Archives for category: Hillary Clinton

Jake Jacobs, an art teacher in New York City, a leader of New York BadAss Teachers, and a writer for The Progressive, read and reviewed Hillary Clinton’s policy briefing book in 2017 and reviewed the education section for Alternet. I missed his article, but it’s worth reading now to understand how advocates of privatization have inserted themselves into both political parties and use their vast wealth to control public policy and undermine public schools.

Jacobs points out that Laurene Powell Jobs “has been close with the Clintons since the late ’90s, also sat with Betsy DeVos on the board of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. She set up billionaire “roundtables” with Clinton’s campaign advisors through 2015 while donating millions to Priorities USA, Clinton’s main PAC.”

Jacobs notes:

Notes taken by Clinton aide Ann O’Leary were made in interviews with Powell Jobs and Bruce Reed, President of The Broad Foundation (and former chief of staff to Joe Biden). According to the notes, the “experts” were calling for new federal controls, more for-profit companies and more technology in public schools — but first on the menu was a bold remake of the teaching “profession…”

Powell Jobs suggests letting principals “pick their teams,” making teachers individually negotiate salary (every teacher—really?), expanding online education offerings like Khan Academy and making teaching universities “truly selective like TFA and Finland.” This comment is perplexing because while Finland has demanding teacher vetting and training, Teach for America places inexperienced teachers in classrooms after a seven-week summer crash course...

Tying campaign donations to a singular issue like expanding charter schools might in days past been seen as a prohibited quid-pro-quo. But in this cycle, Podesta, O’Leary and [Neera] Tanden [director of the Center for American Progress and President Biden’s nominee to lead the crucial Office of Management and Budget, which sets priorities for federal funding] all busily raised campaign money from the same billionaire education reformers with whom they were also talking policy specifics.

But they did more than talk. On June 20, 2015, O’Leary sent Podesta an email revealing the campaign adopted two of Powell Jobs’ suggestions, including “infusing best ideas from charter schools into our traditional public schools.” When Clinton announced this policy in a speech to teachers, however, it was the one line that drew boos.

“Donors want to hear where she stands” John Petry, a founder of both Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, told the New York Times.  Petry was explicit, declaring that he and his billionaire associates would instead put money into congressional, state and local races, behind candidates who favored a “more businesslike approach” to education, and tying teacher tenure to standardized test scores.
..

Not mentioning education would become important in the general election. This policy book shows a snapshot in time when wealthy donors were pushing Clinton’s and Jeb’s positions together, seeking more of the federal privatization begun under George W. Bush and continued by Obama...

This was predicted by John Podesta, who bragged just after the 2012 election about nullifying education policy differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Sitting next to Jeb Bush, Podesta proclaimed “ed reform” a bipartisan affair, telling donors “the Obama administration has made its key priorities clear. The Republicans are pretty much in the same place…this area is ripe for cooperation between the center-right and center-left”...

The 2014 policy book reveals some essential lessons about how education policy is crafted: in secret, with the input and influence of billionaire donors seeking more school privatization and testing—regardless of what party is in power. Even as the backlash against testing and the Common Core grew, Clinton’s advisors pushed her to embrace them. Clinton vacillated, then fell silent on K-12 policy, and as a result, education issues were largely left out of the election debate. Today, under Trump, privatization marches on worse than ever.


 

Sometimes it helps to solve a mystery when you put it out there for public review. Like posting photos of the “Ten Most Wanted Criminals” in every postoffice. Tips come in.

An hour ago, I learned the identity of the person who named the members of the Task Force that is supposed to propose reforms to the state’s notoriously weak charter law. Seven of the 11 members of the Task Force are connected to the charter industry. The choices are so brazen that the chair of the board of the charter lobbying group (California Charter School Association) was named to the Task Force, along with another CCSA employee.

A tip came in. It makes perfect sense.

Governor Newsom’s chief of staff Ann O’Leary selected the Task Force.

O’Leary served as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which is unflinchingly pro-charter school.

She was education advisor to Hillary Clinton during her campaign in 2016. Early in the campaign, Carol Burris and I met with her at the Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn. We tried to persuade her that Clinton should oppose charter schools because they are the first step towards privatization. We mustered all our evidence about the dangers to public schools, the risks of deregulation of public money, persistent corruption, suspicious real estate deals, profiteering, etc. She was unmoved. She was insistent that Hillary would not oppose charters. We came back for a second meeting, and the best we could get was that Hillary would oppose for-profit charters. Hillary would not oppose charters.

