Archives for category: Education Reform

The newspaper in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York (north of New York City) is called Its reporters have been outstanding in covering education issues in Albany and across the state. Unlike the New York Times, Lohud’s editorialists understand why parents are opting out. Instead of scolding them, as the Times did recently, Lohud calls on state leaders to listen to them and take action to address their grievances. Last year, 5% of the state’s students opted out; this year it was 20%. The New York opt out was so huge that it has received national attention. In some schools and districts (outside of New York City), opting out is the norm, not the exception. If state officials continue to threaten parents who opt out, you can bet there will be more opt outs next spring.

This is what wrote:

It seems that everyone has been trying to analyze the opt-out numbers from April’s state tests in math and ELA. But there’s not much to figure out. There’s no secret code in the numbers, no conspiracy to unravel. If you’ve been following the education wars during New York and the nation’s “reform” era, the meaning of the opt-out numbers should be plain: Growing numbers of parents are not happy with our educational direction.

The big question is not what the numbers show, but what our educational leaders will say or do to satisfy parents who had their children boycott April’s tests — or may do so next April. School starts in a few weeks, and what happens over the next few months may determine the future of the opt-out movement….

Real concerns

At a time when few people come out to vote on school budgets, and many parents are simply too busy to worry about non-essential matters, such a widespread movement cannot be easily dismissed — even if one disagrees with the decision to opt out.

Why did so many parents choose to defy state and federal insistence that the annual math and ELA tests provide essential information? There is no single reason. But several prominent concerns led the way:

Too much focus on new Common Core tests is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum and “teaching to the test.”

The use of student test scores to evaluate teachers may be inaccurate and unfair — and is hurting the morale of popular, proven local teachers.

The tests themselves are poorly conceived and have not been reviewed.

Test results are released too late, during August, to be of help teachers, parents or students.

Testing requirements are unfair to students with disabilities and recent English learners.

There are other concerns, of course. But the overall issue is that growing numbers of parents seem to believe that the trifecta of tougher standards, tougher tests and tougher teacher evaluations is not the answer to improving public education.

Many advocates and commentators continue to insist that the opt-out movement was surreptitiously created and nurtured by teachers unions, sort of like Frankenstein. This is simply not the case. At least in New York, the movement was built over several years — slowly, in stops and starts — by parent groups using social media. Local teachers unions started to publicly back the opt-out idea only in the final months before April’s tests. And NYSUT, the statewide union, did not jump in until the final weeks, after it was clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not allow lawmakers to topple his much-despised teacher-evaluation system.

The eval link

Speaking of teacher evaluations, school officials in the Lower Hudson Valley continue to say out loud what many lawmakers and state bureaucrats quietly know: that community-based discontent over the clumsy, ineffective evaluation system will only grow and will feed — guess what? — the opt-out movement. Bedford Schools Superintendent Jere Hochman, the new president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents (and a guy who tries to see things the state’s way) told our Editorial Board last week: “The whole system needs to be thrown out. Start over.”

The Westchester Putnam School Boards Association, in a new statement to the Education Department, condemns recent changes to the evaluation system as “disruptive to our schools, staff and students” and said the current plan “cannot and should not be salvaged.” The group also noted that the opt-out movement has exposed parental concerns about the “nexus” of high-stakes testing and evaluations.

School districts need an evaluation system that continually helps good teachers improve — leading to better classroom instruction — and identifies teachers who need help or can’t do the job. New York does not have such a system.

Class divide?

There’s been a great deal of focus on where large number of parents boycotted the tests and where the movement did not gain much traction. Analysts have emphasized low opt-out rates in both urban “poor” school systems and the state’s most affluent school districts. The state Education Department noted that most test-refusers were white and “more likely to be from a low or average need districts,” in other words, middle-class suburbanites.

But if you talk to educators and parents, there’s no mystery about why opt-out rates were higher in some places than others. In cities with high poverty rates, parents often don’t have the luxury of worrying about education policies because they are too focused on daily concerns and less connected to parent groups. Plus, in New York City, where the opt-out rate was less than 2 percent, test scores have long been tied to school admissions and student promotions. In affluent districts, meanwhile, officials and real estate agents worry that any form of public “discontent” will affect property values.

