Why Education ‘Reform’ Is a Hot-Button Issue (Some Thoughts on Progressives and Cory Booker)

Several progressive pundits, in an attempt to speak power to truth (no, that’s not a typo), have wondered why many liberals dislike New Jersey’s Cory Booker. Here’s one such missive:

Booker’s major substantive difference with many progressives is on education policy. He is — like President Obama — an advocate of the “education reform” movement; he has backed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s expansion of charter schools and merit pay for teachers, as well as a form of vouchers for some impoverished areas. He sits on the board of Democrats for Education Reform. During last summer’s Democratic convention, Booker spoke at an event hosted by lightning-rod former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who teachers unions see as working to privatize public education and undermine collective bargaining. The school-reform issue is the subject of a major schism in today’s Democratic Party; Obama’s “Race to the Top” education initiative, which has encouraged state-level reforms, has infuriated traditional Democratic allies but also drawn support from many party officeholders.

The phrase “traditional Democratic allies” isn’t correct. What the education ‘reform’ rhetoric has done is anger a large chunk of the Democratic vote. There are roughly 3 million K-12 teachers in the U.S. A huge fraction of these teachers are Democrats. They have spouses, significant others, siblings, and children. That’s millions more who vote–and given how party affiliation works, many of these people will also be Democrats.

And the education reformers are calling someone’s kid sister or mother a lazy bum. Not only do people react viscerally to that (Surprising. Not really), but it belies their own experience, which is something like this:

•I am being asked to take a 13% pay cut…
•The district is seeking the power to move teachers from school to school.
•I am being asked to work a longer work day.
•We have been left with 1 nurse for 2500 students.
•All guidance counselors have been laid off, eliminating opportunities for scholarships and making the college application process virtually impossible for my students.
•I am being asked to switch from Physics to Math, take an additional class, and teach at least three different kinds of classes, all in violation of the current contract and all due to layoffs and budget constraints.
•I am being asked to sacrifice my preparation periods for school operations….

From January through April, I work 60-70 hours a week at school and then countless hours at home prepping for class, grading papers, and fundraising. During the rest of the year, I routinely work 45-60 hours at school. Yet, the District wishes to mandate I have a longer work day, take a pay cut, and work through my preparation periods.

Add to this the reality of almost all teachers spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket on their classrooms, and, oddly enough, a policy position which claims teachers are a significant problem goes over like a lead balloon.

You can’t attack millions of Democrats and their loved ones and not expect problems.

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6 Responses to Why Education ‘Reform’ Is a Hot-Button Issue (Some Thoughts on Progressives and Cory Booker)

  1. John Deamer says:

    “All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”
    – J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Ch. 6

  2. Pingback: they’re coming to “save” your schools… (part 3) | the new century educator

  3. albanaeon says:

    That these reformers get all shocked and offended when people strongly defend their livelihoods (and the future of generations…) is the clearest sign that reformers are either dishonest or stupid.

    Either of which, should immediately disqualify them from being anywhere near education.

  4. joemac53 says:

    Another blog I frequent has (almost weekly) tales of “reformers” sticking it to teachers. The comments section fills up quickly with support for teachers, citing the hours, lack of money and respect…
    Another subset of commenters are teachers from “the real world” or former teachers in the “real world” who explain how hard teaching is (or was) compared to life in the real world.
    Another subset complains that teachers really have it easy and should shut up and take whatever crap the reformers want to hand out. For some reason, none of the members of this subset are, or have been teachers.
    A classic case of skewed comment sections.
    And remember, the “skewed polls” guy is one of my former students, so I know skewed.

  5. ly says:

    Thank you for this. I am the daughter, wife, and friend of teachers and the teacher-bashing does go over like a lead balloon.

  6. joemac53 says:

    I just saw the 9/7 links. Check out the comments about teaching and teachers. Informative ain’t in it.

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