Wednesday, September 6, 2017

More DeVosian Democrats

You may not have heard of the Progressive Policy Institute lately, but they'll be coming up more often as their Education Honcho releases his new book. PPI is worth paying attention to, if for no other reason than the organization provides Exhibit #1,635 of Why Teachers Can't Trust Alleged Democrats.

What is PPI? From their own website:

The Progressive Policy Institute is a catalyst for policy innovation and political reform based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to create radically pragmatic ideas for moving America beyond ideological and partisan deadlock.
Founded in 1989, PPI started as the intellectual home of the New Democrats and earned a reputation as President Bill Clinton’s “idea mill.” Many of its mold-breaking ideas have been translated into public policy and law and have influenced international efforts to modernize progressive politics.

Today, PPI is developing fresh proposals for stimulating U.S. economic innovation and growth; equipping all Americans with the skills and assets that social mobility in the knowledge economy requires; modernizing an overly bureaucratic and centralized public sector; and, defending liberal democracy in a dangerous world.

In short, a neo-liberal Thinky Tank and advocacy group, masquerading as a bunch of progressives. They claim close ties to the New Democrats in Congress, as well as an assortment of governors and mayors. They like to call themselves centrists. They have staked out positions on a variety of issues, including education.

You can get a sense of where they stand from one of their most recent pieces, an attempted rebuttal of the NEA statement on charter schools. They lead with plenty of inflammatory language-- NEA's research is "shoddy," the "retrograde" report is "fear mongering worthy of a prize." They also repeat time-worn charteristas talking points-- charter schools are really public schools, no students are ever counseled out (which is true-- many are just pushed out), and nobody can prove that charters are adding to segregation. And they make a point by point rebuttal.

1) NEA says only elected school boards should authorize charters. PPI says that elected school boards are "problematic" because they are "captive" to their employees. In other words, the teachers union controls school board elections and the elected board members are just teacher shills. Also, charters are separate but unequal because charters are better.

2) NEA says charters should operate under same labor laws. PPI says that the ability to do whatever the hell you want with staffing-- hire, fire, pay levels all at the will of the operator-- is critical for charters.

3) NEA says that charters on average do no better than public schools. PPI holds its breath and declares that this is just not true, which I suppose is how we argue these things in Trump's America.

4) NEA says competition does not improve public schools. PPI says that the monopolies of public education is bad and competition will make everything great, just you wait and see.

5) NEA says charters are not held accountable  like public schools are. PPI says tat charters are held accountable for their performance, though they don't actually say by whom.Maybe authorizers, whose agenda is straightforward-- if the charter stays open they get a cut if students aren't learning the charter closes.

I'll remind you that all of this is coming from nominal Democrats. Even the Faux Democratic group DFER has tried to distance itself from the DeVos/Trump administration, but there isn't a thing here that Betsy DeVos wouldn't heartily agree with. And you can find PPI hanging out with the Fordham Institue, the National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools, Bellwether Education Partners, and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. The list of PPI fellows includes familiar names from many of these groups.

Can't lie-- that is a snappy hat

The voice of PPI on education is David Osborne. Osborne ran the "reinventing government task force" for VP Al Gore back in 1993, then spent a decade at the Public Strategies Group, "a consulting firm that helped public organizations improve their performance." He pops up in newspaper op-ed pages to tout the wonders of charter conversion. Here he is in the Philadelphia Inquirer explaining that Philly ought to imitate New Orleans or DC. Or in the Boston Globe (Massachusetts is his home base) touting a "new paradigm" for public schools which is, essentially, to replace public schools with charter schools.

And he has a new book out this week-- Reinventing Education-- that looks like it's going to be well-promoted.

In this book, Osborne uses compelling stories from cities like New Orleans and lays out the history and possible future of public education. Ultimately, he uses his extensive research to argue that in today's world, we should treat every public school like a charter school and grant them autonomy, accountability, diversity of school designs, and parental choice.

 I have not read the book (and it's not high on my list), but I am curious where he stands on the charter characteristics of non-transparency, non-accountability, and generating profits for private corporations and individuals. Nor do I see any signs of Osborne grappling of what happens to "undesireable" students in a charter world in which no charter has to take a student they don't want (a serious issue in New Orleans).

There's a whole world of charter mis-information here, coupled with the tone of someone who has no interest in a serious conversation about any of the issues that charters raise. That's all just another day at the education debates.

No, what I want you to notice, and remember as this group pops up, is that these are self-labeled progressives, folks with long and strong Democratic ties. The GOP is no friend of public education, but at least they never pretend otherwise. But here's evidence once again that when it comes to education, some Democrats are completely indistinguishable from the GOP.


  1. Love your last paragraph....BINGO!

  2. In many ways, this sort of "Democrat" is the worst sort of political scum we have. It's people like this that made it impossible for me to vote for Hillary Clinton or to back any national candidate the Democrats nominate as long as the party is run by the current DNC corruption-fest.

  3. If Obama couldn't be trusted to do the right thing for public education, who can?

  4. Wow! We should be writing about this beyond teacher circles. Any thoughts about how PPI relates to resignation of DFER's head from Success Academy, the deal Weingarten has cooked up with Edelman and the decline of enrollment for Kipp? (

  5. It's as ghastly as I thought back in the 90s when I was labeled a paranoic because I said NCLB is purposely designed so no public school could survive. 100% proficiency, indeed! Why not 110%? Or 150%? Just as (un)realistic! Thank you again, Peter Greene, for calling out the thugs busily ripping off our kids.

  6. This illustrious author was here in Philly last Friday. Here are two links to sidebar tidbits to his appearance at the Union League (a bastion of wealth and historically also discrimination). He likens the PFT to George Wallace and a public school parent with a ticket is barred.