle from the kitchen sink drain, and worries that it means that a burglar is coming in the second floor window. Or a chicken who gets hit with an acorn and fears the sky is falling. It’s not that there aren’t real and serious issues, problems that need to be addressed. But he is seeing connections between these issues and other factors that have nothing to do with them. The danger with Tucker is that his core belief, stated through much of his work, is that we need to control everything so that we can make all come out as it should. Any time you find somebody who thinks that kind of control is a good thing and that he totally knows how to manage it, you have found somebody who is dangerous. When you find somebody who believes he can control the entire machine but doesn’t really know how the parts fit together, you have found somebody who could make a serious mess. I’m really glad that Marc Tucker is in the world, but I’m even more glad that he’s not in charge.

One of the central narratives of the faux “reform” movement is that poverty is just an excuse for bad teachers. In my book “Reign of Error,” I documented many reformers claiming that poverty can be overcome by high expectations and great teachers. The fact that test scores reflect family income, they say, demonstrates that poor kids are not getting great teachers.

But social science research has demonstrated for decades that poverty hurts children and families. It means less access to medical care, good nutrition, and good housing. It means that families lack economic security, a decent home, and the many advantages that middle-income and upper-income families take for granted.

Now, new studies of brain development are showing that poverty has even deeper effects on children’s health and well-being than previously suspected. The effects of living without the basic necessities of life can damage children’s life prospects. In this age of affluence and austerity, it seems wildly radical to say it, but I will: education will improve if we reduce poverty. Poverty will decrease if the federal government creates real jobs. Real jobs will be created if the federal government invests in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The problems of our society should be addressed by action. Demonizing teachers does not help children or improve education.

To learn more, read Bob Herbert’s powerful book, Losing Our Way.


International test scores have been used by reformers like Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee as a fear tactic. During the 2016 presidential campaign, you will surely hear much wailing and gnashing of the teeth about how our scores on international tests are undermining our global competitiveness and economic growth.




Here is a post that I wrote in 2013; I updated it. It explains why those international test scores don’t matter, except to tell us that if we really wanted to raise them, we would reduce poverty. Let me say that again: if we reduced poverty, we would have higher scores on international tests.


“The news reports say that the test scores of American students on the latest PISA test are “stagnant,” “lagging,” “flat,” etc.


The U.S. Department of Education would have us believe–yet again–that we are in an unprecedented crisis and that we must double down on the test-and-punish strategies of the past dozen years.


The myth persists that once our nation led the world on international tests, but we have fallen from that exalted position in recent years.


Wrong, wrong, wrong.


Here is the background history that you need to know to interpret the PISA score release, as well as Secretary Duncan’s calculated effort to whip up national hysteria about our standing in the international league tables.


The U.S. has NEVER been first in the world, nor even near the top, on international tests.


Over the past half century, our students have typically scored at or near the median, or even in the bottom quartile. And yet during this same period, we grew to be one of the most powerful economies in the world. How could that be?


International testing began in the mid-1960s with a test of mathematics. The First International Mathematics Study tested 13-year-olds and high-school seniors in 12 nations. American 13-year-olds scored significantly lower than students in nine other countries and ahead of students in only one. On a test given only to students currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students scored last, behind those in the 11 other nations. On a test given to seniors not currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students again scored last.


The First International Science Study was given in the late 1960s and early 1970s to 10-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and seniors. The 10-year-olds did well, scoring behind only the Japanese; the 14-year-olds were about average. Among students in the senior year of high school, Americans scored last of eleven school systems.


In the Second International Mathematics Study (1981-82), students in 15 systems were tested. The students were 13-year-olds and seniors. The younger group of U.S. students placed at or near the median on most tests. The American seniors placed at or near the bottom on almost every test. The “average Japanese students achieved higher than the top 5% of the U.S. students in college preparatory mathematics” and “the algebra achievement of our most able students (the top 1%) was lower than that of the top 1% of any other country.” (The quote is from Curtis C. McKnight and others, The Underachieving Curriculum: Assessing U.S. Mathematics from an International Perspective, pp. 17, 26-27). I summarized the international assessments from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s in a book called National Standards in American Education: A Citizen’s Guide (Brookings, 1995).


