Friday, July 17, 2015

Public Ed Needs Allies

With the now-thankfully-defeated Murphy Amendment, Senate Democrats gave a giant middle finger to public education and a bathtub full of cold water in the face to those who keep thinking that maybe the Democrats in general and Progressives in particular are going to be our allies in our struggle to preserve the promise of public education.

They aren't.

Steven Singer lays out the shock and dismay pretty clearly.

Up until now I’ve always been with the Democrats because they had better – though still bad – education policies than the Republicans. I’m not sure I can say that anymore. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

So what's the fuss? The Murphy Amendment was an attempt to put the test-and-punish back into ESEA, including solidifying that magic "bottom 5%" rule into federal law. It was a way for Democrats to say that they actually loved them the last fifteen years of test-and-punish based ed reform and they would like still more of it. And it took the GOP to stop these dopes.

This is not entirely a shock. The Democrats have given plenty of notice that they are not friends of public education, not the least of which would be two entire Democratic administrations under Obama-Duncan. I know die-hard Dems like to imagine that Obama is some sort of outlier or that Duncan is a rogue Education Secretary, but the sad truth is that a Democrat has had the chance to set education policy, and that's what we've been living with for seven years. The Murphy Amendment doesn't represent a new shift or alliance or change in direction. It's right where they've been headed all along.

The only bright spot in any of this was that the NEA was vocal and on the right side of this and not making nice with the Democrats (because, hey, they're our political allies).

I do not know the answer to the political calculus of public education in this country, but I do know that we have got to stop blindly supporting parties and start focusing on policy. And we have got to stop pretending that the Democrats are our friends no matter what. For that matter, we need to start distinguishing between good relationships and good policies. The fact that we may have a "good relationship" with Democrats does not mean they won't screw us, and the fact that we have a "bad relationship" with some Republicans does not mean that they won't support policies that help public education work better.

Public education is a political orphan, with few politicians watching out for us. The Murphy Amendment is just one more reminder that just because you think someone's swell, that doesn't mean they stand for what you wish they stood for.

It is a dark part of Democrat dna to think that only filing reports with the feds makes the world go around, just as it is in the dark part of GOP dna to think that those who can't pay the price of admission to society's lifeboat should just be left to swim home on their own.

Both the GOP and Dems are infected with money. Neither can be trusted as a group. Certainly neither can be trusted all the time to watch out for American public education, because neither party believes in the promise of public education any more. I'm not sure what the answer is. Take personal responsibility for getting the word out (don't just say "Well, I pay union dues so they'll take care of it). Contact your representatives early and often. Convince others to do the same. Raise a fuss and make some noise. Pay attention ALL THE TIME. And remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Public education needs allies. I suggest that rather than farm the job out, we start with ourselves, and make ourselves into the allies that public education needs, because the folks in DC sure as hell aren't going to do it.


  1. While it’s devastating to realize that neither corporate party has public education in our best interest and frustrating that so many Democrats who say they care about public education are in denial (especially the two most powerful teachers unions) we must stop lamenting and realize that there are progressives out there running for candidacy in offices of all levels. In particular; the Green Party, with values that no one can say doesn’t apply to each of them. Public education is in deep trouble and the Democrats who have turned their backs on it are hammering the nail in the coffin.
    Jill Stein of the Green Party is running as the Presidential candidate for 2016. It will be worth your time to learn more about her and reasons for running. The Green Party is flourishing in Europe and more and more US states are recognizing that we can no longer rely on either dominant party to have our best interests at heart and are electing these progressives into office from local to state levels. One note of caution: teachers backing any self-proclaimed “progressive” political candidate who suddenly runs for the highest office under the banner of one of the two dominant political parties is a fraud. It would behoove us to take heed.

    1. Sorry, studying his history, I don't believe Bernie's a fraud. I am getting near the point of voting for a party that has no chance of winning but shares my values, but at the moment for President I'm voting for a progressive candidate that does a chance. I've always had a favorable opinion of the Green Party, but seeing one of their supporters using vague references maligning Bernie, I have to wonder.

  2. I, too, would vote for Bernie if I believed he really stood for what he said he did, afterall, he claimed he was a progressive. It's well known that his chances of actually winning the Democratic nomination are slim and that he openly stated he will support Clinton-that’s not a progressive. The truth is he's not running with a party that stands for principles he says he values. He would be under the thumb of the Democrats-he would have to tow the party line. But I would also say that public education is not the only issue at hand. We must also consider his positions on all of the other issues. This article pointed out that neither party will protect public education and I agree. My message of caution was that we should be more awake this presidential candidacy and not forget how the system works. I never mentioned Bernie in my comment. But I suspect you understand what I mean.

    1. He "claimed" he was a progressive? Ha! He's been a progressive his whole life. Give it up. Making sneaky innuendos like you do is the opposite of Bernie.

  3. Just one last post-
    Not meaning to ruffle any feathers, although it turned out to be a good thing, I’m actually quite surprised by the reactionary responses to my comment further up the thread given what I had assumed would be the type of audience that welcomes critical thought and dissenting views. I realize I may have hurt some feelings with my direct conclusion but invite you to explore why my stance (any many others, too) is so by reading articles written by some very intelligent social critics: and