Latest News and Comment from Education

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party | Jennifer C. Berkshire

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party | Jennifer C. Berkshire:

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party
The Democrats and DeVos have more in common than they’d care to admit

IN A FACEBOOK POST THIS SUMMER, hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb took aim at the highest ranking Black woman in the New York legislator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “[H]ypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses,” wrote Loeb, “do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.” The rant, which had the exquisite misfortune of appearing just days before the actual KKK took to the streets of Charlottesville to menace nonwhite people and their allies, struck a familiar Loeb theme. In a previous post he implored his peer to take up the fight against the teachers union: “the biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK.”
It would be easy to dismiss all this frothing as just Loeb being Loeb. This is, after all, the same crusader for justice who once lambasted a CEO for his imperial lifestyle, not an easy charge to level from a ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse. But the NYC financier is not just any hedge fund billionaire. As the chair of the board of Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, he is a leading force within the nexus of big money and self-proclaimed school “reformers” within the Democratic party. While Loeb doesn’t limit his donations to Dems (as his profile on the married-but-looking dating site, Ashley Madison, indicated, he is not one to be tied down), he exerts the kind of outsized influence that $3.2 billion in net worth reliably commands these days.
There’s another reason why we can’t dismiss Loeb’s view that teachers unions promote income inequality and serve as a barrier to progress of any sort as just another crackpot rich-bro outburst. That’s because it’s now a key policy plank of responsible elite opinion almost everywhere. Flip back to The Economist—the bible of savvy, entrepreneurial-minded social criticism—circa 2012, and you’ll find Loeb’s screed rendered in assured magazine prose, minus the overt racist incitements. To wit: “no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have.”
And where The Economist goes, influential “thought leaders” are sure to follow. So now, as America ponders the mounting economic disequilibriums that gave rise to the Trump insurgency, concerned plutocrats can all agree on one key article of faith: what is holding back the poor and minority children who figure so prominently in the glossy brochures of charter school advocates is not the legacy of racist housing policy or mass incarceration or a tax system that hoovers up an ever growing share of income into the pockets of the wealthy, but schoolteachers and their unions.
It was thus no great shock to see that, just weeks after Loeb apologized for his offensive language, attributing it to his passion for “education choice,” David Osborne, a professional Democratic party thinker who heads up something called the Reinventing America’s Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, said essentially the same thing. On a swing through Philadelphia to promote his new book on the wonders of school privatization, Osborne told an interviewer that teachers unions belong in the same category with segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. “They’re  Continue reading How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party | Jennifer C. Berkshire: