Archives for category: Democrats

If I conducted a poll of readers of this blog about their choice for the Democratic nominee in 2020, I suppose that Sanders and Warren would lead the pack, overwhelmingly.

But here is a different point of view.

The North America editor of the BBC has a warning for Americans.

Pay attention to what happened in the British elections, where Boris Johnson walloped the Labour Party.

If you want to beat Trump, he says, don’t look for someone who promises the moon.

Sanders and Warren are popular with the young, but not with older voters, he says.

Choose a centrist.

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.


No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.


Jan Resseger shares her reactions to the Public Education Forum. She was heartened by what she saw and heard, as candidates recognized the need to increase investment in education. 

She invites you to watch the video if you missed the event.

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education at Michigan State University, attended the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh. He graded the candidates, using the Danielson rubric. 

Read what he thought about the candidates.

He writes:

In the spirit of our country’s current rather draconian approach to “accountability” in public education, I thought I’d describe the candidates’ performances on Saturday by rating them on the Danielson teacher evaluation rubric, a common teacher evaluation system used by many school districts across the nation. That means that each candidate will be graded on a simplistic, reductionist, atomistic, 4-point scale of the sort loved by corporate education reformers, as though it makes sense to distill the entirety of an individual’s performance on a complicated set of tasks to a single number between 1 and 4.

Peter Greene, as usual, is sharp and on target in reviewing the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh.

He fact checks the candidates. He was pleasantly surprised by Amy Klobuchar, which seems to be a common reaction.

Ignore a few spelling errors and enjoy.

Carol Burris led the delegation from the Network for Public Education at the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh. Here are her reflections on the candidates;



There were roughly 1000 attendees at yesterday’s Public Education Forum 2020.  The group was diverse in both race and age. Students accompanied by parents sat side by side with senior citizens. It was a captivated audience, the vast majority of whom stayed until the end at around 4:00 pm. 


Outside the forum there was a small protest. When I entered the building in the morning, I counted 35 people. One news report said that the protest grew to 100. Michael Bennet was the only candidate who engaged with the protestors—that encounter can be viewed here.


Support was voiced by the candidates for community schools, increased school funding for Title I schools, increased pay for teachers, support for unions, fully-funded pre-schools, increasing the number of teachers of color, student loan forgiveness, and other equity issues which have commonly appeared in candidates’ platforms. In short, it was a positive agenda that acknowledged that resources do matter and recognized the complex difficulties that our schools and our teachers face.


It is not my intent to influence anyone’s vote with this account. What follows is my review of the candidates’ performance by giving each the award I believe they most deserve based on what I heard during the forum as well as with speaking with others afterwards. 


My award for Best Performance is shared by Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. I thought their answers were the sharpest, but I am willing to acknowledge I may see the world through my gender lens. 


Upon entering the stage, Elizabeth Warren received cheers. Many stood and applauded. Warren stood her ground when the interviewer claimed she wanted to defund charter schools (she does not). She logically argued her platform on charter schools and ended by saying, “Public school money needs to stay in public schools,” which earned loud applause. She argued throughout for increased funding for public education, funded by her proposed wealth tax.


Klobuchar won hearts with the story of her mom who taught elementary school until she was 70 years old. Her mom would dress up as a Monarch butterfly every year when teaching a unit on butterflies. Klobuchar recounted how a former student with a disability came to her mother’s funeral due to the kindness mom had extended to him long after he left her class. She was warm and encouraging when a nervous student came to the microphone to ask a question. Many in the audience who were not familiar with the candidate were impressed. 


The You Still Don’t Get it Award goes to Michael Bennet. 


The first audience question came from a New Orleans student, Maria Harmon, who expressed concerns about charter schools, which she said are “targeting black and brown children without delivering on their promise of equity.” Maria referred to the Washington Post’s story on our Network for Public Education report, Still Asleep at the Wheel. Her question on charter school accountability received loud applause. 


