Archives for category: Democrats

Two dedicated pro-public education advocates, Chuck Pascal and Troy LaRaviere, wrote important amendments that were adopted and incorporated into the Democratic platform.

Because of them, with important support by Randi Weingarten, the platform now takes a stand against the high-stakes testing regime, opposes school closing shift based on test scores, opposes evaluating teachers by test scores, and emphasizes the importance of democratically-controlled public schools. The platform continues to support “high quality charter schools,” without defining what that means: high test scores? Or something else?

Ironically, the transcripts cited here were made by Education Reform Now, an affiliate of Democrats for Education Now, the organization created by hedge fund managers to promote charter schools.

The updated text can be found here.

An unofficial transcript of the session can be found here.

Politico reports that Democrats for Education Reform, the hedge funders’ charter advocacy group, is not happy with the amendments to the platform proposed by supporters of public schools Troy LaRaviere of Chicago and Chuck Pascal of Pennsylvania:

NO CANDIDATE LEFT BEHIND: While Democrats have yet to publish their most recent platform language, education-focused groups are already sniping about it. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the new language “represents a refreshing sea change in its approach to public education” and “makes it clear that Democrats are committed to ending the failed era of test-and-sanction.” AFT is pointing to amendments to the draft language it says were adopted in Orlando during the weekend platform meeting – amendments that voice support for parents who want to opt their children out of standardized tests, demand more accountability for charter schools, and oppose using student test scores in teacher evaluations. All of those stances are favored by teachers unions.

– But Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, called the amendments an “unfortunate departure from President Obama’s historic education legacy” and said that these changes came about because the platform drafting committee “inexplicably” allowed the process to be “hijacked.” Your dutiful Morning Education scribes will post the final platform draft as soon as it’s available.

As you surely know, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed former Secretary Hillary Clinton at a joint appearance in New Hampshire today.

I listened on the radio to their respective speeches. Bernie was inspirational as he recapped his campaign themes and said that he believed Hillary Clinton would be faithful to his agenda. Hillary Clinton echoed much of what Bernie Sanders said. Both sought unity, facing what is likely to be a tough campaign against Donald Trump. Trump has turned his campaign into an almost stereotypical Republican tough-guy appeal to the Silent Majority. He continually tells people that America is weak but he is strong. He supports “America First,” a phrase that I thought was long associated with the discredited isolationist wing of the GOP. He says that the world laughs at us because we are losers; he will turn us into winners again. I listened to him speak in Indiana this evening, and he said–referring to the Dallas shootings–that he is the candidate who is “tough on crime.” He said again and again that he would build the wall shutting off our southern border, with a gate that opens only for those who have met legal requirements. He said to the crowd, “Who will pay for the wall?” And they thundered back, “Mexico!” I want to know why Trump thinks that the Mexican government is ready to pay billions of dollars to build a wall. I don’t get it.

He is hitting all the right notes in appealing to an angry, fearful public, one that is rightfully worried about their jobs and their economic well-being. Underlying their fear, however, is old-fashioned nativism, a sense that outsiders, aliens, immigrants are taking over the country and that white males are losing their commanding power.

I juxtapose these events with my day. I decided a few days ago that since I had endorsed Hillary and plan to vote for her, I would make a contribution to her campaign. I bought tickets to a special matinee of “Hamilton,” whose cast and crew put on a Tuesday matinee for a private performance dedicated to her campaign. I sat with my partner, Mary, my son and his spouse, and our 9-year-old grandson. For reasons I don’t understand, the show has an enormous following among teens and pre-teens. My grandson was mouthing the words as he watched.

The show was everything it is cracked up to be. I am not a huge fan of rap, yet this show won me over. It seemed to be a rap operetta. The energy of the dancing and staging is remarkable. It is dazzling, fast-moving, and conceptually brilliant. It is the story of the founding of America, with the founding fathers played by actors of color. The show was introduced by historian Ron Chernow, who wrote the Hamilton biography that served as source material for the play.

When it ended, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, spoke to the audience about the show. He literally reinvented the founding of our nation to include everyone. He said the show was about our founding ideals, and our struggle to reach them, which always fell short. Because humans are fallible, he said, we never reach them, yet we keep trying. And he posed the question: Who is likely to keep trying to meet those ideals–Clinton or Trump? The choice was easy.

Miranda then introduced Hillary Clinton, who had just flown in from New Hampshire and was glowing. The audience belonged to her, so there was a lot of love in the room.

Bernie Sanders promised to travel the nation to rally his followers to vote for Clinton. The threat of a Trump presidency is unthinkable. From his performance today, we can expect that he will use his travels to build the movement that he launched. And that will be good for all of us.

Karen Wolfe reports here the precise language of the amendments that were added to the Democratic platform on charters, testing, restorative justice, and other important topics.

This is heartening.