Yes, the opt-out movement has been driven by middle-class parents, conservatives and liberals, who don’t like the loss of local control over school matters.

It’s disturbing to hear some advocates suggest that parents who opt out are selfish because they are weakening a testing system that reveals the achievement gap facing poor, minority students. Everyone knows that the gap is perhaps the greatest challenge facing American schools. Figuring out how to close the gap is a more pressing question than how to better define it. We hope that the state’s new efforts to assist struggling schools will work out and provide new information on how to close the achievement gap.

Reigning in the opt-out movement will not be easy. Neither Elia nor Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch should expect instant results. It took several years of questionable state leadership before the opt-out movement took hold and gained momentum. It will likely take several years and some major policy changes to win back the trust of parents — and the teachers whom parents trust.

Leonie Haimson and Jeanette Deutermann explain here why the opt out movement is right and necessary. If policymakers continue on their present path, they predict, the opt out movement will grow and spread to many other states who see the power of grassroots activism.

They do so in response to editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post criticizing the parents who opt out of mandated testing.

The mainstream media echoes the Obama administration’s line that high-stakes testing will somehow promote equity and reduce the achievement gap, but as Haimson and Deutermann contend, thirteen years of No Child Left Behind demonstrate that this assertion is false.

Haimson and Deutermann write:

Why should parents put their children through this time-consuming, anxiety-producing and pointless exercise? When parents are repeatedly ignored by policymakers, opting out is their only option.

For months leading up to the assessments, and especially during the two weeks of testing, parents report their children show signs of anxiety, sleep problems, physical symptoms, school phobias and attention difficulties. This phenomenon has been growing among children as young as 8 years old. To add insult to injury, for the last three years the exams have become overly long and confusing, with incoherent questions like the pineapple passage on theeighth-grade exam in 2010, and the talking snake passage on thethird-grade test this year. Our youngest learners sit for up to 18 hours of state testing.

The most vulnerable children – students with disabilities and English language learners – are asked to endure exams that are so inappropriate even the state asked for waivers from the federal government, which were denied. Only 3.9 percent of English language learners and 5.7 percent of students with disabilities passed these exams. The bar should be set high for all children, but at an appropriate level for each child.

Parents have become increasingly frustrated at watching the alarming changes in their children and their education, along with the waste of precious tax dollars. More than 220,000 New York state parents chose to have their children refuse the state exams this year, in both high-performing suburban districts and struggling city schools, to express their anger. Many teachers joined parents in the fight to protect their students and the integrity of their profession. The question is, will the powers that be listen and make the necessary changes? If not, the number of opt-outs will continue to grow until parents’ voices are heard by policymakers, the tests are improved, the punitive, high-stakes exams removed, and real teaching and learning return to our classrooms.

Mitchell Robinson, a professor of music at Michigan State University, has figured out how the reform/privatization agenda works.

Robinson writes:

The typical reform agenda goes something like this:

*demoralize the teachers

*defund the unions

*dismantle the schools

*privatize public education

We see evidence of this approach in places like New Orleans with its “Recovery School District,” and Detroit, where Gov. Snyder’s Frankenstein-like “Education Achievement Authority” continues to deprive the students and citizens of local control of their schools. The reformers’ tactics are brutal and unforgiving: create a public perception that the schools are failing, the teachers are lazy, the unions are greedy, and the only solutions are to close schools, expand choice, provide vouchers and valorize charters.

However, one of the more subtle, yet damaging, weapons in the reformers’ playbook is simultaneously less visible to the uninformed eye and more insidious in its ability to accomplish the reformers’ ultimate goal: the destabilization of public education by an intentional, purposeful strategy of near-constant turnover and turmoil in the leadership and teaching force in the schools…..

Detroit is a textbook case of the reform strategy for destroying public education.

