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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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  • Anthony

    Let’s unpack post and give educational (nation) context. Our country’s trans-ethnic character has always made education indispensable and necessary as a foundation for both citizenship and civil comity. The standard ought to begin there and not be conflated by left/right educational proposals nor by institutional arrangements designed to serve politicians and Guilds. As I reflect back over years, I think the early grades are critical for assuring later competence and no amount of triangulation changes that. American education is historically built on the founding ideals of the American experiment which originally sought a core commonality and civic commitment – to better enable our diversity and individuality as Americans. It is here I think we ought to focus both our politicians and educators (K-12) – knowing that such focus will not be easy. To paraphrase Horace Mann, competence brings community and schooling equalizes opportunity to create both competence and loyal citizens, something to consider beyond left or right reform agendas.

    “American schools play a critical role in our attempt to accommodate different groups and ethnicities in a peaceful and harmonious unity without requiring them to abandon their private identities. America remains the most successful experiment so far in creating what the philosopher John Rawls called a social union of social unions.” Perhaps, this is the real criteria to judge Hillary Clinton’s or anyone’s true educational “bona fides”.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Does anyone know how many private schools (religious-based and otherwise) volunteer to use the SAME standardized tests as used in their state public systems and then “evaluate” their teachers based on the students’ scores on those tests? I keep having this feeling that the political side agitating for this style of harassment of teachers in the public sphere would not dream of imposing the same thing on their own private-school teachers.

    • Anthony

      FG, that’s a given (I think relative to evaluations – because same unionized cry is not advocated in suburbs generally; so yes a smokescreen). More importantly, as you know, the real issue is not Hillary Clinton tacking left or offending reformers. Easier to question Hillary’s motives than seriously inquire about real vitality of comprehensive education at K-12 level to our young citizens. This may be a secondary or tertiary matter in this case as children are least influential, but most talked about at the surface, when the education stakes are contested – emotional/financial mess you reference included. It’s really not about Hillary or reform.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Well, I know none of this is about Hillary Clinton—-other than the Right raising another wedge issue against her. The whole notion of evaluating and compensating school teachers on the results of standardized tests is questionable, but the Right seems to want to retain the testing (which it otherwise hates) just for the sole purpose of slapping any teachers who happen to be unionized. I somehow doubt it wants to treat its own Christian school teachers in the same demoralizing way.

        • Anthony

          FG, you’re ahead of curve; don’t sweat the small stuff (and I say that recognizing your taste for a good left/right row). Carry on my friend.

        • Tom

          Of course, there’s one big difference–my tax dollars aren’t going to support Christian schools.

        • Dale Fayda

          When was the last time Christian-school teachers of an entire city went on strike en masse, leaving hundreds of thousands of students stranded for weeks, while braying about the alleged “injustice” of their already preposterously generous new contract? Public school teachers’ unions do it routinely.

          Does a non-existent “Christian-school teachers union” contribute vast amounts of money it forcibly confiscates from its rank & file members to political parties and causes which a large proportion of its said rank & file finds repugnant? For public school teachers’ unions that’s SOP.

          Cite just one example of this, I dare you. Just one, anywhere. If you can do that, then I’m sure we’ll all gladly admit that the conservatives’ opposition to parasitic public sector unions is just political theater and I personally promise to re-direct my ire towards Christian-school teachers. Acceptable?

          • FriendlyGoat

            The teacher “evaluations” based on standardized testing are not aimed at the unions, Dale. They are aimed at demoralizing individual teachers—-another of your side’s idea of “carpet bombing”. What’s a good Republican idea for public school teachers is a bound to be a good idea for the teachers in the Right’s private schools.

          • Dale Fayda

            What are the “Right’s private schools”, exactly? Is that the private school Obama’s kids attend? Or every other wealthy liberal’s children from Manhattan to Santa Monica? Poor blacks in the every single Blue ghetto in the country are desperately trying to get their kids either into a charter or a parochial school, despite psychotic opposition from the teacher’s unions and their lap-dog Democrat elected officials. Private and parochial schools are the last refuge from the utter disaster that the Left has made of public education in America.

            NY State spends almost $20K per student, while Utah spends around $6,500: Where would you rather send you kid to school – NYC or Salt Lake City? Be honest.

            $20K per year to teach a child the rudiments of reading and arithmetic and they’re STILL grossly failing! That’s $20K every year for (12) years to turn out a functional illiterate! And you’re telling us that the teachers’ unions are not to be held accountable for this? Who is responsible for this if not them and the politicians they elect with OUR money?

            Nail them to the wall, shake up the whole system, get rid of the dead wood, the administrative bloat and the lifetime benefits. And if they don’t like it, they don’t have to do it:

          • FriendlyGoat

            Below is a link to a Feb 2015 article indicating that fewer than half of the public school students in Utah last year were rated proficient by the schools’ standardized tests. I’m not knocking Utah, but I would be knocking them if they take that to mean that half or more of the teachers there are bums. Utah, Dale! Where a majority of the teachers may very well be conservatives doing the best they can.