Bennet claimed that in Denver only the Denver School Board can authorize a charter school. What he did not mention is that the Denver Board’s decision to not authorize a charter school can be overturned by the state board. From the Colorado State Board of Education website—


“The State Board may also, upon its own motion, decide to review any charter decision of a local board of education. Under the act, the State Board has the authority to direct the local board to grant, deny, or revoke the charter.”

So much for local control. Like other pro-charter Democrats, Bennet tried to create a false distinction between “private” and “public” charter schools, saying there are only public charter schools in Denver. “We don’t have private charters,” he said. Denver’s charters are managed by private boards. In addition, Denver allows charter schools to be managed by for-profit CMOs. For example, Life Skills Denver Charter School, was operated by the notorious for-profit White Hat Management Corporation. It was open throughout Bennet’s term as superintendent and was finally shut down by his successor, Tom Boasberg. I have no idea how Bennet’s defines a “private” charter school.


During the interview he defended his merit pay program, which has been largely abandoned, as well as the evaluation of schools by growth scores. 


Bennet’s suggestion that the school year be longer and that students attend school six days a week was not well received by students and teachers in the audience. 


Bennet told us he was “against privatization” and then left to meet with the charter school parents who were protesting the event. 


The Most Loved Award goes to Bernie Sanders


When Bernie came on the stage, nearly everyone was on their feet applauding. He made a vigorous case against high-stakes testing (it was noted by the moderators that he had voted against NCLB) as well for increased funding for public schools. Bernie was Bernie, and the crowd loved it.  His refusal to sit down resulted in the moderators getting up from their chairs to ask their questions. 


The award for Best DFER in Disguise goes to Pete Buttigieg 


Mayor Pete’s melodious even-toned voice was soothing, but no one I spoke with seemed impressed. He received polite applause. When he told the audience that a guy on his policy team (I assume Raj Chetty with whom he attended college) had done a study that showed the positive impact of “great teachers” on students’ economic futures, eyebrows went up. That study was often used by Arne Duncan to justify the evaluation of teachers by test scores.  His teacher training plan sounded an awful lot like Teach for America to me. Rachel Cohen recently reported that prominent charter schools supporters have been doing fundraisers for Mayor Pete.  With Booker and Bennet tanking, it is likely DFERs are looking to Buttigieg as their candidate. 


The James Joyce Award goes to Joe Biden 


Biden was animated and immersed in his usual stream of consciousness style. Listening to Biden is rather like reading Joyce’s Ulysses. You are just not quite sure where his inner Molly Bloom is going next. 


While he did not distance himself from Race to the Top, which I believe was not mentioned at all throughout the forum, I think he said he was against high-stakes testing (sometimes it is hard to tell with Joe). He got a smile from me with his line, “If I’m president, Betsy DeVos’ whole thing from charter schools to ignoring sexual harassment is done.” He was warmly received and frequently applauded. Afterwards many I spoke with said that although he is not their first choice, they would support him if he were the candidate or seemed to have the best chance of beating Trump. 


The Nice Guys Finish Last Award goes to Tom Steyer


Those I spoke with characterized the billionaire activist as a well-meaning guy whose funds would be better spent supporting a candidate with progressive ideas. My assessment is that he cares and wants to make a difference. He demonstrates none of the know-it-all arrogance of Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg. I hope he will remain on the side of public schools when the campaign is over. 


All in all, the forum was a day well spent. 


Steven Singer participated in the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh, where the leading Democratic candidates (and a few not-leading candidates) spoke to an audience of teachers, members of civil rights groups, and teacher unionists.

These are his ten take-aways from the day. 

A few highlights:


The fact that it happened at all is almost miraculous.


Who would have thought Presidential hopefuls would care enough about public schools to address education issues and answer our questions?


Who would have thought it would be broadcast live on TV and the Internet?


And – come to think of it – who would have EVER thought it would happen in my hometown of Pittsburgh!?
But it did.


