Dems And Education Reform

A lot of speculation about the Democrats and education. Here’s my take via U.S. News & World Report:

Are the Democrats done with education reform?

That’s the question a lot of people are asking in the wake of a few recent education events. It’s a question that gets bloggers and insiders fired up for sure to cheer or jeer. But the death of the Democrats on education reform is likely exaggerated.

Want to know why I think that? Well, here are four reasons the trends probably are not what they seem. What issue are you done with? I’m already tired of one party calling for the titular head of the other to be locked up. I’d live somewhere more exotic if I wanted government like that. Tell me what issue you’re done with or who  you want locked up on Twitter @arotherham. Or let me know why you think this is wrong and the Democratic reform wave has crested.

3 Replies to “Dems And Education Reform”

  1. Only because I believe that God performs miracles, that many of you can and want to keep up the fight, and that any sort of damper on your morale would be a bad deed, I will keep my negative critique of Andy’s US News take on Democrats and education reform to myself.

  2. Ok, I’ve been encouraged to lay out “informed criticism” of Andy’s piece, so I will.

    First, I want to say that Democratic education reform has been essential to the reform movement and its success. Why, after all, I used to be a Democratic reformer myself, once upon a time! I am so praiseworthy of, and grateful to, the civil rights leaders, philanthropists, Democratic governors in the 90s, Ted Kennedy, George Miller, other members of Congress, the DLC (and Andy), many of those who have populated the Obama administration (though we’ve disagreed a lot on key issues), and all the young blood that have contributed to reforms that have made such a substantial difference in improving disadvantaged children’s education.

    Second, I think that much of this reform will live on no matter who gets elected, no matter what goofy positions either a Clinton or a Trump administration takes, and no matter what the special interests that support them do or say.

    Fundamental change has taken root. While the reform structure of the late 90s and the 2000s is under attack, parents are finding their way to more quality choices, which the reform community is doing a lot to promote. And nothing will stop this movement.

    But I am not optimistic about either party’s likely contribution through the policy apparatus in the next 4 years at the federal level. Clinton WAS a reformer while First Lady of Arkansas. Andy might disagree, but I think the commitment from 1993-2000 was strong to start but waned toward the end. (Shall I pull out some George Miller video to support my case?) While HRC voted for NCLB, I think that was mostly a function of Ted Kennedy’s leadership. And her position since has largely been shaped by the unions. Whether she can show any independence or leadership again, I won’t predict. But I see no reason to be optimistic that she’ll come close to President Obama, thus, nowhere near President Bush. I see no reason to believe, from action or rhetoric of the past few years, that she’ll even be in range of her husband’s work.

    The travesty at the platform committee is truly reflective of today’s politics and indicative of what the future holds. While I’ve seen presidents go beyond platforms, I’ve never seen a president govern significantly at odds with the campaign and/or platform on education issues.

    Again, there is considerable reform energy in the field, and I tip my hat to DFER, the civil rights groups, and other organized reform groups. Yet, I see far less reform zeal in political and policy circles than I did in the 90s and 2000s. With the exception of the charter movement, which seems healthier than ever, I see the opponents of reform getting stronger in Democratic circles and the reformers getting weaker.

    As to Republicans, need I have to say it’s getting worse there? No, because it obviously is. But that’s another day’s topic. The interesting thing about the Republicans, whether they win the White House or not, is that they will strongly, and with some effect, push three strategies: more local control, less spending, and choice.

    The net effect of this will be, unless the Democrats sweep to power, a downward trajectory in funding and less activity in reform policy.

    As pessimistic as I am in the short term, I’m more optimistic in the long term. Here’s why. The school community one day will turn back to the civil rights community and the reformers. Their alliance with “local control” interests may have worked at reducing the pressure of accountability. But the slowdown in funding that will occur will cause them (and children) far more pain than did the minimal pinch of accountability. Parents increasingly will find ways to continue to leave the old system through charters, technology, and even private, largely independent schools. Current alliances will bust up over the next decade.

    So, I hope reformers will stay active and continue the good fight. While needed progress for disadvantaged kids will sadly (tragically) continue to slow down, there’s reason for hope in the longer term, and that hope is best sustained if right-minded people stay at their posts.

    But little-to-no long term good will come out of a Clinton or a Trump administration, and thinking otherwise is a pipe dream. Some energy ought to be spent blocking even worse policy, yes, but with ESSA, we have the likely (and not very good) terrain for the next few years.

    There’s plenty of other good work that reform-minded people can do, including finding more effective ways to show parents and the public how much lost ground we, their children, and the nation have begun to experience under the awful policies the forces of the status quo have passed and continue to press. But, mainly, we must go with the goers, and help create and support more and more and more successful schools. That, in my mind, is the main and most productive work for the next four years.

  3. The Rebel Alliance for education reform on the leftThe Rebel Alliance for education reform on the left The report is timely, given the recent battle over testing and charter schools in the Democratic Party platform , set to be finalized later this month in Philadelphia.

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