Why do the Democrats suck on education?

Romney on education. For the right of teachers to strike. Against Common Core.

Brother Mike represents the feelings many of us have when it comes to the Obama administration’s education policies.

Today he comments on his Small Talk blog about the awful Obama interview with Savannah Guthrie on Education Nation.

After some double-talk and a few rhetorical bones thrown to AFT and NEA leaders about not relying “completely” on standardized tests (only mainly on them), Obama tells us with a straight face that “teachers have embraced the idea of merit pay.” Is he serious? Did he even read the papers about Chicago and how 30,000 city teachers united like fingers in a fist to beat back Rahm’s failed merit-pay mandate?

This reminds me of IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin’s absurd claim that Illinois’ Senate Bill 7 was “teacher-led reform.”

They just make this shit up.

The question I keep getting asked is why are the Democrats so bad on education issues? Why is there no attempt to distinguish themselves from the Republicans on this issue. They at least pay lip service to differences for electoral purposes on other issues?

My answer is not fully developed, to be sure. But in an odd way I think they do distinguish themselves from the Republicans on education.

When Mitt appeared on Education Nation (by the way, that NBC series is just the most depressing to watch) he basically argued for no federal role in education at all. For example, he says there should be no federal support for Common Core.

“You know, I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids,” Romney said. “I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states. It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.”

And in the same interview he chided Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for pushing a “national curriculum,” although he added that he likes that the Obama administration has championed new teacher-evaluation systems and prodded states to expand charter schools through Race to the Top.

It appears that the GOP that the Tea Party conservatives have gained control over is a party that says it wants no federal role in education at all. It wants no Department of Education.

In the sixties, federal education policy stood in opposition to racist states’ rights school segregation laws. Now the Democrat’s federal policies seem to have morphed into policies that are driven by the corporate agenda.

Even George Bush’s No Child Left Behind was more Ted Kennedy than George Bush.

If you’re a rich hedge fund manager and want to steer federal policy toward’s the corporate agenda, would you set up a Republicans for Education Reform?  I don’t think so. If for no other reasons than the practical ones.  You would give your millions to the Democrats. They are the ones who actually want to impact national education policy.


K-12 is missing in action at the Democratic National Convention.

If you were watching the convention, even the gavel to gavel coverage on CSPAN, you would be hard pressed to hear anything that referred to the last four years of education policy coming out of the Department of Education. Or plans for the next four years.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss compares the 2008 Democratic Party platform with the 2012 version. The tiny section that speaks to K-12 public schools drops any reference to teacher participation in creating new models of teacher evaluation in the 2012 platform. They actually said there needs to be teacher participation when they wrote the 2008 version. Although apparently Arne didn’t bother to read the 2008 version.

Remember that the National Education Association was the first union to endorse Obama and our 200 delegates make us the largest organization of any kind represented at the DNC.

If you thought there was a debate over vouchers or charters schools, you wouldn’t know it by reading the Democratic Party platform. The words don’t appear.

There are lots of references to high standards and compensation for good teaching. In case you miss what they’re talking about, I guess that means the Democrats are against compensation for bad teaching. Or this is code for merit pay. Who knows?

I asked several friends if they heard Arne Duncan last night. Most said they missed it.

So here it is.


They didn’t miss much.

Oh. He did remind us to watch out for China because education is about jobs.

In case you thought education was about making sense of the world you live in. About living a life of meaning and inquiry. About seeing things through the different lenses that the disciplines of knowledge provide.

Ah. I know. That would make for a weird party platform.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association among two dozen community organizations opposing Duncan’s turnaround strategy.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is a long-time community organization based in the northwest side of Chicago. Logan Square is also where I have lived for the past 35 years.

Yesterday LSNA joined with two dozen other statewide and national community organizations calling themselves Communities for Excellent Public Schools. They issued a report which blasted the Administration’s school turnaround strategy.

In a section of the report called “Top down turnaround – Defying the research,” the organizations say:

Many education experts and advocates have expressed concern over the narrow range of options for school turnaround. Others have decried the lack of mandated public involvement in determining and implementing the interventions. Communities for Excellent Public Schools concurs. Although we wholeheartedly agree with the need for dramatic and meaningful improvements, we believe there are several reasons why the Administration’s limited top-down mandates are both bad policy and bad educational strategy.

Civil Rights groups break with Obama on education.

When last month the delegates to the National Education Association voted no confidence on Race to the Top it signaled the beginning of an open break with the Obama administration on education by a key section the progressive wing of the coalition that elected him.

It was unfortunate that the AFT buried a similar resolution using bureaucratic convention rules.

But no matter.

Today, the entire core of the US Civil Rights Movement joined the NEA in opposition to the Obama education agenda.

