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Blue Civil War: Knives Drawn in Education Fight


Delegates at the California Democratic Party convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution yesterday censuring fellow party members who support school reform and calling groups like Democrats for School Reform a front for Republican and corporate interests. “Let’s be perfectly clear”, the President of the California Teachers Association explained,

These organizations are backed by moneyed interests, Republican operatives and out-of-state Wall Street billionaires dedicated to school privatization and trampling on teacher and worker rights.

The delegates and their union backers are responding to a surge of Democratic support for reform ideas like charter schools, test-based accountability, and teacher performance evaluations. Democratic LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform backed reform-minded officials in LA’s recent Board of Education elections. The group boasts among its biggest donors blue power-brokers like Michael Bloomberg, Hollywood executives, and other individuals who are hardly “Republican operatives.”

The results for Villaraigosa’s reformers in the LA school board elections were mixed, but the momentum is clearly on the reformers’ side. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a bipartisan consensus begin to emerge on education reform. Policies like teacher evaluation and parental choice are increasingly supported by elements of both the Right and the Left. The Democratic politicians and donors pushing for such reforms seem to have weighed the costs to unionized teachers and decided that they are worth the benefits to students.

We can’t say whether this means the reformers will win the day in California, but it’s safe to say that that the political coalition that once held the Democratic Party together is cracking. The Democratic Party is splintering between the providers of public services on one side and the consumers of those services on the other. In many ways, California is the biggest battlefield in this civil war.

[Antonio Villaraigosa image courtesy of Getty Images; Teacher strike image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Southwestern SongDog

    I have been waiting most of my adult life to see the Democrats elevate the public interest over the interest of one of its constituency groups. Ain’t gonna happen.

  • Leon0112

    A similar scenario is happening in the state of Washington. Republicans are leading the way in the area of educational reform, but significant numbers of Democrats are supporting the discussion. The action in the State Senate is particularly intense.

  • Micha_Elyi

    They’re red, not blue. Germany’s Social Democrats are red, Chinese socialists are red, Soviets are red too.

  • John

    CTA is getting a taste of it’s own medicine. So ironic they complain about money backed Republicans. They are paying politicians off, why did they back Prop. 8, with a million dollars? So then when they need a favor from a politician that they have bought they can get it. They are the worst money backed institution there is all under a disguise of teacher and workers right. If they really cared about improving education they should have used the million that they put into Prop 8 for the students and teachers.

  • DiaKrieg
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