How could they put some distance between themselves and Trump and his Ed Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos. Neither one would pass for a progressive in even the darkest alley, and yet their preferred policies are the preferred policies of Trump-DeVos. Charters? Check. Smoosh the teachers unions? Check. Even Common Core, which Trump promised to eradicate, is much beloved by DeVos.
What, exactly, is the policy difference between the so-called progressive reform education agenda and the Trump-DeVos inclination to dismantle public education and sell off the pieces?
The dance of the faux progressives has been interesting to watch.
Some have just said, "Screw it. We love the folks who have the power." Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform took just six months to go from being alarmed that Trump was playing her song to thinking that, well, maybe he was swell after all.
Others, like Whitney Tilson and DFER, hedged their bets by suggesting that nobody should take a job with Trump, but maybe DeVos deserved a chance to prove herself.
But the preferred distinction is slowly being crafted and fine-tuned. Shavar Jeffries and Peter Cunningham tried it out at the end of November, and it is turning up in places like this tweet from the left-leaning thinky tank (and previous holding tank for former future Clinton administration functionaries)--
Betsy DeVos ideas for charters (that deregulate measures for quality control) exacerbate inequality & hypersegregate schools by race & class— CAP Action (@CAPAction) December 17, 2016
Accountability is key to keeping progressives in the reform tent. @shavarjeffries @CharlesBarone https://t.co/qt3ruSeqv8— Peter Cunningham (@PCunningham57) November 30, 2016
And then today's Washington Post features an op-ed by Rahm Emanuel, who wants us to know that "It's Time To Stop With the False Choices on School Choice." See, Betsy DeVos is the Wanton Floozy of choice, allowing any sleazy sloppy operator to run a school without accountability and therefor put the education of young folks at risk. Meanwhile, Rahm and Jeffries and Cunningham and other allegedly progressive folks want responsible, carefully monitored charter schools. Not only that, but Cunningham injected this into a twitter conversation today:
Sigh. Yes, for the gazillionth time, some refornmsters have discovered that they need some help from the defenders of public education.@StevenSinger3 @DianeRavitch We need each other more than ever. I am not your enemy even if we disagree on some things.— Peter Cunningham (@PCunningham57) December 17, 2016
Mind you, I have met Cunningham, and he did not appear to have horns or a forked tail. But this whole new stance requires, once again, a collective rewrite of history. In fact, plenty of right-tilted reformsters like Robert Pondiscio and Rick Hess and even Mike Petrilli who have periodically observed that somebody ought to reel in the charter operators who are really stinking up the joint, even as left-tilted reformsters have blamed all criticism of charters on those evil unions who put adult interests ahead of student needs or thrown around charges of racism every time a public ed advocate pointed out that charter schooling has a real problem.
Look, I get that politics shifts the landscape and folks who make their living playing political ping pong have to adjust to new realities and make new alliances and try new PR to achieve their goals. But just once I would like to go through one of these shifts that starts with folks acknowledging what they've said and done in the past.
If you're a teacher, you know how tiring it is-- something gets thrown across the room and you saws the kid who did it and he knows you saw him and yet he still looks at you and smile and shrugs "What? Who? Me??" The thrown object is not nearly as annoying as the kid insisting on treating you like a dope and refusing to own his actions.
But this, I guess, is how we're going to play it now. We're supposed to act like the demands for accountability represent some huge gulf between progressive charter reformsterism and the Trump-DeVosy variety as if supposed progressives haven't been pursuing conservative policies all along, and, as John King tried to suggest, all of us over here on the not-Trump side just want the same thing and are really pretty much on the same side, even though Trump and DeVos are intent on implementing the same policies that reformsters of both tiltage have been pushing toward for fifteen years. The Trumpies just don't want to pretend that they are doing non-wealthy non-white families a favor by pushing it.
This is why politics makes me tired. If we could just talk about policy and education and how best to serve America's students and communities, but no-- that conversation apparently has to be held within the restrictions and boundaries of keeping track of which side you're on and who you want to be allied with and who you want to oppose for the good of Our Team and the need to have the conversation within those restrictions results in people just saying stupid, ridiculous, if-you-hadn't-spent-so-much-time-in-politics-you'd-understand-how-silly-you-sound things. I don't care what you call yourself; the difference between "neo-liberal" and "conservative" is that one is one letter longer. I don't want to spend time sorting out people. I want to talk about preserving, protecting and uplifting public education, one of the last great foundational democratic institutions in this country, not why you think your way of attacking it is so much better and different than someone else's way of attacking it. Grrr. Yes, you can imagine me breathing heavily at my keyboard.
So, okay. These are the new rules. Righties want charters with no accountability. Progressives want tons of accountability. Gee. I guess dividing the conversation along those lines means we don't get to talk about whether or not we should have charters at all, huh?