During the campaign, while in South Carolina, Hillary was asked about charters, and she spontaneously spoke critically about charter schools, saying that they don’t accept everyone. O’Leary must have gotten loud complaints from some funders, because she quickly wrote an article for “Medium” walking back Hillary’s mild critique and reassuring readers that yes, indeed, Hillary supports charter schools, just like Arne Duncan.

Don’t worry, California charter lobbyists and billionaires, corporate charter chains, and entrepreneurs! Ann O’Leary will protect your charters!

 

Jake Jacobs, writing in Alternet, reports on a Clinton campaign briefing book on education that shows the powerful influence of wealthy charter advocates.

A rare peek into the evolution of Hillary Clinton’s education platform is afforded through an overlooked Wikileaks-published document. Entitled “Policy Book— FINAL,” the PDF file was attached to a 2014 email sent to John Podesta, Clinton’s future campaign chair. The education portion of the document runs 66 pages, mostly concentrated on K-12 policy, and captures specific input from billionaire donors looking to overhaul and privatize public education.

Today, Donald Trump seeks a rapid expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers, while his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, touts “school choice” and market competition for public school at every stop. But in private, Hillary Clinton’s donors, dubbed “experts,” also sought rapid charter expansion and market-based options to replace public schools.

One of the most connected “thought leaders” discussed is Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, and the head of the Emerson Collective, a prominent education reform advocacy group. Powell Jobs who has been close with the Clintons since the late ’90s, also sat with Betsy DeVos on the board of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. She set up billionaire “roundtables” with Clinton’s campaign advisors through 2015 while donating millions to Priorities USA, Clinton’s main PAC.

Powell Jobs and Bruce Reed of the Broad Foundation also set their sights on remaking the teaching profession and teacher education. The briefing book, written in 2014, shows Reed boasting about the great accomplishments of the New Orleans charter district, “accomplishments” that have since been exposed as a fraud.

Jacobs writes:

Tying campaign donations to a singular issue like expanding charter schools might in days past been seen as a prohibited quid-pro-quo. But in this cycle, Podesta, O’Leary and Tanden all busily raised campaign money from the same billionaire education reformers with whom they were also talking policy specifics.

But they did more than talk. On June 20, 2015, O’Leary sent Podesta an email revealing the campaign adopted two of Powell Jobs’ suggestions, including “infusing best ideas from charter schools into our traditional public schools.” When Clinton announced this policy in a speech to teachers, however, it was the one line that drew boos.

Clinton needed big money to run. But she also solicited and got the support of the two big teachers’ unions, the NEA and the AFT. Torn between her super-wealthy donors and the leaders of the unions, Clinton eventually fell silent on education issues, to avoid alienating either side.

A personal footnote: Carol Burris and I met twice with Hillary’s top education policy advisor, Ann O’Leary. We tried to persuade her that Hillary should not support charter schools, but we sensed it was futile. She did eventually assure us that Hillary would take a strong stand against for-profit charters, a small victory.

It is no surprise that the faux Democrats in DFER, the Broad Foundation, and Powell Jobs were pushing her to endorse privatization. Perhaps it was a small victory that Clinton realized this was a non-starter with the millions of teachers whose support she needed.

I am certainly not surprised that the big donors wanted to buy her support for privatization. I am not surprised that she wanted their money. We could have fought that out after the election. Even if she followed in Obama’s footsteps on education, she would not have sold out civil rights, the environment, our national parks, our foreign policy, the Supreme Court, and every other function of the federal government.

Having read the briefing book, as much as I disagree with the reformers, I would still pick Clinton over Trump, with enthusiasm. And fight the battles later, without fearing to lose the essential values of our society and our democracy, as well as world peace, which now hang in the balance.

Back to school time!

Butterflies in your stomach!

But you get to see your friends and your teachers!

And watch this to see why public school is great!

Let’s remember what matters most: Friendship. Kindness. Creativity. Joy. Compassion. Integrity. Good citizenship. Thinking. Learning. Goodness. Heart. Character.

In case you wondered, the video is from Ossining, New York.

I’m posting Hillary Clinton’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2017 at Wellesley College for a few reasons.

First, I wanted to hear what she had to say and after I did, wanted to share it with you.

Second, she is a graduate of Wellesley, so the occasion had special meaning for her. I too am a graduate of Wellesley, so her words had special meaning for me.

