Republicans have lost the education debate
Education? This is the missing issue in the current Election Cycle. Why? Answer: There has been progress in the fight for public education. Meaning what? Republicans are losing this battle because the results are coming in from their “reforms.”
Probably one of the surest signs of what side is winning — the Diane Ravitch side or the Michelle Rhee side — is when the losing side concedes. That confession recently appeared in an op-ed for USA Today, a concession written by “reformists” Richard Whitmire, the author and reform propagandist who has defended Rhee in his biography that critics called “worshipful,” and David Osborne, a senior fellow with the Programs Policy Institute, a politically centrist think tank.
The list of failed school reforms launched by Republicans is “embarrassingly long,” Whitmire and Osborne declared, listing Common Core and test-based teacher evaluations among several other “sputtering reforms.” The one exception the duo pointed to is the rare high-performing charter school. Originally, both conservatives and liberals believed that charters gave thousands of poor and minority kids a shot at the American dream.
Probably the biggest obstacle to a bipartisan embrace of charters is the risk of having Donald Trump embracing them as a “rightwing cause” and Hillary Clinton allowing charters to disappear from the Democratic agenda.
Both Whitmore and Osborne and the Gates Foundation as well as the Walton Foundation are today assuming that their “reforms” have something wrong about the policies per se, not just the rhetoric. That is, the top down strategy. They have shifted to a bottom-up plan securing community buy-in, but not a focus on changing anything local communities don’t like.
Walton will not ask the people what they want in their communities, but to build a local base of support for what has already been decided by the Bush/Obama/Gates “reforms,” which do not work.
Then, there’s the opposition by the NAACP. This powerful group is calling for a nationwide moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools. Why? They increase segregation, impose punitive and exclusionary discipline policies on students,and foster financial corruption and conflicts or interest. And that’s not the end of this opposition. The Movement for Black Lives is also calling for a moratorium on charter schools per se, not just the private issue. This group, based upon a coalition of 50-plus groups, has stuck a dagger in charters, causing a falling out of favor as one of several groups cumulatively. But that’s not the end of my story. Big Money, rather than better policy, continues to be the “reformists’ ” ace in the hole. The well-financed organizations are connected to billionaires and the hedge-fund industry; that is, Democrats for Education Reform and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Big Media has drawn a false equivalence between any reform effort funded by the uber rich and an opposition consisting of teachers, parents, communities of color and grassroots organizations. Clinton’s charter school remarks have deeply upset charter advocates.
Then, Bernie Sanders’ progressive Democrats rewrote the education section of the party’s platform so today the party officially opposes high-stakes testing and evaluating teachers using student test scores,while factoring democratically controlled public school charters over the private sector, a for profit model.
Finally, so who’s losing? Wealthy individuals pushing their interests and the corporate media. That is, the marked-driven orthodoxy, not to mention the fact that the for-profit schools at all levels are on the outs. Education, huh?
B. J. Paschal is a retired Ball State University professor.Republicans have lost the education debate - Your Voice - News-Sentinel.com: