Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is Education Going to Divide the Dems?

As you may recall, earlier this year there was some rancor among Washington State Democrats when Nick Hanauer, a businessman and philanthropist, released an e-mail he had written about his unhappiness with the Washington State Democratic party (and elected officials) over its public education stance.   It  set off a firestorm because, and although many of us have at least one issue we don't agree with our party's stand on, rarely does such a high-profile person come out and say it out loud. 

With the announcement of Newark, New Jersey Mayor, Cory Booker, as the keynote speaker at the Dems Convention on June lst, the controversy continues. 

First off, I love Cory Booker.  He knows his city, he lives with regular folks and is very down-to-earth.  He also, apparently, will be leaping tall buildings with a single bound as he already has gone into a burning building and saved a woman's life.  He is a bigger-than-life person. 

But he is also a huge charter school supporter.  Of course, he is coming from a very different kind of place than most urban cities:

During his tenure, Newark experienced its first homicide-free month in more than 40 years and has been recognized for leading the nation among large cities in reductions of shootings and murders.
(this from the Washington State Dems site).

Naturally, with those kinds of stats, I can imagine the challenge for schools in Newark. 

But Newark is not all of New Jersey and, as I have reported before, the rest of New Jersey (especially the prosperous and high-performing suburbs) are not so excited about charters in their districts.  I'm guessing most of the suburbanites think they are good for urban kids but not so much for suburban kids (kind of like some of those Issaquah charter proponents).  There's definitely some irony in there.

He is a member of the DFER Board of Advisors (along with Steve Barr of Green Dot charter schools, 4 investment bankers and Tom Vander Ark, education gadfly). 

Last year he gave a thunderbolt-throwing speech before the National Charter Schools Conference and said:

“This room is full of modern-day freedom fighters who refuse to accept what is and demand every day what we know can be.”

(Mayor Booker do remember that if you want to use that kind of language, that in other contexts one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.  Words have meaning.)

He also said:

“This is not our children’s fault. It is our fault,” Mayor Booker said. “We must stop playing the blame game where we blame the parents or the teachers or the politicians or the community. This is what the charter movement is about. Democracy is not a spectator sport where you stand on the sidelines and give colorful commentary.”

“We are part of a charter school community under attack in every single state,’ Booker told the 4,000 attendees. “We are part of a charter school community that is trying to show the nation that our children should be our focus, that we not have vilification of children in charter schools.”

But Booker cautioned the advocates, “If we become an establishment that defends charter schools just because they are a charter school, then we have failed as a movement. Our charter schools must be schools of accountability. Our charter schools must be schools of excellence.”

Under attack?  Because states are now growing ever more aware that they are investing in schools that are performing at the same level as the ones that have existed all along (or worse)?  And, that yes, many are protecting their bottom line rather than the bottom line of the question of if academic achievement for every child in their school is their goal?  

I do have to wonder at his words about blaming parents, teachers or children.  For parents and children, it is very much about poverty and the longer we act like that doesn't matter, the less will get done no matter which direction you choose.  As for teachers, well, I can only say that everyone has gotten in on that stoning so where has he been?

But yes, we do get to point a finger at politicians and community.  Why?  Because we, the people, elected those who control the money.  We need to have accountability for that money and for the laws that we create.  

Don't say yes to fixes without accountability.  If it isn't enforced, then accountability is just a bunch of words on a piece of paper.


Anonymous said...

the divide has been there for a few decades - the Democratic Leadership Council / Third Way / New Dems / Blue Dogs --- post Humphrey and McGovern this phake center-moderate-bipartisan wing rose to ascendancy.

I say "phake" because the election of Obama and the subsequent betrayals on wall street accountability and on health care access and on building an employment safety net and on ... -- betrayals which have been going on for decades, under the guise of "compromise", and sundry other excuses for the 1% kicking the crap out of the bottom 25, 50, 75 and 90%.

People will argue until the sun goes dark about why Gore had about 51 million votes, Kerry about 59 million, and Obama about 68 million. Some say, and I'm 1 of them, that Scott Brown and Romney getting elected in MA. is rooted in why Gore and Kerry lost - people are fed up with getting sold out and lied to, and, instead of tilting at windmills and instead of getting blamed for ruining the solid unity of hand wringing in the nice salons of Queen Anne and Cap Hill, people stay home on election day, or, don't vote for some of the offices, or, write in Daffy Duck.

I HOPE this election is the Shriving, Wake, Funeral and Burial for the Arne branch of Democratic Party - they've had their chance, they've had their time, they've had the seats of power, and they've


Anonymous said...

I strikes me that part of the problem in places like Newark & DC & Detroit is that charters are being seen as a solution to badly dysfunctional government (i.e. the kind where your mayors get criminal convictions for drug use and bribery -- mind you I'm not trying to accuse any of particular person of those things, except the one who have actually been convicted).

The problem though, is that the solution to dysfunctional government is to get more functional government, not to hang your hopes on magic thinking privatization. Some conservatives believe ideologically in privatization as a solution in of itself, but, presumably, not these Dems.


Jack Whelan said...

For a moment there a I had a sliver of hope that Obama's election might bring a significant realignment within the Democratic Party. History will judge whether he squandered an historical opportunity to change the game or whether he never had any other intention except to play it (and us). Maybe it was naive to think there was such an opportunity at all, but that's the only reason I voted for the guy.

So since then I've given up any hope that any good can come from D.C. I look at what's going on in there as akin to the factional infighting among elites that made the Roman Republic unmanageable and led to its eventual destruction.

Those elites then as these now are not big-picture people; they are capable of fighting only for their own narrow interests, and they do it completely convinced of the righteousness of their cause. Our elites read Ayn Rand an think her sophomoric tripe is profound. They only speak to one another, and there's no who has any credibility in their eyes that could ever suggest they are not the masters of the universe. The people who have any sense either keep quiet or are dismissed as irrelevant.

And from time to time they'll co-opt the occasional idealist to their cause if it suits them, and that's how I see a guy like Cory Booker. Good guy, but talks to the wrong people because these days pretty much all the important people are the wrong people. And he just doesn't grasp how he's a pawn in a bigger game. That's my take on him for what it's worth.

Until the east-coast Washington sorts itself out, if it ever does, we in the west-coast Washington need to resist as best we can the destructive influence of almost everything the comes out of D.C. We have to set our own course here as best we can. And as far as I'm concerned the strongest argument against any policy that comes from D.C. is that it comes from D.C.

People in anti-corporate ed reform circles here always talk about Finland as the model to emulate. Well Washington State is about the same size as Finland. A quick search indicates that Finland's GDP per capita is 34K to WA's 52K. So how come they can do it and we can't? We have a manageable scale, the economic resources, the human capital, and a (mostly) progressive ethos. We lack, however, the will and the imagination. (Jay Inslee? Really? That's the best we can do? I mean really: What's the matter with us?)

Maybe it's because we don't really believe we can do anything that's homegrown anymore. We've become so enervated by a dependency on initiatives from east-coast Washington and its media fads that we've become incapable of thinking for ourselves. Well, if there's any hope these days, it's in making something happen locally. Because whether in that Washington or this one, It's not about playing the game; it's about changing it. So why not here?

Anonymous said...

The modern Dems have so abandoned their roots they are shadows of their former selves. Weak, unprincipled, gullible, irresponsible, compromised, co-opted sell-outs. And the R's? Pretty much free-market zombie cave-dwellers. Helluva Choice, ain't it?

I agree with Jack in that, if an idea came from D.C., it should be quarantined before it crosses our borders. No good has come out of that swamp in a long, long time.