Third, I thought it was refreshing to hear once again a person in public life who was able to speak clearly, directly, candidly, without bluster or braggadocio or meanness of spirit.

As I watched her speak, I thought that there was a silver lining behind her loss. True, she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million people, and she lost the electoral vote, which is what matters most. True, the country is stuck with the most extremist, offensive, cruel, and reactionary leadership of modern times.

But what if Hillary had won, along with a Republican majority in both houses? The Senate would not have approved any Supreme Court justices she nominated. The House would be in the middle of impeachment proceedings against her. The government would be crippled. She would have been treated by the Congress as an illegitimate President. Hatefulness would have typified the work of Congress.

I’m not glad she lost. She had the strength, the experience, and the knowledge to be an inspiring leader. Yet given the state of the Republican Party today, she would have been stymied at every turn.

Right now, I suspect Trump wishes he had not been elected. He is in over his head. His demeanor is tearing the country apart. History will not judge him kindly.

I hope she returns to public life, not as a candidate, but as a voice of reason. We need her now, more than ever.

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.

Dana Goldstein, veteran education journalist, reports that Hillary Clinton is striking a very different note with teachers and their unions than Obama did.

Obama’s education policies were shaped to cut the power of unions and to reduce teachers’ job protections. His administration was openly hostile to public schools and teachers. In response to the hedge fund managers at Democrats for Education Reform, whose favorite he was, and to the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, the Obama administration invested heavily in privately managed charter schools and forced thousands of public schools to close, based on their test scores. The burden of school closings fell mainly on poor communities of color, which were destabilized by his punitive policies.

Goldstein says that Hillary is taking a very different tack:


Clinton’s speech to the NEA was notable both for what she said and, perhaps even more so, for what she didn’t say. She promised to expand access to child care and pre-K, pay teachers more, forgive their college debt, construct new school buildings, and bring computer science courses into K-12 education. While a brief mention of successful charter schools (most of which are not unionized) was met with scattered boos, for the most part the audience of activist teachers greeted Clinton ecstatically, chanting “Hillary, Hillary!”

Following eight years of federally driven closures and turnarounds of schools with low test scores, which have put union jobs at risk, it was music to the NEA’s ears when the presumptive Democratic nominee promised to end “the education wars” and “stop focusing only on quote, ‘failing schools.’ Let’s focus on all our great schools, too.” And in a big departure from the school-reform rhetoric of President Barack Obama, the only time Clinton referenced “accountability” was to refer not to getting rid of bad teachers, but to giving unions a bigger voice in education policy. “Advise me and hold me accountable,” she said. “Keep advocating for your students and your profession.”

This speech, the first big moment for K-12 education in this general election, signals a potentially meaningful shift in Democratic Party education politics. The Obama era has been, often, a painful one for teachers-union activists. Obama launched his presidential campaign in 2007 as an ally of Democrats for Education Reform, a group of philanthropists (most with ties to the financial sector) who support weakening teachers’ tenure protections, evaluating teachers according to their students’ test scores, and increasing the number of public charter schools.

Obama held many positions with which teachers’ unions agreed, like helping teachers improve through peer mentorship programs and pushing states to embrace the Common Core national curriculum standards. Still, he represented a wing of the Democratic Party that thought unions held too much sway over education policy, and in 2008, the NEA chose not to endorse in the Democratic primary, while the other national teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Obama’s primary challenger, Hillary Clinton.*
As president, Obama followed through on his promises to union critics. He created a $4 billion program, Race to the Top, that tied federal education dollars to policies like evaluating teachers according to student test scores and weakening tenure protections, so underperforming teachers could more easily be fired.

Goldstein’s conclusion is premature:

It’s safe to say it is a new day for the Democratic Party on education policy. But here’s hoping that Clinton’s turn toward the unions doesn’t mean she lets go of some of the Obama administration’s more promising recent ideas.

It is too soon to say whether it is a new day for the Democratic policy on education policy. DFER has not gone away, nor have the billionaires who want to crush teachers, unions, and public schools.

And I wonder what the Obama administration’s “more promising recent ideas” are. I haven’t heard them. John King was known in New York for his zealous embrace of Common Core, high-stakes testing, opposition to opt out, and commitment to evaluating teachers by test scores. His brief tenure as Education Secretary does not show any disposition on his part to abandon those policies.

So, as the saying goes, time will tell. We should all give Hillary Clinton a chance to change direction. Heaven knows we can’t continue with the federal government making war on public schools and their teachers. If that’s what she means by ending the education wars, I am all for it.