If We’re Vetting Candidates, There’s One Group No One Is Mentioning

Last week, Democratic/left-ish/lefty Twitter had a nice mauling session. While I’m really not concerned about unity or comity (the various wings of the Republican Party despise each other, yet they seem to be doing rather well electorally), it’s weird that, in all of the discussions, one of the most important Democratic constituencies has been ignored.

It might come as a shock, but the following aren’t the heart and soul of the Democratic Party: The Intercept staff, MSNBC personalities, Eric Fucking Garland, shitheads on Twitter (including me!), or precocious progressive pundits.

It’s teachers–and their unions. If there is a mass organization, as opposed to a demographic group with self-appointed (thought) leaders, that has political heft, it is the various teachers unions (which are, incidentally, disproportionately female). They are found in every virtually county, even in states that don’t allow unions to bargain collectively (teachers like their unions!). They lean strongly Democratic, are politically active–a subset of teachers will be highly involved in Democratic party politics–and form a significant portion of the Democratic Party’s ground troops (which is one reason why Republicans and conservative Democrats are so intent on crushing them).

Yet in all of the discussion about who is a real Democrat, ‘purity’, corruption, and the like, how possible Democratic Party leaders (and possible presidential candidates) affect teachers and their unions has gone missing. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with friends who are teachers, including one who is a local union leader–I don’t pretend to have conducted a comprehensive survey–and it has been been interesting.

I’ll return to this tweet by MSNBC’s Joy Reid in another post, but there’s a problem she fails to understand:


Look, unions are not naive–they donate to candidates and reach political deals with flawed candidates all the time. But if a candidate is supported by donors who have backed education ‘reform’, including those who aren’t just ideologues, but also have vested financial interests in education reform, that’s not someone who is going to generate a lot of enthusiasm. She might even be disliked or decried as corrupt (which, according to pseudo-woke Twitter, means women-dominated teachers unions are misogynist. Or something). So without further delay, let’s look at some political figures who have been discussed over the last couple of weeks.

Sanders: he’s a staunch unionist. While he hasn’t made K-12 a top priority, he is very popular. Rank-and-file protested when the leadership endorsed Clinton early on in the primary season, and some locals refused to endorse Clinton.

Warren: she says she’s not running for president, but we’ll throw her in anyway. She hasn’t focused on K-12 education. She did back Race to the Top, but, to a considerable extent, she was following the lead of state politicians in Massachusetts, who wanted to get federal money. It’s a senator’s job to bring home the boodle.

Gillibrand: She’s not a fan of testing, and has been pretty good at funneling money to schools. She also has emphasized the problems rural schools face.

Harris: Like Gillibrand, she uses code phrases to indicate she doesn’t like testing. She has also emphasized child nutrition for school children.

(Deval) Patrick: Oof. He is very strongly linked with charter schools and with testing. The legacy of his policies helped radicalize the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has become of one the most aggressive and militant unions in the country. Needless to say, he has some liabilities here.

Booker: Deval Patrick is thankful Booker is in the mix. Booker is also strongly associated with the charter school movement and education reform. He has served on non-profit boards with Betsy DeVos, and has aggressively pushed school vouchers. He wasn’t like by anyone I’ve talked to. Again, this could be a liability.

Of course, teachers don’t just vote as teachers. But attacks on public school teachers are political liabilities within the party–and in general elections. Something to think about, rather the online clusterfuck.

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1 Response to If We’re Vetting Candidates, There’s One Group No One Is Mentioning

  1. Here’s the problem with teachers:

    The problem with education policy and teachers unions is that all the obvious problems and solutions involve changes that either parents or teachers or both don’t want. Things like testing and charter schools are Trojan Horses for unpopular reforms.

    Things that everyone knows:
    1. Masters degrees in education (the nearly universal way to get a raise as a teacher) are totally and without a doubt useless.
    2. The most obvious problem in l K-12 is neighborhood schools. Involved parents don’t improve results for individual kids, but a critical mass of involved parents improves achievement school-wide.
    3. The second most obvious problem is summer vacation. It’s a huge driver of achievement gaps. Anyone who looks at the science knows this. On top of the education problem, many poor kids don’t eat enough when school is out of session.

    Merit pay via testing is one way to get away from paying for useless degrees. Charter schools can be a way to get white middle class parents to keep their kids in an urban district and help everyone. Charters can also be a vehicle to change the break schedule around.

    Teachers unions are not a good partner in making the radical and unpopular changes needed. Maybe they’ll change that somehow.

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