I am very thankful that there are people out there who are policy wonks who follow every last detail of the workings of Congress. On education, I go to Mercedes Schneider and education historian Professor Diane Ravitch for insights. Both have been monitoring the federal lawmaking process on education very closely.
This morning I was sent information from Mercedes through Ravitch which kind of left my head spinning. In the re-authorization of what used to be called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which then was called the No Child Left Behind Act, and now the Senate is terming the Every Child Achieves Act, there were a number of amendments offered before Thursday's final Senate vote. One of them, the Murphy Amendment (put forward by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy) would have, as blogger Gadfly on the Wall put it, continued the "Test and Punish" accountability for schools just like No Child Left Behind. The amendment failed but what is surprising was who supported it.
If it carried, the Washington Post reported that the amendment would have "required states to identify and take action in the lowest 5% of public schools as determined by the state; high schools where fewer than 67% graduate on time and any school where poor, disabled, minority or English -language learner students do not meet state-set achievement goals on standardized tests and other measures for two consecutive years." Taking action could mean firing all the teachers according to the analysis from Mercedes Schneider. It looks like the same old blame the teachers for the ills of society nonsense. As Republican Senator Lamar Alexander put it, "Instead of fixing No Child Left Behind, it keeps the worst parts of it." The National Education Association opposed the Murphy amendment. I don't know about the AFT.
This amendment's cosponsors included liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren along with long time anti-public school, former Newark, NJ mayor and now Senator Cory Booker. They use civil rights language on protecting minority students to continue Test and Punish. All of the Democrats present except Jeanne Shaheen and John Tester voted for the amendment, It was almost all of the Republicans who voted this amendment down. The final senate tally was 43 in favor and 54 against.
How did left wing saint Bernie Sanders vote on keeping Test and Punish? He voted in favor.
Ravitch in her report said that education politics are "strange" referring to where Republicans and Democrats stand on education issues.
The oh so ridiculously titled Every Child Achieves Act later overwhelmingly passed the Senate and a similar education bill called The Student Success Act has already been narrowly approved by the House of Representatives. Next there will be a conference committee to reconcile the two bills.
I don't think Republicans are our friends when it comes to public schools as their solutions are more charter schools, vouchers for private schools and killing our unions but Democrats are clearly not our allies either. The Greens can't win so where do supporters of public education turn to politically? I wish I had an easy answer.
All I can say we are on our own now more so than ever and need to mobilize to push the politicians in our direction.
Ravitch has further analysis up today.