An especially egregious example of this sort of intentional destabilization can be seen in the Detroit Public Schools, which has been under state control for most of the previous 15 years (1999-2005, 2009-2016). Under the Snyder administration, Detroit’s schools have suffered from a systematic defunding of facilities and equipment, sub-standard working conditions, safety concerns, drastic curriculum narrowing, and poor teacher morale as a result of the state’s takeover. Recent estimates are that fewer than 30% of Detroit’s children have access to school music classes, and only 40% have an art teacher. In 2014, Renaissance High School, long considered a bastion of high quality arts programming in the city, suffered devastating cuts to its music program, signaling a troubling trend in priorities from Detroit’s educational leaders.

Detroit Public Schools has had four leaders in the past four years.

It’s hard to understand how a school system can make any sort of sustained progress with a veritable revolving door of administrative transition occurring in the central offices–and this is certainly the case in Detroit: “Under emergency managers Robert Bobb, Roy Roberts and Martin, DPS has shed tens of thousands of students, closed dozens of schools and struggled with persistent deficits…Last fall’s (2014) preliminary enrollment was 47,238, less than half of the 96,000 students attending DPS when Bobb was appointed.”

It’s beyond time to declare Gov. Snyder’s approach to education reform in Detroit a resounding failure. The state has had 15 years to “fix” the problems they created through a massive disinvestment of public education in Michigan, and Detroit’s children and teachers have paid the price as a seemingly endless parade of highly paid “experts” have failed to turn the ship around.

State control is not only NOT a panacea; it is a manifest failure.

Robinson says it is past time to turn the public schools back to the people of Detroit. They might make mistakes but they are more trustworthy with their children than Governor Snyder and his appointees.

Joshua Liebner, a National Board Certified Teacher in Los Angeles, has been fighting the destruction of public education in Los Angeles and across the nation. He was alarmed to learn that the 1% just became sponsors of education coverage in the Los Angeles Times. He now believes it is time for the Black Lives Matter movement to ally with those who are fighting the corporate assault on public education:

This is an urgent appeal to the leaders of Black Lives Matter:

It is not that far a distance from “I can’t learn” to “I can’t breathe”.

The objectives and consciousness raising of Black Lives Matter is inextricably linked to the education that all our kids are exposed to.

The Education Reform movement as being pushed by all the GOP candidates, but alas, is backed by many Neo-liberals in the Democratic Party including President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The 1% of this country funds “philanthropic” foundations that support a disastrous public education policy that offers more testing, more computerized instruction, less field trip and enrichment opportunities, larger class sizes and more scripted instruction to the children in urban school systems.

It is the complete opposite kind of education that they desire for their own children.

The Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Wassermans and The United Way are just a few of the organizations that are dedicated to making the world MORE unequal and MORE unjust with their Orwellian perversion of Civil Rights language. They seek to create more disparity, more dysfunction in our communities.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was brilliantly capable of seeing how many factors were linked to his original cause of equality and justice. In the last years of his life, King was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and a champion of the War on Poverty for all people. All these issues were part and parcel with Civil Rights and by addressing them, King was advancing his original calling to the rights and dignity of black people in America (and ultimately the world over).

King was fearless in criticizing the power structure of this country who operated under different rules than the rest of its people. Even when they were on “his side” for some issues, he never compromised in “shutting up” on all the other causes they were still guilty of “shutting down” that affected black people.

There is nothing more glaring than the type of education that leaders of the wealthy Education Reform Movement desire for their own kids in contrast to what they prescribe for everyone else’s children.

I would hope for activism and a presence at Sidwell Friends where President Obama sends his kids.

I would hope for activism and a presence at the University of Chicago Lab School where Arne Duncan sends his kids.

Black Education Matters and if Eli Broad and the other plutocrats believe that Dr. King would be on their side in this struggle, it is time to mount a mighty offensive to disabuse this belief.

Consider where your kids go to school, how they are funded and their daily conditions and experiences. Imagine how different their future and opportunities would be if the priorities of the rich were the birthright of them as well.

