Tuesday, March 13, 2018

CA: DFER "All-Star" Running for Governor

Whitney Tilson is the hedge fund guy behind Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a reform-backing group that is only sort of technically Democratic. Tilson sends out a regular newsletter, and in the most recent edition, he beats the drum for California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.

This guy.
Villaraigosa is a former Los Angeles mayor. In Tilson's letter, DFER calls Villaraigosa "a bonafide DFER all-star" and touts his impeccable "ed reform credentials."

As Mayor, he sought mayoral control over Los Angeles' schools, and used his platform to take responsibility over a large subset of the City’s failing schools including those in South Los Angeles, Watts and East Los Angeles.

So he's helped out reformsters with some real estate grabs. And then there's this:

Importantly, given that Mayor Villaraigosa served for years as an organizer for the local teachers' unions, he continues to be one of the only leaders in the country who can speak against inequities in education with the credibility of being a pro-union Democrat who once represented members of the unions he is now holding accountable.

While it's true that Villaraigosa used his union work to launch his political career, he may have singed that bridge a bit when he called the LA teachers union "the largest obstacle to creating quality schools." Villaraigosa has picked fights with any number of unions in LA; I'm not so sure the "pro-union" hat fits pretty well, but Villaraigosa is a fine example of what Slate was talking about when it wrote the headline "Betsy DeVos Didn’t Say Anything in Her Viral Clip That Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years."

When Eli Broad tried to launch a plan to privatize half of the LA Unified School District, Villaraigosa was there to offer his vocal support.  And while Tilson may want to label Voillaraigosa pro-union, the candidate himself makes it a point to paint the teachers union as his enemy. Because, I guess, being anti-teacher is one way to earn political and financial capital in these races. Oh-- he would like tenure to be harder to get as well.

Bottom line: California, like DFER, New York, Connecticut and a few other locales, is a place where many Democrats are largely indistinguishable from Republicans when it comes to public education. For the moment, California Democrats have some choices for governor. We'll have to wait and see if anyone emerges who wants to actually stand up for public education, or if California will be one more place where public education becomes a political orphan.

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