Ed reform, divided Dems & paths to common ground

The recent ruling in Vergara v. State of California once again highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party between two key constituencies: Teachers unions on the one hand; low-income, black and Hispanic families on the other.

DONKEY1aIs there a path to reconciliation? We asked folks who have thought about that a lot. Next week, we’ll run their responses.

Here’s the prompt:

In the Vergara decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu took a clear-eyed view of teacher employment policies that too often saddle low-income students with the least effective teachers. “The evidence is compelling,” he wrote. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” Yet those policies have long enjoyed full-throated support from teacher unions and their Democratic allies.

A similar rift exists over educational choice. Blacks and Hispanics are embracing charter schools, vouchers, and tax credit scholarships, which parental choice supporters see as expanding opportunity and empowerment of low-income families. But teacher unions, facing loss of market share and political power, are fighting every step of the way.

Democratic lawmakers are increasingly caught in the middle, and increasingly torn. Straddling the divide is becoming more and more difficult as more and more black and Hispanic parents benefit from charters and vouchers – and publicly raise their voices in support.

So, what’s the solution? Can Democrats continue to stiff-arm minority constituencies on ed policy without repercussion? Is there real risk in black and Hispanic voters turning to the more reform-friendly confines of the Republican Party? How long before something gives?

Should/can Democrats write off the teacher unions? Should the ed reform community more actively recruit reform-friendly Democrats for primary challenges? Or should they more aggressively push unions to modify their organizing model to better align with a public education system that is becoming more customized and decentralized?


Read the Dem Divide series below

Gloria Romero: Money leads Democrats to put teachers unions over poor kids
Ben Austin: Democratic leaders will follow parents on ed reform, eventually
Richard Whitmire: Houston & D.C. offer paths for ed reform Democrats
Joe Williams: Suburbs hold key to resolving Dem tensions over school choice
Myles Mendoza: Rahm Emanuel offers lesson for Democrats on ed reform
Rep. Marcus Brandon: African-Americans must blaze own path on school choice, ed reform
Doug Tuthill: New type of teacher union is key to relieving Democratic tensions

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BY reimaginED staff


Your whole premise is false, the battle is not between unions and poor minority parents. You education deformers can’t stop lying or pitting one group against another. I consider myself an ally and advocate for both. But I am your enemy.

This battle is about the destruction of public education, turning kids into widgets and teachers in to fast food workers, all to be bought and sold like a pair of nikes. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s a business plan and it’s not hard to figure out.

Democratic politicians better be careful, they are gojng to get burned.

Patrick R. Gibbons

Hi Jake,

Thanks for commenting. This isn’t a false premise, the teachers union really does oppose policies, like vouchers and charter schools, which are not only heavily supported by low-income families (especially minorities), but are shown to provide statistically significant benefits in achievement, graduation rates and college attendance rates. Often those findings are modest boosts, but they are gains the teacher union wants to stop.

Next, you describe a factory model style education system which is what the union currently supports. In fact, that is the exact system we’ve had in place now for a century. I’ve worked in ed politics for 7 years and I’ve seen the teachers union fight against all sorts of education reform including empowering teachers with control over their own schools and allowing parents to have PUBLIC school choice.

There is no public school choice. You either have a PUBLIC school or you have charters, religious indoctrination centers or other private schools.

You can’t keep arguing that charters are public schools while they’re in court arguing, and winning, that they are private entities that are immune from FIOA and other reporting requirements. Dame Moskowitz started the ball on this one.

This is why most people do not trust the corporate reform movement. You say one thing to the public while doing the opposite in the back room.

The interconnected, incestuous even, web of funders, charter schools, charter management companies, reform organizations, think tanks, private contractors and lobbyists is a breeding ground from self-dealing and corruption.

In Connecticut, they’ve only opened 17 charters representing a tiny fraction of total students. And yet, despite this small rollout, the corporate charter industry is already mired in scandal and corruption with FUSE/Jumoke. If the state can’t even adequately oversee this small number of charters, why on earth should we trust in an even greater expansion?

We are gearing up in CT to toss them all out, clean the pigs out feeding at the public trough to enrich themselves. And that’s not hyperbole at all. The web of charter managers, real estate deals, double-dipping, etc is shocking. Gov Malloy is a dead man walking because of this.

Patrick R. Gibbons

Hi Jake,

Yes there is such thing as public school choice, but it isn’t all that common. Parents get to choose the public school their child attends. And I’m not talking about charter schools or even magnet schools. I’m talking about picking any traditional public school. Unions and school district leaders often fight against this, preferring to zone kids to schools.

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