History was made tonight as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be selected by a major political party as their candidate for U.S. president.
This is a moment, in my mind, equal to the time we discovered America would have a truly viable black candidate nearly eight years ago when Barack Obama was nominated. If Ms. Clinton wins in November it won’t only be another huge milestone, it just might save the world from a Donald Trump administration, and teetering toward end times.
That’s the good news. Now the bad.
Clinton has the best education plan of the leading candidates, and it’s terrible. Yes, I believe as president she will do many good things for people of color, LGBTQ families, women, and the economy. But one group will continue hurting: marginalized students.
The Clinton K-12 education plan only skirts the edges of what we really need.
Alyson Klein at Education Week is gently calling out Clinton has for her opaque K-12 education policy that supports early childhood education at the beginning of your child’s K-12 education, and free (or affordable) college at the end of it.
What happens in the 12 years between when your child sits in ineffective classrooms is your problem.
Once a fighter for accountability, interventions, and results, Klein says in 2016 the Clinton campaign is pushing a not-so-new idea called TLC, which reportedly stands for “Teaching, Learning, and Community.”
Such is the problematic nature of political campaigns, especially in a system where powerful interest groups can holler with money, lobbyists, and foot soldiers over the objections of individual voters, drowning out our calls for changes to systems that harm us.
In this case the powerful interests are teachers’ unions. At my most polite time of day I’ll tell you those groups are to education policy what Chevron is to environmental policy.
The effects of their influence are clear:
Clinton was once an accountability hawk, a supporter of student testing in grades 3-8 as specified in No Child Left Behind, but Clinton 2.0 is a defender against “overtesting” who now says testing should be used only to improve instruction and schools, not to hold the system accountable for better outcomes.
That’s like saying police body cameras should be used only for officers to become less brutal, not to address them when they hurt people.
Once a charter school promoter, Clinton has hardened on those schools and pivoted to “community schools,” a feelgood concept of schools that focuses more on social programs than teaching kids.
Clinton of old said “Charter schools can play a significant part in revitalizing and strengthening schools by offering greater flexibility from bureaucratic rules, so that parents, teachers, and the community can design and run their own schools, and focus on setting goals and getting results. Many of these schools are meeting the needs of students who had trouble succeeding in more traditional public schools.”
More recently she suggested, as the unions have told her, that charter schools don’t take the most needy students. In fact, charter school students are more likely than district schools to enroll black, brown, and poor students.
In the 1990s she favored no-excuses schools, saying “I have advocated for highly structured inner city schools. I have advocated uniforms for kids in inner city schools. I have advocated that we have to help structure people’s environments who come from unstructured, disorganized, dysfunctional family settings.”
That would sound awfully paternalistic today. Now she’s for re-birthing welfare as we once knew it before her husband ended it as we knew it.
She was once pro-choice in education, saying “I believe strongly in a parent’s right to choose the best education for his/her child. We have a proud tradition of parochial and private education in America.”
To be fair, she still – quietly – supports the Common Core State Standards that governors across states implemented to give the public an honest comparison of how prepared students are for college or good jobs. And, she still supports a role for the federal government to oversee the accountability systems developed by states under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
But, in exchange for union support she’s offered the single worst trading chip. She promises to be a president that will keep her peering eyes and meddling hands out of their classrooms. She will assume that all teachers are good (despite the best research on the matter).
She will place more focus on reducing child hunger, poverty, childcare, preschool, and repairing school buildings. She will give away hearing aids and wheelchairs to kids that need them. Teachers will get paid more (during her husband’s time as governor of Arkansas teachers got “the highest increase of any state in the country), and have more resources – including college loan forgiveness after 10 years of service. No longer will teachers be forced by some invisible hand of government to “teach to the test” (I smell an applause line).
A president Clinton will stop asking so much of teachers, like, demanding they be effective.
Given all we know, this is a bum deal. Public education happens between a teacher and student, in a classroom, over time. That is the point of sale, and the point of sale is broken for millions of kids. No credible person would propose ignoring teaching, teacher quality, and accountability for results as measured by student progress.
Strike that. No humane or caring person would do so. Only a political animal would be so nearsighted.
Here’s my challenge to you dear reader: I propose a drinking game that even people in recovery can play.
Watch the video below and take a swig of the most potent alcohol you can find every time Clinton mentions a policy proposal that will hold states and school districts accountable for the single most important school-based contributor to student achievement (teachers).
I bet you dollars to donuts at the end of this speech, and the end of this game, you will still be remarkably sober, and American children in the worst schools still won’t have the quality teachers they so desperately deserve and need.
Klein’s article provides a very useful tool to compare Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the issue of education. See it for yourself here.