We in the front lines of urban education are committed to social justice for all children and believe in the rights of parents, schools and communities to act in the best interest of their children. Not the Super PAC’s of the 1% who have vested interests in profiting off the system that is supposed to assist our children–not fatten their own stock portfolios.

I would hope our causes can be linked in the mutual interest of our children.

We want these kids to breathe and learn and go on to change the world.

Yours in solidarity,

–Joshua Leibner, NBCT

Prachi Srivastava, a professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa, is an expert on the subject of low-fee private schooling. She writes here on the Oxfam blog in response to The Economist’s paean of praise to for-profit private schooling in poor countries. She reviews the research and says that The Economist oversimplified the subject. The research does not support the simplistic view that the private sector is invariably better than the public sector as a provider of education in poor countries. The findings are in fact nuanced.

And this problem remains, after all the research is reviewed:

The growth of the low-fee private sector has been widely attributed to dysfunctional state schools. But state failure should not be tacitly accepted, certainly in light of the evidence. The fact remains that the majority of the poorest, most disadvantaged children in poor countries continue to access dysfunctional state schools. And all of us, including the private sector, have a role to play in making sure they get better.

Jeff Bryant says that John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, is now getting serious attention because he presented himself as a “moderate” and a “do-er” at the Fox News Republican candidate debate.

Yet in all this horse-race analysis there is very little scrutiny of what Kasich’s track record actually is in the state he governed for the past four years – a consideration that should matter a lot in order to be recognized as a candidate in the first rank.

On the economic policy front, Kasich has very little to brag about. According to a recent op ed by Dale Butland of Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank in that state, Kasich makes a case for his economic prowess based on an increase in jobs in his state since the Great Recession. But compared to other states, Ohio has “led the nation in lost jobs” and “is still about 140,000 jobs short of where we were in 2007 before the downturn began.” Job creation in the Buckeye state has “lagged the national average for 20 straight months” and kept its rank mired at 41st.

Butland points to an analysis by the Associated Press that shows “Ohio’s real median household income fell from $54,000 in 2007 to $45,000 in 2012 – a far steeper drop than for the nation as a whole. Nearly half of Ohio households now live paycheck to paycheck, and 16 percent have fallen into poverty.”

Another analysis from the Center for American Progress finds Kasich presided over an economy of expanding inequality where “the share of the total income generated across Ohio that has gone to the middle class has declined sharply,” and there has been “increasing concentration of income among extremely wealthy Ohioans.”

Jeff says that governors can always claim that global and national economic trends are outside their control.

So it is important to examine what they have done on education specifically, because they have more control over education policy than economic trends.

Jeff writes:

As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush slashed education budgets, rolled out an absurd school grading system that stigmatized schools serving low-income kids, and opened the door to an invasion of corrupt charter school operations. In overseeing New Jersey schools, one of the top school systems in the country, Chris Christie has bullied teachers, slashed funding, and made the whole system vastly more unequal. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has cut education spending, especially to the state’s prized university system, weakened teachers’ job protections, and spread a failed voucher scheme from Milwaukee across the state.

But the effect Governor Kasich has had on public education policy in Ohio is especially atrocious.

A quick report card compiled by Innovation Ohio, a progressive advocacy group in the state, finds that under a Kasich administration school spending hasn’t kept pace with inflation. This has left many school districts to rely more on local property taxes for funding, a financial situation that is virtually guaranteed to increase inequity in support of low-income schools. In the meantime, Kasich has jacked up the proportion of school funds diverted to private pockets, spending over $1 billion a year on charter schools and increasing the amount of money in the state’s voucher program by 113 percent.

Other education funding facts provided by Innovation Ohio

Traditional public schools, which educate 90 percent of Ohio’s kids, receive $515 million less state funding than before Gov. Kasich took office.
Charter school funding has increased by 27 percent, and charters now receive more state money per pupil than do traditional public schools.
These factors alone should make anyone think twice before letting Kasitch get anywhere near the US Department of Education – the federal agency historically tasked with enforcing states to uphold education equity in their school systems. But Kasich’s education record is so bad, a more in-depth examination is merited.