Placing themselves in opposition to the administration are the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

From Race to the Top, to charter schools, to most of the prescriptive federal demands on local states and school districts, these main stream civil right groups stand firmly in opposition.

More to come, I’m sure.

“Leave the kids, take the cannoli.”

Great column by NY teacher, Arthur Goldstein in Gotham Schools.

Nowhere is that shortage more profoundly felt than at 250-percent-capacity Francis Lewis High School, where I teach. New kids walk in every day, and with nowhere else to go, and no one new to help, it’s 35 in this class, 40 in that one, and battle your next-door neighbor over that much-coveted extra chair on a fairly regular basis.

To preclude such occurrences, I went to the American Arbitration Association this spring and grieved 34 classes that were in violation of the teachers union contract. We won the grievance, and Boss Tweed was ordered to correct its violations.

Two weeks later I counted over 60 oversized classes. Needless to say, I was not pleased. But when you deal with the bosses, that’s the way things go. Sure, they were ordered to comply. But why should they? What’s the upside in complying with agreements that don’t directly benefit their inner circle? Weeks ago, Lewis requested centrally funded ATR teachers to help cut class sizes, and thus far Tweed has sent precisely one.

10 million say no to ESEA competitive grants.

17 national education organizations, representing 10 million people, issued a statement expressing their disapproval of R2T style competitive grants as part of ESEA reauthorization.

WASHINGTON, April 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 17 national education associations representing over ten million parents, educators and policymakers, released the following statement:

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been a critical instrument in the federal government’s efforts to promote equity in education. The Learning First Alliance (LFA) believes equity must remain a non-negotiable goal of ESEA reauthorization. We applaud the Obama Administration’s proposal to increase federal resources for public schools in 2011. But we urge Congress to avoid provisions that could undermine, rather than support, equity.

For this reason, ESEA should not divert substantial federal resources into competitive grant programs. This strategy threatens to penalize low-income children in school districts that lack the capacity to prepare effective grant proposals. It risks deepening the disparities between rich and poor districts, effectively denying resources to the students who need them most.”

The Learning First Alliance is a permanent partnership of 17 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools.  Alliance members include:  the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Association of School Business Officials International, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Middle School Association, National School Public Relations Association, National Staff Development Council, National PTA, National School Boards Association and Phi Delta Kappa International.  The Alliance maintains www.publicschoolinsights.org, a website that features what’s working in public schools and districts across the country.

If those were the odds in Vegas…

roulettewheelBrother Mike at Small Talk is wondering how Whitney Young, the premier Chicago selective admission high school, Deerfield and New Trier, in the wealthy Chicago northern suburbs, are beating the odds. Beating the odds was the criteria Arne Duncan used in awarding Blue Ribbon schools their ribbons.

He also wonders why no privately managed charters made the list?

Is anyone at the USDE wondering?

What do they wonder about in the USDE?

The “Duncan Rules.”

ap_arne_duncan_081216_mainUSDE boss Arne Duncan has issued his rules to states  for getting a share of the piddly $3.5 billion in school improvement grant money.

1. Fire the principal and half the staff, or

2. Close the school and give it to a private management company, or

3. Close the school and send the students to another school, or

4. Create a school based on Duncan’s specific definition of a “transformational model.”

 What some might argue is an overly prescriptive federal government, top-down directive is in the USDE press release found here.

Friday Duncan wrap-up.

ap_arne_duncan_081216_mainHerb Kohl says Arne misread his book.

Rethinking Schools on the myth of the “Chicago Miracle.”

Duncan pals around with Rubert Murdoch.

Catalyst reports new evidence of Duncan’s failure to improve Chicago high schools.

Duncan speech focuses on Teach for America. Offers them millions of stimulus bucks.

Is this Bipartisanship  crap giving you the creeps?

Is this a serious attempt at promoting innovation? Clever name: i3

What child gets left behind if we’re racing to the top?

17bolt4_190It is a most impressive thing. Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter shattered the men’s 100 meter record by the biggest margin in over thirty years. I love a race where great athletes train for years and choose to devote their lives to competitive athletics. It is a thrill to watch.

It has little to do with creating places where children learn and teachers teach. Education is not a race.

Is there anything in the world more cyncial than the names the wonkers, policy groups and government department heads come up with when they’re about to screw the people?

A perfectly reasonable phrase like “leaving no child behind,” gets adopted by the Bushies, the most reactionary bunch in the history of the country. They used the phrase to name a government program that beat up on poor kids, poor school districts and punished those who had no resources. Meanwhile they provided no resources themselves.

To replace that, the new bunch have come up with Race to the Top. What is more offensive to a teacher in a classroom of kids with different skills, abilities, backgrounds and interests than talking about teaching as a race?

A race is something you choose to enter. A race has winners and losers. A race has a beginning and an end.

Who comes up with this stuff? What does it have to do with kids, teaching and learning?