When the election is over, and I hope that Hillary Clinton is elected, we will count on her to remember the party platform.

We also bear in mind that policy comes from people, more than from the platform. It is important to get the platform right but even more important to see who is named Secretary of Education, and who is chosen for top education policy positions. Those of us who want to see better public schools for all children must keep up the pressure, now and in the future.

Peter Greene watched the discussion of education by the Democratic platform committee, and he was surprised by a good turn in the language used for charter schools.

The original platform language had squishy rhetoric about charter schools. Thanks to the behind-the-scenes work of Troy LaRivere (the elementary school principal who was pushed out of his school by the Chicago Public School leadership, most likely for his outspokenness against high-stakes testing and charter schools as well as his endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the primary); Chuck Pascal, a Sanders delegate from Pennsylvania (this blog helped to raise money to pay his way to Orlando for the platform meetings); and Christine Kramar, a Nevada delegate who is devoted to public education. These activists had the support of Randi Weingarten, and some of their platform changes were accepted.

Peter Greene writes about the most important of them: the charter language. The original platform spoke out against for-profit charters, but Peter has shown in other posts that the difference between for-profit charters and non-profit charters is often a distinction without a difference.

He writes:

Randi and this amendment do make a new kind of distinction– that when charters disrupt and displace traditional public schools, that’s a Bad Thing. Which is a remarkably direct challenge to the modern charter model, which says that disruption and displacement of the public school system is the goal. It’s the closest I think I’ve heard a national union leader get to saying, “The goals of charter proponents are bad, destructive, wrong goals.” So I’m happy for that….

But the original platform definition of Bad Charter was just “a for-profit charter” which seriously overlooked the point that non-profit charters are just as bad (and profitable) as the for-profits. This new language defines a Bad Charter as one that does not have democratically-elected governance, does not serve the exact same population as the the local public school, and that destabilizes or damages the health of that local public school.”

In other words, the new language offers a much broader understanding of when a charter school is Not Okay than the draft did.

Peter would have preferred language that recognized that charters by nature undermine public schools, but he was pleased that the Democratic party moved to recognize the damage that charters inflict on neighborhood public schools and to propose that this damage should no longer be permitted.

John Thompson has some good ideas to improve the Democratic party platform, from a teacher’s point of view.

He adds his suggestions to the platform language, in bold:

Democrats will invest in early childhood programs like Early Head Start and provide every family in America with access to high-quality childcare and high-quality pre-K programs. … To close the opportunity gap, we also must find ways to encourage mentoring programs that support students in reaching their full potential and make schooling a collaborative, team effort.

We must renew and expand our commitment to Community Health Centers, as well as … full-service community schools.

Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration. … We need to provide greater investment in jobs and education, and end to the school-to-prison pipeline, by funding Restorative Justice programs and opposing the mass suspension of students from No Excuses charter schools.

Democrats believe that we should not be contracting, outsourcing, or privatizing work that is inherently governmental in nature, including postal services, school services, and traditional public schools.

A major reason for the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits have been under attack at all levels. …Democrats believe so-called “right to work” laws are wrong for workers and wrong for America. We will continue to vigorously oppose Vergara v California and the other lawsuits led by Campbell Brown’s The 74, which would strike down laws protecting the due process rights of teachers.

We believe that personnel is policy. We will nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to venture philanthropists who would silence the teaching profession and curtail its ability to contribute our professional judgments in debates over education policy.

Large corporations have concentrated their control over markets to a greater degree than Americans have seen in decades—further evidence that the deck is stacked for those at the top. Democrats will take steps to stop corporate concentration in any industry and in public education where it’s unfairly limiting competition by forcing traditional public schools to compete with CMOs, that don’t serve their share of poor and special education students, and English Language Learners, using the unreliable test results as the metric for keeping score.

Public education must engage students to be critical thinkers and civic participants while addressing the wellbeing of the whole child. Democrats believe that all students should be taught to high academic standards. Under no circumstances will we agree to the segregating of poor children of color into second class CMOs that impose soul-killing behaviorism and worksheet-driven instruction in order to jack up test scores and/or to defeat and privatize traditional public schools.

Peter Greene does not like the draft platform of the Democratic party.

The rhetoric and the jargon were too much for him.

Susan Ochshorn of ECE Policy Works offers these thoughts for the Democratic platform:

1) Children are rarely mentioned in this document. They are our precious “human capital,” the future of our nation and a robust democracy. I find their absence disturbing overall, but especially so in the section, “Poverty/Communities Left Behind.”

America’s child poverty rate puts us second only to Romania among advanced economies. The poverty rate for children under age 6 hovers around 22 percent. There are also whole communities of children across the nation living in communities of concentrated poverty, where more than 40 percent of families live below the line. All of this, in the richest nation in the world. [Diane’s note: Romania is not an ‘advanced nation,’ even though Susan correctly notes that some UN organizations created a list in which we ranked behind Romania in child poverty.]

