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K-12 Blues
Hillary Moves Left on Education Reform

On education, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposed to be a centrist and a pragmatist, a Democrat who, like Secretary Arne Duncan and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, acknowledged that our public school system was in dire need of reform, and that ensuring the well-being of students, not meeting the demands of teachers unions, should be the overriding goal of education policy. But over the course of her campaign, Clinton has been increasingly adopting a stance in line with teachers unions, calling her reformer bona fides into question. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Democrats backing the effort to overhaul American education have become increasingly concerned that presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton isn’t committed to their cause, and some donors are holding back support for her campaign […]

Last month, she appeared to disparage charter schools, which are public schools operating outside of the traditional system. “Most charter schools—I don’t want to say every one—but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them,” she said in an interview with TV host Roland Martin at a town-hall meeting in South Carolina. […]

Days later, Mrs. Clinton spoke at a union round table and expressed opposition to using student test scores as a way to evaluate teachers. “I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes,” she said. “There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence.”

These remarks may simply represent the type of triangulation and uneasy coalition-building we have come to expect from the Democratic frontrunner, who is, after all, running against a European-style democratic socialist. But they also reflect the reality that the entire Democratic party is in the midst of a pronounced shift to the Left, making it much more difficult for its candidates (at any level) to back changes to doctrinaire blue model thinking.

Our K-12 public education system, dominated by teachers unions and mostly bereft of accountability and meaningful competition, is a textbook example of the way sclerotic institutions favor well-connected insiders at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve—and the way that blue modelers prop them up, always fearful of new arrangements, always fighting the future. That more competition and higher standards would help students—particularly the most vulnerable students—is a no-brainer. Here’s hoping that Clinton’s remarks on this issue are just campaign season posturing.

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