The Badass Teachers Association wrote a letter congratulating Hillary Clinton on her announced candidacy for the Presidency. They remind her of many strong statements she has made in support of public education. And they pose a list of issues that are very important to them and to teachers and parents across the nation.
This is an excerpt from the BATs letter to Hillary:
We have been reviewing the history of your educational platform with interest in anticipation of your announcement.
In 2000 you said:
“I’ve been involved with schools now for 17 years, working on behalf of education reform. And I think we know what works. We know that getting classroom size down works. That’s why I’m for adding 100,000 teachers to the classroom. We know that modernizing and better equipping our schools works. And we know that high standards works. But what’s important is to stay committed to the public school system.”
As an organization we could NOT agree more. We believe that when you add REAL educators to the table when discussing education policy, you do so because educators know what works.
In 2007 at the NYSUT Convention in NY you said,
“Public education must be defended, yes it has to be modernized but never doubt for a minute if we turned our back on public education we would be turning our back on America. I will not let that happen.”
We are pleased to hear those amazing words of support for public education. In your long history of public service, you have proven you can be a friend to education. You pushed for universal pre-kindergarten, arts education, after-school tutoring, smaller class sizes and the rights of families. As a college student in the 1960s, you even volunteered to teach reading to children in poor Boston neighborhoods. You fought to ensure voting access for African Americans and even worked at an alternative newspaper in the black community.
In 2007, you said of testing:
NCLB stifles originality and forces teachers to focus on preparing students for tests. You criticized the program as underfunded and overly restrictive.
You asked delegates at the NEA of New Hampshire, “While the children are getting good at filling in all those little bubbles, what exactly are they really learning?”
You continued, “How much creativity are we losing? How much of our children’s passion is being killed?”
We are hoping that statements like this follow you into the White House!
In 2007 you said of public education:
“The majority of children are educated in the public education system. So we have to support the public education system whether or not our children are in it or whether or not we have children. The public education system is a critical investment for the well-being of all of us.”
We could not agree with you more. We feel , like you, that an investment in strong public education is the best investment this country can make!
We were most happy to hear this statement that you made in 2007, “I do not support vouchers. And the reason I don’t is because I don’t think we can afford to siphon dollars away from our underfunded public schools.”
Many educators are skeptical of promises because they feel betrayed by President Obama and Arne Duncan, whose program differs not at all from NCLB (except that it is ever more punitive and has set off a national fetish for measuring teachers by student test scores, a practice unknown in any of the world’s high-performing nations). Teachers, principals, and the millions who work in public schools and support public schools are looking for a genuine commitment to strengthen our nation’s public education system and to stop expanding privatization.
Will Hillary Clinton win the support of educators? She has her work cut out for her to win their hearts and minds after the last seven years of test-and-punish-and-privatize. In 2000, before the charter industry evolved into a competitive and boastful sector, embraced by the Walton family and rightwing governors; before the federal government mandated high-stakes testing every year for every child from grades 3-8; before the U.S. Department of Education became the cheerleader for profit making enterprises, charter schools, the Common Core, and the testing industry; before Teach for America lost its idealism and turned into a richly funded temp agency; before the onslaught against collective bargaining and teachers’ due process rights; Hillary’s commitment to public education would not have been doubted. But Arne Duncan has managed to demoralize educators and turn the federal department of education into a source of unfunded mandates and bad, top-down ideas. Hillary Clinton will have to prove herself to educators and parents to win their support. They were fooled once.