Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.
Diane is 100% right on this but she leaves out another inconvenient truth: the weakened unions have continued to blindly support and almost never oppose Democrats, no matter how awful their public school records are.
Case in point: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
This is from Diane's piece:
As Democrats learned years ago, support for mandatory testing and charter schools opens fat wallets on Wall Street. Money guys love deregulation, testing and Big Data, and union-busting. In 2005, Obama served as the featured speaker at the inaugural gathering of Democrats for Education Reform, which bundles contributions to Democrats who back charter schools: Among its favorites have been those sharp DeVos critics George Miller, Michael Bennet, and Cory Booker. Conservative funders like the Walton Foundation also give generously to charter schools and liberal think tanks such as the Center for American Progress.
The money had its intended effect. When Andrew Cuomo decided to run for governor of New York, he learned that the way to raise cash was to go through the hedge funders at Democrats for Education Reform. They backed him lavishly, and Cuomo repaid them by becoming a hero of the charter movement. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, often celebrated for his unvarnished liberalism, is another champion of the charter industry; some of its biggest funders live in his state. California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to ban for-profit charters in the state, and has resisted efforts to make charters more accountable. As mayor of Oakland, he opened two charter schools.
If memory serves me correct, Zephyr Teachout primaried Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Where were the teacher unions? Did NYSUT or the UFT endorse her grassroots campaign? No, we stayed neutral allowing Cuomo to breeze to reelection and he hurt us badly the next year. For daring to stand up to the governor, Dick Iannuzzi and most of his leadership team at NYSUT were ousted by a UFT led hostile takeover in 2014.
How about former UFT President, now AFT President, Randi Weingarten suporting charter schools and then opening two UFT charter schools? (For the record I voted no on both.) She once told the UFT Executive Board that all ideas except for vouchers are on the table.
Diane Ravitch writes a great critique of the Democrats but not blaming the unions for their support for so called school reform is a major omission. The big unions have gone along almost every step of the way with the right wing education policies.