2) Socioeconomic status has been shown to be a key factor in children’s academic success. Children living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to adverse childhood experiences–maternal depression, domestic and community violence, substance abuse, etc.–and suffer from toxic stress, which affects their ability to thrive in school.

3) Given all of the above, we need a much more comprehensive, holistic approach to early care and education. Universal preschool is essential, but families need support from the prenatal period, after birth, with paid parental leave and high-quality infant/toddler care. We must look to effective models of education that attend to the whole child, including community schools, which bring together social and mental health services and supports for parents.

4) We need to re-imagine education for all of our students, but especially for our youngest children, whose natural zest for learning we are squashing under the demands of standards-based accountability and the narrowed curriculum of the Common Core. The Finns, whose educational outcomes are stellar, see schools as laboratories for democracy–places of joy, exploration, and inquiry. They respect the unique developmental path of each child. Their children are not pushed into academic work and high-stakes testing at an early age.

Arthur Camins wrote this speech a year ago, but it remains timely today, as Democrats consider what their party stands for:

Almost all parents want the same thing for their children — an education that will prepare them well for life, work and citizenship. They want classrooms in which their children are known and valued. They want a well-rounded education that engages their children to stimulate and expand their interests, critical thinking, and imagination. They want well-prepared teachers who continue to grow in expertise, just like other professionals. They want high-quality neighborhood schools that remain open. They want a say in the governance of schools in their communities.

This is a shared dream that cuts across the racial, religious, socio-economic and geographic differences that too often divide us. The past several decades have moved us away from, not toward this dream. It is time for us to move forward again.

Here is what we need to do.

We need to move away from inequitable local property tax-based school funding that rewards the wealthy and penalizes everyone else. Some may say we cannot afford to do this. I say we cannot afford not to. The human and economic costs of inequity are too high a price to pay. We can afford this investment if we reorient our national priorities and tax structures.

We need to invest in ensuring the quality of the community public schools we already have rather than in escape schemes for individuals such as expanding the number of charter schools or funding vouchers for private schools. We need systemic strategies for all, not escape hatches for the few. We are all diminished when some of our children don’t get the highest quality education.

We need federal incentives to promote well-integrated schools. We live in an increasingly diverse country. In fact, diversity is our strength. Putting our heads in the sand divides us, while protecting the privileges of the few. Learning to live and work together is essential for all of our futures. That begins with our children’s education.

We need federal support for well-prepared, career educators who have the time and resources to continue to hone their knowledge and expertise. Teaching children and meeting their diverse needs is every bit as complex as practicing medicine or law. We need to treat teachers as professionals with this same level of support and respect.

We need to fund special education so that meeting the needs of some children does not drain local resources away from meeting the needs of all children.

Finally, we need to shift federal resources toward supporting teachers’ expertise with assessment and feedback about everyday classwork and away from over-testing students and punishment of their teachers based on flawed data.

These are the bold steps we need to take to achieve our dreams for all of our children. It will not be easy. We cannot do it by competing with one another or treating our schools like businesses competing in the marketplace. We can only achieve the dream as a community.

We can do this together. It’s time! If not now, then when?

Arthur H. Camins is the director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He has taught and been an administrator in New York City, Massachusetts and Louisville, Kentucky. The ideas expressed in this article are his alone and do not represent Stevens Institute.

Several members of the Democratic party’s platform committee sent me the draft of the platform. It is linked below so we can all reflect on what is being considered. This is a draft so it can be changed. Please read it and send your best ideas.

The section on education contains a lot of reformer lingo. Zip codes. Options. Accountability. The Democratic party favors “high academic standards.” Who favors “low academic standards?” The party opposes too much testing; who favors too much testing?

The rhetoric about “high academic standards” brings echoes of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to see a statement about meeting the needs of all children? Or ensuring that all schools have the staff and resources they need for the children they enroll?

And then there’s the section on charters. The party is against for-profit charters: so far, so good, but how about saying that a Clinton administration will stop federal funding of for-profit schools and colleges, because they are low-quality and predatory, with profit as their top priority?

The party favors “high quality charters.” Does that mean corporate charter chains like KIPP, Achievement First, and Success Academy? Probably. How about a statement opposing corporate replacements for neighborhood public schools? How about a statement insisting that charters accept English language learners and students with disabilities at the same rate as the neighborhood public school? How about a statement opposing draconian disciplinary policies and suspensions?

How about a clear statement that the Clinton administration will no longer permit school closings as academic punishment? How about a clear signal that the Clinton administration intends to protect and strengthen our nation’s essential traditional public schools, which serve all children. How about signaling a new direction for federal education policy, one that promises to support schools and educators, not to punish them.

Please read and share yours reactions. I will pass ideas along to platform committee members.

See the entire pdf here.


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