Betsy With The Good Hair Isn’t That Bad On Education Policy…

…for a significant portion of the Democratic mainstream (boldface mine):

But if I’m reading the reaction to the [Education Secretary Betsy DeVos] clip correctly, what seems to be striking most people as ridiculous is DeVos’ advocacy of two particular ideas:

• That rewarding high-performing schools with more resources will compel low-performing schools to improve themselves.

• That school-choice programs should be expanded despite mixed or poor results in states such as Michigan.

The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools

DeVos is not qualified for her job and has more than earned her reputation for cluelessness. But if you gave her a Harvard degree, a history of employment at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs, and a little more public-speaking finesse, nothing DeVos told Lesley Stahl above would have bothered the Democrats who’ve been setting their party’s education policy for going on two decades.

Many Democrats have some serious liabilities when it comes to education ([cough] Booker [cough]). And, as the recent strike in West Virginia has shown, and some asshole with a blog has been saying non-stop, teachers unions are one of the few Democratic-aligned mass movements Democrats have left. That slowly-dawning realization, not the ridiculousness of Betsy With the Good Hair, is why Democratic politicians are slowly backing away from education reform. Though that poses problems of its own, as some of the big money players in the Democratic Party are not only ideologically committed to education reform, they stand to profit by it.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on for 2020.

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