The Politics of Obama’s New Education Secretary

As I’ve noted several times, you can’t understand Obama’s domestic policies without reference to his allies, the Pritzker family, who, among other things, are staunch education ‘reformers.‘ So, on the one hand, it’s not at all surprising that he appointed John King as the interim secretary (he’s the perfect example of success by student suspension).

But, as I’ve noted before, Obama’s successful attempts to piss off a key Democratic constituency–along with suburban parents who are critical to winning an election–could really harm Democrats in 2016 (boldface mine):

And that leads, once again, back to the question of why President Obama would go along with the corporate reformers who see themselves as righteous crusaders against unions and demonize educators who reject their competition-driven policies. Nobody denies that King, like Duncan, is sincere. They are such nice guys that I really wanted to believe King’s words about the need for socio-economic integration.

…I doubt we will hear more than sweet talk from him on how “schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country.” After all, King is deeply rooted in the “No Excuses” charter school value system and nothing is a better recipe for increased resegregation than that pedagogy. What parents, if they had a choice, would embrace his behavioristic charters and the neo-Plessyism that results?

In another “déjà vu all over again” moment, I’m torn by the destructive effect the King nomination could have on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Although I’m still undecided, I very much hope that the Democratic campaign can avoid circular firing squads. Any Democrat’s comment on the transition from Duncan to King will anger key constituencies. After all, education reform consciously pitted liberal versus liberal, generation versus generation, and civil rights advocate against civil rights advocate. It is Hillary who will most often have to face those questions….

I cannot understand why a Democratic president would dump this on the plate of Democratic presidential candidates. I doubt they fully played out the political chess game, and how the King appointment comes at a bad time for Hillary, but how there are plenty of scenarios where Bernie or Biden could be hurt….

Now is not the time when she wants to face questions on which side is she on – corporate donors and King supporters (and funders) or teachers, parents, and unions.

King may not be well-known outside of New York, but that state is hardly a political backwater. Moreover, it may be the strongest bastion of the Opt Out movement – a grassroots campaign that was prompted by high stakes testing, Common Core, and the unforced turnovers committed by Duncan and King….

Duncan ridiculed sincere opponents as “white suburban moms” who are afraid “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought.” King might be just as sincere, but that doesn’t make his slanders any more palatable to those of us who dedicated our lives to teaching poor children of color. We are primarily fighting for the right of our kids to get the same respectful, holistic engaging instruction as affluent kids. King, however, dismisses our concerns as excuse-making and low expectations.

…I believe the national press will soon be learning why we teachers are so offended by the King appointment. I just hope that Clinton, Sanders and, perhaps, Biden are not hurt by it.

As some asshole with a blog put it:

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.

This could, as experts say, dampen voter enthusiasm. On the other hand, presidential libraries don’t come cheap…

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