Tuesday, April 23, 2013

CA Democrats Condemn Education Reform

Another chapter in the “ya just can’t make this stuff up” tome: the CA Democratic Party, doing the bidding (of course) of the CA Teachers Assoc., has condemned DFER and similar reform groups as not being real Democrats:

Real Democrats don’t back school reform, apparently. Or maybe the message is that Democrats don’t let Democrats shake up the school scene. In any case, real Democrats clearly aren’t allowed to disagree with the California Teachers Assn.

It’s more than a little disturbing to read that the California Democratic Party voted to condemn groups that lobby for major change in the schools, such as Democrats for Education Reform, and called them fronts for Republicans.

I’m a frequent critic of what I see as excesses of the reform movement — its failure to demand as much of charter schools as it does of public schools, or to keep them from “counseling out” students who don’t make their numbers look good. Its relentless focus on test results and tendency to want them to be a huge factor in teacher evaluations even though that’s not borne out by any evidence. Its apparent desire to make firing teachers as easy as stepping on ants.

But let’s get it straight — even though there is a definite push within the movement to squash unions, there’s also a sincere desire to help children, especially low-income students of color. And yes, much of the money backing the reform movement and thus the many reform nonprofits comes from corporations, but who else was willing to put some financial backing into opposing the very well-heeled unions, which until recently were the only moneyed force in town? In this case, the unions that are in danger of being squashed are also the unions that have bucked any changes that might make schools more accountable.

For all the talk by the California Teachers Assn. and its political allies, how well were disadvantaged students doing before reform? What was the CTA doing for them? Yes, it lobbied for more money, and schools do need more money; unfortunately, it didn’t lobby for that money to be spent in effective ways that would have to prove their educational worth.

Then there was Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson — a Democrat in a supposedly nonpartisan position who received heavy campaign support from the CTA -- taking on Democrats for Education Reform and implying that such people don’t deserve to describe themselves as Democrats. "In my book, you're not a reformer, you're not helping education and you're sure not much of a Democrat," he said, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Have we really reached the point where the Democratic Party in this state censures Democrats for honest disagreement about how schools should be run?

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