So, the Clinton campaign is starting to feel a little stress. This was in an e-mail from Robby Mook, the campaign manager:
The Republican candidates for president are all over the place, but they do agree on one thing: They know that Hillary would be the strongest Democratic candidate, so they’ll say, do, and spend whatever it takes to bring down this campaign.
Karl Rove’s super PAC just released a vicious attack ad that spreads lies about Hillary’s emails, and they’re putting it out in New Hampshire. They know the polls are tight there, and that this is their best play to try to make sure they don’t have to face Hillary in the general election.
Translation: "Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the GOP." And this evening, the twitterverse is afraid that the NEA is going to make an early endorsement for Clinton. So here's the question again (that I ask as an NEA member)-- is Clinton a candidate that those of us who support public education can live with?
There are plenty of things to discuss, but let's focus, for a second, on Hillary believes that every child, no matter his or her race, income, or ZIP code, should be guaranteed a high-quality education.
That could mean any damn thing. It could mean that she supports building charter schools on every corner and shipping every poor child out of her own neighborhood to attend them. And it doesn't help that the next sentence throws in Clinton's "decades" of work to for schools, because Clinton's decades of work aren't all that encouraging to a public school supporter. We could start with the Bush event where Clinton praised Bush as someone “who really focused on education during his time as governor in Florida, and who has continued that work with passion and dedication in the years since.”
And, as a United States Senator, she served on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee as a key member shaping the No Child Left Behind Act with the hopes that it would bring needed resources and real accountability to improve educational opportunities for our most disadvantaged students. But the promise of No Child Left Behind was not fulfilled.
Love the passive voice, but I'd rather here her drill down a little bit. Is she willing to say that NCLB was fundamentally flaw and that she screwed up when she voted for a bill that demanded the statistically impossible goal of making all students get above-average scores on a Big Standardized Test, or does she have some explanation for why NCLB somehow wandered off the rails? An answer to either would tell us something about what she really thinks about public education.
As President, she will "fight for" policies that pursue some goals, including
*Make high quality education a priority for every child in America. This has to be one of the vaguer batch of weasel words ever strung together, but she follows them with some specifics that indicate she either doesn't understand or doesn't want to admit to what's going on now.
Hillary believes that testing provides communities with full information about how our low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities are doing in comparison to other groups so that we can continue to improve our educational system for all students.
Nope. BS Testing does not provide any meaningful information, and certainly no information that cannot be better collected from somewhere else. And "continue to improve" the system? Exactly what improvements does she imagine have happened in the last fifteen years? I want to hear her offer some specifics.
And then Clinton tries to ameliorate that by saying, hey parents and teachers who feel the testing thing is out of control, she totally feels your pain. And that's why she wants to get teachers and parents involved in a conversation about this stuff. So, yes. We can have a conversation about pursuing policies that push for the possibility-- good lord, but this is right up there with "I'll think about thinking about forming a committee to issue a recommendation that we will discuss considering."
* Support educators. Well, no. Here's how she follows that up:
Hillary knows that the evidence on what most improves student learning
all points to good teachers. Yet, we do not do enough to ensure that
teachers receive the training, mentorship and support they need to
succeed and thrive in the classroom. Hillary will invest in supporting
our teachers, recruiting the best and brightest into the profession, and
providing more teachers training with real-world hands-on learning
That is not "support for educators." That is a politely worded version of the Bad Teacher narrative. Teachers are the most important factor in student learning, so we must have a bunch of bad teachers out there and we have to figure out how to best replace them with Hero Teachers. This is the standard issue reformster Democrat Blame the Teachers rhetoric with a pretty face
* Improve student outcomes.
I don't want to hear anything about this that doesn't start with a recognition that "student outcomes" and "student achievement" have to mean more than a set of scores on a narrow BS Test. Clinton does not offer that understanding.
Clinton finishes by noting that as Arkansas first lady, she worked for higher standards, higher teacher pay, and lower class sizes.
My Two Questions
So there is nothing in Clinton's campaign site's education tab to indicate that she is not tied to the same interests as Jeb Bush, Barrack Obama or George Bush. There is no reason to believe that the priorities championed by her staff members when they were with the Center for American Progress-- one size fits all standards, deprofessionalizing teaching, and privatization through charters-- there's no reason to believe that she is not cut from that same cloth.
As I've said repeatedly, I give no attention to the crap thrown at Clinton, from Benghazi baloney to hyperventilating over her email. But as a teacher, I see nothing in her education policy that the GOP candidates would not happily embrace. All that separates her from the clown car full of GOP candidates is that some of them would try to do away with the unions, while she would prefer to co-opt the unions.
If I'm going to take Clinton seriously as a candidate, I need to hear answers to two questions:
1) What serious mistakes have been made in US public education policy over the past 8-15 years?
2) What would you do differently from your predecessors when it comes to education?
I don't insist that the answers from Clinton (or any other candidate) perfectly match my own beliefs. But answers to those questions would tell us a lot about just how well the candidate actually understands about what's really going on in public education, and what sorts of commitment to public education they will make going forward. That's important, because Clinton's plan right now just looks like more of the same reformy baloney, and I will not, I can not, vote for that.