He adds:

Right after he took office, Kasich trashed a school spending upgrade put into place by previous Governor Ted Strickland that would have, according to an article in Education Week, revamped state standards and assessments, required all-day kindergarten, and gradually increased spending to align with a “series of court decisions finding the state’s school finance system unconstitutional.”

He stocked the state board of education with charter school advocates, and undermined the state superintendent of education, Deborah Delisle, by creating an Office of 21st Century Education that would work on a “parallel track” to bring more “school choice” to the state. Then he appointed a former charter school executive Robert Sommers to head that office. Delisle was forced to resign.

Then Kasich and Sommers turned their attention to passing a bill, Senate Bill 5, which, according to an Education Week reporter, “would have stripped teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.” When educators fought back by getting the bill put up for a vote in a ballot recall, Ohioans overwhelmingly agreed, voting to reject that measure by a 22-point margin.

With the backing of the state legislature, Kasich then put into place a Jeb Bush style grading system that unfairly labeled schools serving high poverty kids “underperforming.” School officials in Cincinnati, who lead the state’s highest rated school system, denounced the grading system and said it would cause more families to opt for charter schools.

On the matter of charters, Educations Week’s state policy reporter Andrew Ujifusa finds, “The number of charter schools in Ohio has grown on Kasich’s watch, from about 325 in 2011 to about 370 today,” and “the governor made expanding state aid for charter school facility costs a top priority” even though “a study of Ohio charter schools’ performance found their students to lag behind their counterparts in traditional public schools.”

Under Kasich, Ohio charter schools have become a national embarrassment. Recently, an Ohio newspaper ran a story with the headline, “Ohio’s charter schools ridiculed at national conference, even by national charter supporters.”

The story gets worse from there. Cronyism, political patronage, wasted taxpayer dollars, manipulation of data for the benefit of charters and political donors.

This story is not about American education.

It was posted a few hours ago on the New York Times. I was so horrified that I wanted to share it so others could see and learn about the evil that is occurring in our world.

It is about ISIS and the systematic rape of enslaved women and girls of the Yazidi religion. This is so far out of my understanding of the world that I have trouble comprehending it.

The world must pay attention. The world must act to protect the innocents.

A suggestion from a reader:

Just sent an email to Rachel Maddow with a link to the Bad Ass Teachers website that has the article on it. I would suggest that others of you send an email as well. Here’s her email . I tried also to send something to Chris Matthews but couldn’t find an email to send it. If anyone finds something please post. I believe we need to bring things like this to the attention of the media because they tend to accept it because it’s accept by Obama or any one else that they believe in. Doesn’t matter what party they go with they will only believe those from the party they trust. Since both Republicans and Democrats are wrecking public education it must be best for the country. We need to put it in their faces that it’s causing segregation and force them to face it. The more of us that send emails to them the more they’ll be confronted by it. Maybe one of them will truly be a journalist and investigate it. Here’s the email that I sent to Maddow.

Go to
and read about what both parties are doing to our education system. It is undermining the democratic process and causing segregation in places like Little Rock, Arkansas. Please use your investigative reporting skills to check out what’s happening to the Public schools. Without public education there will be no viable middle class.

Karen Wolfe is an activist for public education in Los Angeles. Here she responds to the news that Eli Broad and the Walton family plan to pour millions into increasing charter school enrollments in Los Angeles; their hope is to capture 50% of the children for the privately managed schools. Despite the fact that studies show that charters on average do not outperform as compared to public schools, despite the fact that twenty-five years of charters have produced no innovations (other than to go back to the 19th century way of doing things in the strictest manner possible), despite the numerous frauds and financial scandals associated with charters, Broad, Walton, and a few more billionaires want to destroy the public school system of Los Angeles to have their way. Public education belongs to the entire community; it is undemocratic to allow a handful of billionaires to take possession of half the children enrolled in the public schools and turn them over to franchise operators.

