Thursday, May 25, 2017


Diane Ravitch has an exellent piece in the New Republic that everyone should read in which she blames the Democratic Party for their own demise when it comes to education.

Diane writes:
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.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion Randi weingarten is responsible for the decline of teaching as a profession. She was in Bloomberg' back pocket

Anonymous said...

Union leaders are IN on the entire demise of public education.

Pay attention to their actions, not their words.

Michael Fiorillo said...

Where were the teacher's union when Zephyr Teachout was running against Cuomo? Thjey were busy threatening to withdraw funding from the Working Families Party if it endorsed her.

Anonymous said...

Check the chaz site, bad news for atrs if true.

Anonymous said...

I think she is a personal friend of RW, so it is very unlikely that she would criticize her.
RW did support the Ellison for the DNC chair. But this could be a fake to the left. (From Corey Booker, to Al Franken to Rahm Emmanuel-all the Dem politicians are faking to the left). RW, and the whole Dem misleadership, has to do a lot more to regain any support. I still remember her crossing a picket line early in her tenure and the vote to endorse Clinton was not transparent. Trust must be earned.

waitingforsupport said...

Same old news--no news. I have heard that info in April--you have a job right?

Harris L. said...

True. The Dems have been feckless, or worse.

True. Our own unions have been complicit in the demise of our profession.

True, as well: for reasons having to do with money and our fractured selves, we who oppose "education reform" have been manifestly unable to come up with a counter-narrative that is easily-grasped by large numbers of liberal (for some of us "liberal" is not, automatically, a four-letter word), center-left and left parents and other people interested in public education who don't have the inclination or time to deep-dive into the theory, practice and politics of education policy.

The exception--opt-out here in NYS. The testing regime imposed from on high moved parents to step up and speak out largely because of the effective organizing and communications strategies that opt-out leaders adopted.

The rest of what we care about gets repeated here and on other small blogs and limited distribution social media posts that reach an already-interested group of people--and the very occasional DR piece that breaks through the larger media clutter and propaganda.

I don't have any great suggestions to offer but, in addition to Neanderthal Republicans, nefarious Democrats and walking-dead labor unions we also need to look straight at ourselves.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to disagree with anything Harris said but when people fight back, unless they are a strong collective like CPE 1, they have virtually no chance of getting anywhere. We should really work on organizing again at the school level to have hope of regaining the schools and go from there.

Harris L. said...

Anon 4:16 (starting to sound like a very strange cult group with its own very strange bible):

We agree. I def wasn't urging passivity. The CPE and Townsend Harris battles were profoundly important and demonstrate what can happen when teachers work closely with parents and students. They were the first real victories we've had in the four years I've been involved, even if indirectly lately, in the fight for union democracy and against education reformistas.

And I give full props to James, Arthur Goldstein and Norm Scott, among others, who helped rally the troops and keep us informed.

More victories like these and we will be making real progress...