Shifts in Democratic Party platform on testing reflects deep divide on education, shift away from Obama politices
The Democratic National Convention was jarred by leaked emails suggesting party leaders rigged the nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton.
It got much less attention, but another email in that same leaked collection shows Democratic Party strategists backing away from key planks of President Obama's education policy and highlights a key policy divide in the Democratic coalition.
In May, the leaked email shows, Eric Walker, the deputy communications director at the DNC, rejected a TV ad that would have defended Common Core, the education standards introduced during the Obama administration, and called out GOP candidates for favoring local control of education.
"Common Core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all," Walker wrote. "Get rid of it." (Meaning get rid of the reference in the ad, not the Common Core itself.)
Walker also suggested removing video clips featuring Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump calling for local control of education. Criticizing the two GOP candidates for demanding local control of education was politically dicey, Walker argued.
"Most people want local control of education," he wrote, "so having Cruz and Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that."
Both localization and opposition to the Common Core are at odds with longstanding Obama administration education policy. Under Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Obama team spent the past eight years centralizing federal control over education, encouraging what became the Common Core curriculum, and insisting that schools must be evaluated using test scores.
None of this really surprised the teacher unions, a key part of the Democratic coalition.
"Obama was candid with the unions in 2007," said Peter Cunningham, a Democrat who served as assistant secretary of education in the Obama administration. "He told them he supported merit pay, teacher accountability and parental choice. They booed him and endorsed Hillary."
Cunningham, who is now executive director of Education Post, a Chicago-based education reform journal, remains an outspoken supporter of federal leadership and school accountability. But he laments the current split in what had been what he saw as a 25-year bipartisan consensus on education reform.
Cunningham objects to the Democratic Party platform, approved at the convention in Philadelphia this week. The platform opposes "high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color," using those tests to close failing schools, and using tests to evaluate teachers or principals.
The platform also supports "enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school."
"Now we have testing but you can't use the tests to hold anyone accountable," Cunningham said. "This puts at risk the very kids we are supposed to be fighting for," Cunningham said.
The DNC's skittishness about "third rail" education controversies, evident in the leaked email and the party's new platform, reflects a widening split within the Democratic Party over education policy, which burst open in 2015 when teacher unions and many parents pushed back againstRead more at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865659215/The-email-in-the-DNCs-leaked-collection-that-didnt-get-much-attention.html?clear_cache=1#4LuSSSRX6UbDtz9w.99