Karen Wolfe writes that the outcome depends on Steve Zimmer, the recently elected school board president, who has walked a fine line between supporting public schools and placating the privatizers (who spent $4 million trying to defeat him when he last ran for re-election):

The timing of this plan is no surprise at all. The powerful California charter lobby seems to be at their wits end after recent losses. Let’s assess.

The first big loss was Steve Zimmer’s election two years ago, despite their spending more than any previous school board race in US history, according to published reports at the time. Subsequently, the corporate privatizers have lost almost every time a vote has been put to the people.

Last year’s election of Tom Torlakson for California’s State Superintendent was seen as a referendum on corporate privatization–and we public school advocates won. California is one of the few states that resisted Race to the Top reforms.

The LA teacher’s union election also brought in leaders with a broader understanding of the fight for public schools. They still need to prove their mettle at building support among parents and student groups who seek an ally in improving our schools without selling them off. But the potential looks better than before. CTA, the state teachers union, remains a strong force in the state capitol, despite the charter lobby’s increasing presence.

The L.A. Mayor’s office is no longer carrying the water of the corporate privatizers either. New Mayor Eric Garcetti has resisted the repeated taunts of Broad and the other plutocrats to push their agenda. Garcetti is a distinct departure to his predecessor, the self-proclaimed “Education Mayor” Villaraigosa, who was trying to share the national charter stage with Bloomberg and Emanuel.

A notable exception is the election of disgraced PUC charter founder Ref Rodriguez to the school board, joining his charter cheerleader Monica Garcia. But now Steve Zimmer is board president and, if that position carries any weight, it might be making the charter lobby nervous. Often the swing vote in a split-down-the-middle board, Zimmer is now presiding over a new board that should give him more courage than he has previously displayed. His unwavering support of John Deasy and his support of almost every single charter school petition that came before the board have alienated many of Zimmer’s backers. We are anxious to see him prove himself to be the champion of our neighborhood schools that he recently proclaimed he was (in an AFT video posted on this blog).

This revelation that the charter groups have lost their patience and are announcing a public attack should be met with redoubled resistance. We have done the work to elect officials who will champion our public schools, even against wealthy special interests like the groups in this article. But the board needs to listen to community members and truly consider the supports that are necessary to enable our neighborhood schools to stand up to the threat of charters. We advocates need to know our school board is behind us as we fight for the very survival of our schools. I wrote this article for our local newspaper about what we need in Zimmer’s district, where I live, and have never heard from the school board about it.

There are advocates in other neighborhoods that have come up with similar plans and the board should solicit them. The point is that the board needs its public constituency or eventually no one will care who wins this policy debate.

Stanley Kurtz has a very interesting article at the conservative National Review, calling out Jeb Bush for pretending that he does not really support the Common Core standards and that he is in favor of local control. At the Republican debate last week, Jeb was questioned about his strong support for Common Core, and he equivocated, trying to leave the impression that he had no particular allegiance to Common Core. He said, “I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards, directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum content. That is clearly a state responsibility.”

As Kurtz documents, Jeb has been one of the loudest cheerleaders for Common Core, even though federal involvement in its creation (requiring its adoption as a condition of eligibility for Race to the Top funding) and in directly subsidizing Common Core testing (PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment) arguably violates federal law. Federal law explicitly bans any federal interference in curriculum and instruction, and no one can say with a straight face that CCSS has no connection to or influence on curriculum and instruction.

Kurtz is particularly good in describing the Orwellian language of “education reform,” in which reformers say the opposite of what they mean. Readers of this blog have long seen the way that “reformers” twist words to pretend that their corporate-model names and policies are “for the children” (like Students First, Students Matter, Children First, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, Stand for Children, and other poll-tested obfuscations of reality).

Kurtz writes:

The story of the profoundly undemocratic process by which Common Core was adopted by the states doesn’t end there. A devastating account by The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton (hardly a Geroge Will-style conservative) lays it out. Federal carrots and sticks, along with massive infusions of Gates Foundation money, at a moment when state budgets were stressed to the breaking point by the financial crisis, stampeded more than forty states into adopting a completely untested reform, often sight unseen or before the standards themselves had been finalized.