I was there – along with about 1,500 other education activists, stakeholders and public school warriors from around the country.


It was an amazing day which I will never forget.


Perhaps the best part was getting to see so many amazing people in one place – and I’m not talking about the candidates.


There were members of the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education, Journey for Justice, One Pennsylvania, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and so many more!


I wish I could bottle up that feeling of commitment to our children and hope in the future…


Here’s my top 10 most important lessons:


1) Charter School Support is Weak


When the forum was announced, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wrote a blistering memoabout how the charter school community would not put up with politicians listening to constituents critical of their industry. Allen is a far right Republican with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who even used Donald Trump’s public relations firm to publicize her protest. But when we got to the forum, all it amounted to were a dozen folks with matching yellow signs trudging through the rainwho didn’t even stay for the duration of the forum. YAWN! Silly school privatizers, that’s not how you protest!


2) Michael Bennet Doesn’t Understand Much About Public Education


The Colorado Senator and former school superintendent really doesn’t get a lot of the important issues – even when they intersect his life. As superintendent, he enacted a merit pay initiative for teachers that resulted in a teachers strike. He still doesn’t comprehend why this was a bad idea – that tying teachers salaries to student test scores makes for educators who only teach to the test, that it demands teachers be responsible for things beyond their control, etc. Moreover, he thinks there’s a difference between public and private charter schools – there isn’t. They’re all bankrolled by tax dollars and can be privately operated.


But I suppose that doesn’t matter so much because few people know who Michael Bennet is anyway.


3) Pete Buttigeig is Too Smart Not to Understand Education – Unless He’s Paid Not to Understand


Mayor Pete came off as a very well spoken and intelligent guy. But he also seemed about as credible as wet tissue. He said a bunch of wrongheaded things. For instance, he said that “separate has never, ever been equal,” but he supports charter schools. Separate but equal is their business model.


It’s the kind of misunderstanding that only happens on purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s taken so much money from anti-education billionaires like Netflix Founder Reed Hastings, no one else can trust him. How are we supposed to think he works for us when his salary comes from the super rich? You never recover from ignorance when it’s your job to be ignorant.


Read the rest of his post to see what he wrote about Warren, Sanders, Steyer, Klobuchar, and Biden.




Steven Singer will be in Pittsburgh on Saturday as part of the Network for Public Education delegation to the MSNBC forum on public education.

Here are his questions for the candidates. 

He won’t get to ask them all, but they are all great questions!


The Network for Public Education Action is one of the pro-public education groups that will participate in the forum on Public Education Issues in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The event will be livestreamed on MSNBC. 

Since the event was announced, candidates Cory Booker and Michael Bennett have joined the list of speakers.

Each group will have the opportunity to ask one question of one candidate.

Please note that the event will start at 9 a.m.

NPE Action will be there with a stellar group of supporters of public schools.

Tune in!


ON DEC. 14



PITTSBURGH—The Network for Public Education Action will join with other public education groups, unions, civil rights organizations and community groups to host a forum for Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday December 14 in Pittsburgh. 

The “Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All” will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. MSNBC will moderate and exclusively livestream the forum on public education issues.

Ali Velshi, host of “MSNBC Live,” and Rehema Ellis, NBC News education correspondent, will serve as the forum’s moderators, together interviewing candidates on priority issues facing students, educators and parents in public education today. The event will be streamed live on NBC News Now, and NBC News Learn, and will be featured across MSNBC programming.

Each candidate will provide opening remarks and then answer questions from Velshi and Ellis, forum attendees and others from across the country who submitted questions.



Alliance for Educational Justice

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

Center for Popular Democracy Action

Journey for Justice Alliance


National Education Association

Network for Public Education Action

Schott Foundation for Public Education—Opportunity to Learn Action Fund

Service Employees International Union

Voto Latino


WHAT:            Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All


WHEN:            Dec. 14, 10 a.m.


WHERE:          David L. Lawrence Convention Center

1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222