Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hillary's Education Plan

So, the Clinton campaign is starting to feel a little stress. This was in an e-mail from Robby Mook, the campaign manager:

Friend --

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 experiences. 

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.


  1. I agree, to me Benghazi and the emails are manufactured non-issues; besides education, I'm concerned about her hawkishness and corporate ties, and that I don't really know what she stands for after her constant metamorphoses in 2008. I know that women and children's issues are important to her, but I don't much beyond that.

    Doesn't what she says about education sound kind of like Arne? Not encouraging at all. You would think being BFF with Randi would mean she has more of a clue, but maybe that just says something about Randi.

  2. Yes, Benghazi is a made up bunch of nothing. But the emails? Was that a made-up scandal when liberals got upset about Bush doing the same thing? I'm sorry, but there are reasons why government emails belong on government servers. Period. Maybe Hillary wasn't doing anything nefarious by using personal servers. Maybe it was just convenience. But if we excuse her for doing it, we have no business complaining next time a Republican conveniently happens to "lose" a big batch of emails off a personal server. Democrats (especially the Obama "most transparent ever" administration) are the ones, after all, who tend to promote "transparency". Let's not be hypocritical.

    1. I think I just don't understand the technicalities of government versus private server. None seems to be secure, and I don't understand why the government let her do it if she wasn't supposed to, because they had to know. I get what you're saying that it's easier to make emails "disappear" if they're on a private server. But I'm much more concerned about her hawkishness.

  3. Benghazi baloney? I'm not a member of the GOP and never will be, but I really cringe when I read that one. If you have ever worked with, near, or for an embassy, you might not be so casual about Hillary's story/silence about that incident. As regional director for an NGO in a country the US once bombed (illegally, I might add) I can tell you that attacks on embassies are not trivial things. Is it so ridiculous to say she handled it poorly? If it were close to home and she handled it poorly, maybe it would feel more relevant to understanding who she is?

    The overall pattern with her is poor judgment. She hasn't shown good judgment in areas that matter. Your discussion of her education policy is the point of this post. The Clinton method of "Pause and Deflect" has taken them very far. But referring to criticism of her poor handling of that situation as "baloney" goes too far, in my opinion.

    I read your blog all the time. I learn from it. I don't agree with your attitude/opinion about everything, but I don't need to. I thought you may want to consider another perspective about this and thought I'd share mine. Your readers who don't share you opinion about Benghazi but care about education might not appreciate their opinions (on such an unrelated topic) being called baloney. But I recognize that it is your blog and you can say and do whatever you want with it.

    1. I thought the main problem with Benghazi was that the Republicans said the administration lied about why it was attacked, whether it was the video or something else, and I don't see how that makes much difference. I think the whole thing is very confusing but I think part of the problem is with the CIA station next door that the government wanted to keep under wraps. I don't think Peter is saying that keeping our embassies safe is baloney.

    2. Yup. Keeping embassies safe is no baloney. Trying to keep repackaging Benghazi cock-up as way to "get" Clinton is wasting everyone's time.

    3. The confusion mentioned above is precisely because the person in charge was not able to get her story straight. You can feel sorry for her for being attacked and think that questioning her is a waste of time. I think her lack of leadership skills as Secretary of State does not bode well for her leadership skills in the realm of public education. She might say the same thing to you, "Whether the kids learn through charters or public schools, what difference does it make?" To you, it makes a big difference. I would never insinuate that Peter doesn't care about embassies. I won't re-iterate my point. I regret commenting here (honestly) and I won't do it anymore.

    4. Please don't do that. I've enjoyed and learned from your comments before. I agree that she lacks leadership skills. A large part of a conversation is a back-and-forth to clarify ideas.

  4. I know this might sound ignorant but do we know what Bernie's plan for education is? Because I know I like a lot of other things about him. (-;

    1. I have to say, I really want to support Bernie (and I think he is a far cry better than Hillary), but his education "platform" gives me the willies. It's every bit as vague as Hillary's. A bunch of pretty uncontroversial (among liberals, anyway) platitudes about universal pre-k and free college), but very little about K-12. What little he does say indicates he either doesn't understand all the connections among CCSS, testing, privatization, etc., or, worse, he does understand. What little he says tends to follow the "civil rights" talking points.

    2. I agree he really has to flesh out his platform. It's encouraging that he's pro-union and anti-corporate, so you would think he'd be okay if he understood all the ramifications of the issue. He's going to have to be pushed on it. The key will be whether or not he listens to teachers and how much priority he gives it. I was leery about Obama's understanding of the issue when he talked about merit pay during the campaign, but I trusted that he would listen to the right people, and that didn't happen.

  5. and notes his position on Education,,,not much specification on public ed. He will need to elaborate more. (Bernie last week did spoke about how he wants to end privatization of prisons...prisons should not be privately owned because it leads to abominable abuses..How would privatization of public schools ever sit any easier with him than privatization of prisons has not?) I sent him a copy of Dr Ravitch's "Reign of Error" and asked him to become familiar with both sides of the education privatization wars. With Cornel West's recent endorsement, one can only hope that West would make a better Secretary of Ed than Arne has been.

  6. Sanders' responses to the AFT questionnaire give some idea of his K-12 positions. I think he's a bit wobbly on standardized testing (he speaks against an overemphasis on testing and narrowing of the curriculum, but he also thinks testing is somehow going to help guarantee that poor children and children of color get better served. And his criticism is focused on No Child Left Behind without mentioning the doubling down on testing of Race To the Top). But on other issues, he's better: charter schools must be as accountable on funding and spending as public schools, strong opposition to vouchers, an emphasis on "resource equity" for public schools, support for wrap-around services and a "well rounded" curriculum. And with his overall emphasis on confronting poverty and income inequality directly, and his consistent history of support for unions, I think he can be counted on not to adopt the "bad teachers, protected by unions, are the main obstacle for poor children" narrative we've been fighting for the past 2 decades. I, too, would like to see him speak more forcefully on some of these things, and see some of this more spelled out on his campaign websites. Here's the link to the AFT questionnaire: (I think the AFT was dumb to endorse Clinton, but at least they did publicize all of the candidates' answers on their website).

  7. re: "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."

    Over a year later, I found this on Betsy DeVos' Twitter site (@BetsyDeVos): "Passionate about quality education for children and an advocate of school choice."

    That could mean any damn thing.

    The neoliberals paved the way for Drumph and people like DeVos.