A deliberative process that ought to have taken years was telescoped into months. In nearly every case, the change was made without a single vote by an elected lawmaker, much less a statewide public debate. And all the while, the Obama administration intentionally obscured the full extent of its pressure on the states.

Common Core proponents have concocted a fiction according to which this travesty of federalism and democracy was “state led,” using the fig leaf of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), which helped to develop the plan. CCSSO is a private group, with no known grant of authority from any state. Likewise, NGA is a private group, and seems not to include all governors (the list of dues-paying members has not been made public, at least in previous years). None of this can begin to substitute for a truly “state led” process, which would change education standards via legislatures and governors, after full consultation with the public. The Obama administration has dismissed legitimate complaints about this process as a kind of conspiracy theory, yet its own liberal supporters have praised its tactics as a clever ruse to circumvent the constitutional, legal, and political barriers to a national curriculum.

I am sorry to say that Jeb Bush has been a leading supporter and cheerleader of this process from the start, often portraying what was in fact an illegitimate federal power-grab as a sterling example of local control.

In a co-authored 2011 opinion piece making “The Case for Common Educational Standards,” Bush and New York educator Joel Klein deny federal overreach and present the states as voluntarily enrolling in Common Core. They speak of two testing consortia “of the states,” without noting federal financing of these national consortia. Bush and Klein portray a program explicitly designed to create uniform national standards as embodying “the beauty of our federal system.” Day is night.

Kurtz goes on to show how Jeb worked with Obama and Duncan to maintain the fiction that Common Core was “state-led” and was the answer to our problems:

The Washington Post recently reported on Jeb’s appearance with Obama in March of 2011 to push the president’s education agenda. Bush’s alliance with the Obama administration on education policy was in fact broad and deep. They differed on school choice, yet were aligned on much else, Common Core above all.

Consider the following 2010 video of an appearance by Obama education secretary Arne Duncan at Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Duncan goes on about how many states have adopted Common Core (between 7:10 and 9:50), while repeatedly denying federal responsibility for the change. The secretary doth protest too much, methinks.

After Duncan’s talk, he and Jeb jointly take questions from the audience. Here it becomes obvious that on education policy, Jeb sees himself as allied with Duncan and Obama — in opposition to local-control-loving conservatives (as well as liberal teachers’ unions). Jeb’s political solution to attacks on the Common Core is to “push the two groups who are not reform-minded further away from what I think is the mainstream.” (See video between 27:30 and 29:30.)

There are two errors in the account above. First, Jeb and Obama do not differ on school choice except for vouchers. It may be awkward for an author to admit in a conservative publication that the Obama administration has been all-in for charters and private management of schools. Duncan has been a cheerleader for privately-managed charters and Common Core. Indeed, the administration has not fought vouchers, even as they spread from state to state. Duncan has been strangely silent on the subject of vouchers. Nor has the Obama administration done anything to defend collective bargaining, other than lip service. On March 11, 2011, Jeb Bush, President Obama and Secretary Duncan were in Miami celebrating the successful turnaround of Miami Central High School, ignoring the thousands of protestors encircling the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was enacting legislation to cripple the public sector unions (but not fire and police unions!).

The second error in Kurtz’s account is to assert that the teachers’ unions were against Common Core. Both the NEA and the AFT were early supporters of Common Core; neither has renounced the standards.

And there is another error in this claim: Bush touts his education accomplishments as Florida governor, and they were real. But Jeb raised a bottom-performing state to average, which is easier than moving from the middle of the pack to the top.

Many critics think that Jeb Bush’s education accomplishments are a sham. His A-F school grading system punishes the schools with the neediest children. His dramatic expansion of charters has created a corrupt industry of hucksters who open and close charters and take the money to the bank. He fought for vouchers, tried to amend the state constitution, but was rebuked at the polls on vouchers by a vote of 58-42. Florida has a lower graduation rate than Alabama. With “accomplishments” like this, he could destroy public education and ruin the nation.


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