I knew we were in trouble when I saw this tweet:
It’s clear: Educators are on the same page when it comes to what our students need from the next president. http://t.co/fJilsIlz5d— Lily Eskelsen García (@Lily_NEA) October 16, 2015
Is it? Is it clear that educators are on the same page about the next President? Exactly which page is that, I wonder?
The link in Eskelsen-Garcia's tweet takes us to this piece at her blog. "What's At Stake" presumably lays out what the union's campaign push will be.
The piece opens with a classic call to get in line. Lily has traveled the country, read the interwebs, and listened to the many points of view that teachers have been "not shy" about sharing. And "there will always be room for debate when it comes to the next candidate to support," which is good to hear, because there certainly wasn't any room to debate about the last candidate NEA leaders chose to support. But LEG is sure one thing is "abundantly clear"-- "Educators are on the same page when it comes to what our students need from the next president."
So what do we all agree on?
Well, one guy said teachers need a punch in the face and another guy wants us to all pack heat in school. We certainly don't want those guys! This is not so much "on the same page" as 'not reading from the Big Book of Crazy,' but okay.
Instead, we must keep the focus on ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity to get an excellent education, regardless of their family’s income or ZIP code. That means smaller, less-crowded classrooms that allow for more one-on-one attention and up-to-date equipment, science labs and textbooks.
I can't tell you how discouraging it is to see the language of reformsters coming out of the mouth of my union president. That zip code line is straight out of the charter operators playbook, and I'm really tired of "opportunity" and "access" and "chance in hell" to get a good education. Can we be for providing every student an excellent education? And can't we have a better list of specifics than that paltry batch.
To succeed as a nation, we must make college more affordable by fighting tuition increases, lowering student loan interest rates and increasing Pell Grants.
This has emerged as the Clintonian-Democrat education dodge-- a platform point that, paired with universal pre-K, makes a safe, progressive-ish place to stand on education without actually addressing any of the huge issues facing K-12 schools these days.
Also, LEG asserts that teachers must be listened to. And before the hollering about irony starts, she spends a few paragraphs asserting that the association totally spent months and months "engaging" membership about the Presidential nomination. Town meetings. Distributing political information. A website!
I am heartened that NEA’s members and its leaders have engaged in this conversation, and I agree with so many of you that there is too much at stake to remain on the sidelines.
Sigh. So when the NEA leadership rammed that endorsement through over the collective howls of many members, they were just following the will of teachers everywhere. Remember when twitter and the internet were just blowing up with people saying, "President Garcia-- we just can't wait! Endorse Hillary now! We want to get off the sidelines." You probably remember that as vividly as all that outreach NEA did to membership about who they wanted to get behind in the race. I think it was just after that weekend when the dancing unicorns beat Elvis on Prancing with the Stars.
I agree that we—educators and our unions—have been ignored by political leaders. I agree that corporate education reformers have become the insiders and the outcome has been disastrous decisions by Republicans and Democrats alike. But I disagree that the answer to changing this is to step back and silence ourselves,
And yet, by throwing ourselves in on Clinton's side, extracting nothing valuable in return, that is exactly what we've done. The first Democratic debate was pretty clear-- education is off the table as a campaign issue. Clinton isn't going to address anything of substance because she doesn't have to (and doesn't want to), and the rest of the candidates won't because they no longer have nothing to gain. Yeah, it might be nice if somebody addressed the state of public education because it's important and addressing it is the right thing to do, but I'm a big boy and I know what to expect from my Presidential candidates.
LEG now enters the Stumping for Clinton portion of the homily. Put on your hip boots.
Each candidate who participated in our process supports strong public schools. But there is no question that Hillary Clinton’s proven track record on standing up for students, coupled with her depth of knowledge on the issues important to educators, make her the best choice for president.
No, sorry, wrong. There are questions. Many questions. Huge questions. Like, will she drop her love of charters and privatization? Will she take a stand when it comes to using bad standardized tests to evaluate teachers and schools? Will she tell her long-time friends and corporate backers who have a great interest in dismantling public education so they can sell off the parts-- will she tell those folks to go take a hike? And will we stop talking about Clinton's "proven track record of standing up for students" like it's a real thing and not a fiction spun out of fairy dust and unicorn poop?
But LEG says Clinton has stood out on issues from pre-K to affordable college, and she then moves into discussing some specific examples of exactly what Clinton has done and-- ha! Sorry, no. She doesn't. Instead, we get some specific Clinton work on other issues, like working on universal health care, a couple of working class person act, and the DREAM act.
But Clinton has promised she will treat teachers like they are important and listen to them and-- can it be-- yes!! There's the table!! That wonderful table!! And next to it-- there's a seat!! For us!!!
“I know how important it is for you to be the voices of education. I believe it is absolutely imperative for you to be at the table when decisions are made, at the local, state, or national level. And that’s what I promise to you. You will always have a place at the table.”
Oh, a place. Uh-oh. The servants have a place at the table. They just don't get to sit down a speak.
Look, here's my biggest problem with all this, and as much as I hate using war images, I'm going to do it here because it makes my point. It's January, 1942. Europe is in flames, and the ruins of Pearl Harbor are still smoldering. And a guy who wants to be President stands up and says, "I know you have concerns, and I want you to know that I am deeply committed to keeping the coffee fields of Brazil safe."
Pre-K and affordable college are lovely safe issues, just edgy enough to separate the D's from the R's, but still pleasantly platitudinous. But next year, I will be voting for a Presidential candidate who recognizes that public education is under attack, that a foundational institution of this country is in crisis-- not because of foreign attack or self-destructive dysfunction, but because of a concerted, deliberate attempt to tear it down and replace it with a system that is more concerned about Return on Investment than in making sure that every American child gets a good education-- and gets it without leaving her own neighborhood.
Cheery warm thoughts might have been enough in other times, but we are in a heap of trouble right now, and I don't need a president-- not of my nation and not of my union-- who thinks we should all pick up a fiddle while our home burns. I'm afraid that John Kuhn called it with his tweet:
LEG's piece ends with a link to offer feedback or thoughts-- I suggest we all use it.Prediction: Someone from one party or the other is going to be elected President, and that person will be bad for public education.— John Kuhn (@johnkuhntx) October 14, 2015