Bloomberg and How the Teachers’ Revolt Was Disappeared Down the Memory Hole

It’s always an interesting exercise to see what gets disappeared down the memory hole. Less than two years ago, in state after state, blue, purple, and red, teachers shut down state capitols and forced serious concessions. Yet now, Democratic-aligned pundits, not to mention a fair number of Democratic politicians support Bloomberg, or at least are very Bloomberg-curious. But Bloomberg isn’t going to build on that fervor, he would quench it (boldface mine):

Nominating Michael Bloomberg would be a disaster for public schools – and for the Democrats’ chances at beating Donald Trump in 2020. Because when it comes to education policy, it is virtually impossible to tell the two billionaire politicians apart.

Like Trump and his inept secretary of education, Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.

While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the “Red for Ed” movement, Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run: “Mike has always supported charter schools, he opened a record number of charter schools as mayor of New York City, and he will champion the issue as president.”

If anything, the main difference between Bloomberg and Trump is that the former has spent far more of his immense personal fortune to boost corporate “education reform” and local candidates driving this agenda. The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg has spent millions to promote charters in the state of Louisiana alone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: Bloomberg’s foundation in 2018 announced its plan to spend $375m to promote charters, merit pay and the sacking of “failing” teachers, among other reforms.

Bloomberg is also an active promoter of high-stakes testing. Despite abundant evidence that an excessive testing regime does little to improve real educational achievement, Bloomberg has vociferously sung the praises of this system in op-eds such as Demand Better Schools, Not Fewer Tests. Accordingly, as mayor he fought for a merit pay system through which teachers’ salaries would be pegged to student test scores.

Like Trump and DeVos, Bloomberg has also viciously attacked teacher unions and scapegoated educators. He spent much of his mayoral tenure fighting with the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which he compared to the National Rifle Association. As he put it, “if the UFT wants it, it ain’t good”.

According to corporate education reformers, our country’s education crisis is produced not by systematic underfunding and social inequality, but rather by the inherent inefficiencies of the public sector, intransigent unions and bad teachers. Bloomberg has often been shockingly direct in expressing his contempt for teachers. In 2011, during a speech at MIT, he suggested that if he could have it his way, he’d “weed out all the bad” New York City educators by cutting “the number of teachers in half”. He insisted that coupling these cuts with doubling class sizes would be “a good deal for the students”.

But electability something something.

Related: For people wondering why Booker never caught fire, his support of charter schools cost him big. In terms of affect, tone, and overall message, Booker would be a natural ally of teachers unions, but they just won’t get that excited about someone who is a charter school advocate–and that cost him early momentum. You can’t piss off one of the last Democratic-aligned/leaning mass movements left.

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