The point worth noting here is that U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.


Does it matter?


In my last book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964. He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.” He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores. Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.


Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”


Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”


I agree with Baker. The more we focus on tests, the more we kill creativity, ingenuity, and the ability to think differently. Students who think differently get lower scores. The more we focus on tests, the more we reward conformity and compliance, getting the right answer.


Thirty-two years ago, a federal report called “A Nation at Risk” warned that we were in desperate trouble because of the poor academic performance of our students. The report was written by a distinguished commission, appointed by the Secretary of Education. The commission pointed to those dreadful international test scores and complained that “on 19 academic tests American students were never first or second and, in comparison with other industrialized nations, were last seven times.” With such terrible outcomes, the commission said, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” Yet we are still here, apparently the world’s most dominant economy. We still are a “Nation and a people.” What were they thinking? Go figure.


Despite having been proved wrong for the past half century, the Bad News Industry is in full cry, armed with the PISA scores, expressing alarm, fright, fear, and warnings of imminent economic decline and collapse.


Never do they explain how it was possible for the U.S. to score so poorly on international tests again and again over the past half century and yet still emerge as the world’s leading economy, with the world’s most vibrant culture, and a highly productive workforce.


From my vantage point as a historian, here is my takeaway from the PISA scores:


Lesson 1: If they mean anything at all, the PISA scores show the failure of the past thirteen years of public policy in the United States. The billions invested in testing, test prep, and accountability have not raised test scores or our nation’s relative standing on the league tables. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are manifest failures at accomplishing their singular goal of higher test scores.


Lesson 2: The PISA scores burst the bubble of the alleged “Florida miracle” touted by Jeb Bush. Florida was one of three states–Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida–that participated in the PISA testing. Massachusetts did very well, typically scoring above the OECD average and the US average, as you might expect of the nation’s highest performing state on NAEP. Connecticut also did well. But Florida did not do well at all. It turns out that the highly touted “Florida model” of testing, accountability, and choice was not competitive, if you are inclined to take the scores seriously. In math, Florida performed below the OECD average and below the U.S. average. In science, Florida performed below the OECD average and at the U.S. average. In reading, Massachusetts and Connecticut performed above both the OECD and U.S. average, but Florida performed at average for both.


Lesson 3: Improving the quality of life for the nearly one-quarter of students who live in poverty–and the 51% who live in low-income families– would improve their academic performance. If we had less poverty, we would have higher test scores.


Lesson 4: We measure only what can be measured. We measure whether students can pick the right answer to a test question. But what we cannot measure matters more. The scores tell us nothing about students’ imagination, their drive, their ability to ask good questions, their insight, their inventiveness, their creativity. If we continue the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in education, we will not only NOT get higher scores (the Asian nations are so much better at this than we are), but we will crush the very qualities that have given our nation its edge as a cultivator of new talent and new ideas for many years.


The fact is that during the past 13 years of high-stakes testing, American scores on the PISA exam have not budged at all. If anything, they have slipped a few points. Test and punish failed! No Child Left Behind failed! Race to the Top failed! Who shall we hold accountable? George W. Bush? His advisor Sandy Kress? Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings? Barack Obama? Arne Duncan? Congress? They forced states and districts to spend billions of dollars on testing, and all of this testing didn’t move the needle on the PISA tests. What if those billions had been spent instead to reduce class sizes? To provide health clinics for schools in poor communities? To create jobs? We need a new approach, and sadly, our policymakers continue to push the same failed ideas. The fact is that we have intolerably high levels of child poverty, and children who are poor register the lowest test scores. There is a simple but obvious formula: Reducing poverty will lift test scores.


Higher test scores should not be our national goal. Healthy, imaginative, curious children should be. Rather than focusing on test scores, I prefer to bet on the creative, can-do spirit of the American people, on its character, persistence, ambition, hard work, and big dreams, none of which are ever measured or can be measured by standardized tests like PISA.


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