            You might be surprised to know that I actually have many years of experience with Christian schools. I was even on the Board of one.

            We did not mistreat our teachers with broad-brush nonsense designed politically to humiliate and frustrate them and public school teachers do not deserve such treatment either.


          • Tom
    • qet

      I assure you, FG, that private schools use far stricter evaluation procedures for their faculties, as parents won’t pay the tuition unless the school consistently delivers results.

  • Kevin

    There is no way she could come out in favor of real educational reform without endangering her chances of getting the Democatic nomination and then being competitive in the general election. The teachers unions are critical to her for both the primary and general election and their support is contingent on no reforms other than shoveling more money at it.

    • Andrew Allison

      As the record makes clear, Hillary is completely unscrupulous and will say or do anything to win the nomination.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Donald, Ted, Ben, Marco and Chris would NEVER stoop to such tactics, of course.

        • Andrew Allison

          The woman is contemptible. She accepted the serial infidelities of her philandering husband, peddled influence while Secretary of State in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation, lied about her emails and Benghazi, etc., in pursuit of power and influence. We deserve better.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I prefer “The woman” to the entirety of the GOP agenda which I view as “contemptible”. The issues and the positions on issues are the only point.

          • Dale Fayda

            Wait, weren’t you touting Bernie “Dr. Demento” Sanders over Hillary just a few short months ago? I vividly remember those exchanges. I also distinctly remember telling you that Sanders had/has no chance of landing the nomination, unless Hillary gets indicted by Obama’s FBI (fat chance…).

            The “Clinton crime family” is all the Democrat party has – a contemptible shrew of a woman, who had sold her soul decades ago for a taste of political power. A failure as a politician – Hillarycare collapsed, the “vast right-wing conspiracy” turned out to be 100% accurate, her tenure as Secretary of State was the epitome of defeat, a carpet-bagging non-entity in the Senate, her 2008 “inevitable” presidential candidacy imploded with the force of a dying star, her record of lying on every conceivable subject is as long as my arm and her “core beliefs” are just lip service in the pathetic quest for a few more years at the top of the ruling class:

            She is also a sad failure as a person. The ONLY reason Hillary is still a player in politics is her decision to remain in a sham marriage with an impeached, disbarred serial adulterer and sexual predator – “Bubba” Clinton, who is now viewed as the elder statesman of the collection of morally bankrupt criminals known as the Democrat party, just like that murdering, debouched adulterer, Ted Kennedy, was before him.

            “The issues and positions on issues are the only point”. Yeah, you just sit in the corner in the lotus position and keep repeating that to yourself as a mantra. See if that works for her.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I actually do like Bernie better, but I have never believed he would win. Mrs. Clinton very well may win, and if she does, it will be possibly because of Republicans imitating Wile E. Coyote. The GOP fellows have been demonstrating wild and wilder for months now, with no indication of that behavior abating. Generally, sense is no longer tolerated in candidates on the Right—-which makes Mrs. Clinton look remarkably reasonable.

          • Dale Fayda

            “Over-shoot”? Heck, I was being kind to the old gas bag. I dare you to factually prove any one of my points about Hillary (or Bill and Ted, for that matter) to be inaccurate. Every single thing I said about her is common knowledge, plus I left out a whole LOT of stuff. Moreover, I’m 99.9% sure that you know that everything I said about her is factual. If not, please present at least some evidence that I’ve slandered her. Take your time with that one – I’ll wait.

            The sad part is that the Democrat party keeps regurgitating such contemptible, vile figures as their presidential candidates – the mafia-connected, debauched, corrupt Kennedys and the penicillin-resistant bacilli of American politics that are the Clintons.

          • Boritz

            The issues and the positions on issues are the only point.

            Fair enough. Here is how that works. When a conflict arises that requires a choice between what’s best for Hillary and what’s best for FG you are road kill.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’ll take my chances.

          • Jim__L

            I think her position on felonies is important.

          • Andrew Allison

            Nope, the woman’s character is the issue.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If your desired defeat of Hillary Clinton didn’t come with a convenient flip of all policy to the Right, I’d believe you. But,……I guess you know why I don’t believe you or anyone else running against “Hillary’s character”. I hear what you’re saying, and it is not credible.

          • Andrew Allison

            We can debate the policies, but what I’m addressing is the character of the candidate. And if you don’t believe the charges, I suggest that you are in serious need of a reality check. The evidence of what I laid out is overwhelming.

          • FriendlyGoat

            The debate of the policies is the thing we call the election. We either elect one set of ideas or the other side’s set of ideas. When you seek to elect the Right’s policies by making a list of the faults of the Left’s candidate, we on the Left find that somewhat less than okey-dokey.

          • Andrew Allison

            What part of the fact that the woman is utterly unscrupulous and not fit to be President is unclear to you?

          • FriendlyGoat

            I already described what is “clear” to me. It does not coincide with your argument. What’s new?

  • Carl Eric Scott

    I am in broad agreement with the basic sympathies of this piece. But it deliberately ignores the debacle of No Child Left Behind, the last truly national and compromising attempt to promote higher standards. Simplistic article.

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