Educators Have No Political Party
This is from Daily Kos, Aug. 23, 2012. Anyone who thinks either political party supports public education hasn't been paying attention.
Yet, simultaneously, Secretary Duncan Bad Cop was endorsing and the USDOE was implementing Race to the Top, creating provisions for states to opt out of NCLB, and endorsing Common Core State Standards (CCSS)--each of which increases both the amount of standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with those tests by expanding the accountability from schools and students to teachers.
Under Obama, Democratic education policy and agendas, embodied by Duncan, have created a consistently inconsistent message. More recently, Obama has shifted into campaign mode and once again offered conflicting claims about education--endorsing a focus on reducing class size (despite huge cuts for years in state budgets that have eliminated teachers and increased class size, which Bill Gates endorses) and making a pitch to suport teachers unions and even increasing spending on education, leading Diane Ravitch to ponder:
Throughout Obama's term, Obama's discourse has been almost directly contradicted by Duncan's discourse and the USDOE's policies. Obama tended to state that teachers were the most important in-school influence on student learning while Duncan tends to continue omitting the "in-school" qualifier, but these nuances of language are of little value since the USDOE under Obama has an agenda nearly indistinguishable from Republican agendas:
• Promoting that all states should adopt CCSS and the necessary increase of testing and textbook support to follow.
• Endorsing market dynamics and school choice by embracing the charter school movement, specifically corporate-style charters such as Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).
• Embracing and promoting "no excuses" ideologies for school reform and school cultures.
• Criticizing directly and indirectly public school teachers and perpetuating the "bad" teacher myth by calling for changes in teacher evaluations and compensation, disproportionately based on student test scores.
• Funding and endorsing the spread of test-based accountability to departments and colleges of education involved in teacher certification.
• Funding and endorsing the de-professionalization of teaching through support for Teach for America.
• Appealing to the populist message about choice by failing to confront the rise of "parent trigger" laws driven by corporate interests posing as concerned parents.
If my claim that Republicans and Democrats are different sides of the same misguided education reform coin still appears to be the claim of an extremist, the last point above should be examined carefully.
Note, for example, the connection between the issues endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the anti-union sentiment joined with endorsing the next misleading Waiting for "Superman"-- Won't Back Down.
The Democratic National Convention will be home to DFER, Parent Revolution, and Students First to promote Won't Back Down as if this garbled film is a documentary--including a platform for Michelle Rhee.
There is nothing progressive about the education reform agenda under the Obama administration, nothing progressive about the realities behind Obama's or Duncan's discourse, nothing progressive about Rhee, Gates, or the growing legions of celebrity education reformers.
If the Democratic Party were committed to a progressive education platform, we would hear and see policy seeking ways to fund fully public schools, rejecting market solutions to social problems, supporting the professionalization of teachers, embracing the power and necessity of collective bargaining and tenure, protecting students from the negative impact of testing and textbook corporations, distancing themselves from Rhee-like conservatives in progressive clothing, and championing above everything else democratic ideals.
Instead, the merging of the education agenda between Democrats and Republicans is Orwellian, but it real, as Ravitch warned early in Obama's administration:
In August of 2012, educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators--and this is but one symptom of a larger disease killing the hope and promise of democracy in the U.S.
This tragic fact is the inevitable result of the historical call for teachers not to be political. Now that educators have no major party to support, the failure of that call is more palpable than ever.
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