Earlier this month I posted about the NEA’s Primary Election endorsement of Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. I included a comment I had written in response to a special ed teacher’s guest blog on Lily Eskelsen-Garcia’s blog.
You can read the guest blog, Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary. Scroll down and you can see a comment. As of this writing, my comment has not been included, however the one comment that is there expresses similar objections to the endorsement. Perhaps mine wasn’t written well enough…or I was too emotional…or confrontational…or impolite. It doesn’t matter. I only mention this to indicate that, apparently, the NEA is willing to read opposing views: something positive.
You can read my comment in my post, Finally, I Rant About NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary.
I submitted an abridged version of my comment a second time. I thought perhaps that it hadn’t been published because it was too long. After that submission, I received a response from NEA which you can read in its entirety at the end of this post.
My point in arguing against the endorsement of Secretary Clinton is not because I disagree with many of her positions on public education, it’s because I don’t know many of her positions on public education. I would argue against the endorsement of any of the three candidates who responded to the NEA’s questionnaire for the same reason.
In her letter to me, Lily provided a link to the interviews she did with the three candidates (all Democrats) who responded to the NEA questionnaire: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders (you can see all the interviews here. Scroll to the bottom section for the complete interviews).
Some of my objections have been answered. Lily asked all three candidates about their views on equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and their vision for rescuing the middle class. All three candidates gave essentially the same answers with minimal differences.
- All children need equality of opportunity and we need to fully fund public education.
- Too much testing is horrible and we need to fix that.
- College should be available to all. Debt is bad.
- Collective bargaining is important for all workers. Unions are important.
- America’s middle class is shrinking. We need to dump Trickle Down economics and provide health care, a higher minimum wage, and better jobs.
There is nothing about the record of the three candidates on the interview page. There’s a link in the letter from NEA to a summary of Secretary Clinton’s record, but that doesn’t highlight the differences between the candidates. It only tells me, vaguely, what Clinton has done. During the interviews the candidates tooted their own horns freely, so that’s something.
The problem, as I see it, is not that Secretary Clinton is not deserving of NEA’s endorsement. It’s that there is still too much about the candidates that we don’t know. We did this before, with Barack Obama, and for our no-strings-attached support we got Arne Duncan and Race to the Top.
The fault is partially with the candidates. Clinton’s campaign site has a section on K-12 education, but it’s vague and unspecific. Sanders’ and O’Malley’s sites don’t say “boo” about K-12 education. All three discuss universal preschool and affordable college. To earn NEA’s support we ought to get some assurances that we won’t get a DFER, someone who wants to privatize public education, or another Arne Duncan in the office of Secretary of Education.
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS: WHERE ARE THE DETAILS?
But the lion’s share of the fault is with NEA’s leadership. Where were the questions (or if you asked them, where were the answers) about…
- Charter schools? I know that Clinton and Sanders are “in favor” of charter schools and that they support charter school accountability, but where are the details?
- Vouchers? Democrats are generally against vouchers, but in the last few years they have made fewer and fewer comments about vouchers. Where do the candidates stand? Will they work to stop our tax dollars going to religious institutions?
- No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the reauthorization of ESEA? Where are the questions about the failure of No Child Left Behind, the cost and damaging competition of Race to the Top, and the fact that there is still no renewal of ESEA? Where do they stand on providing support for schools that need more help or are they willing to close schools with high poverty and blame the victims for “failing?”
- VAM? How do the candidates feel about teacher evaluations being based on student test scores? How about teachers of non-tested areas, such as music and art teachers, being evaluated using reading and math test scores of their students?
- School letter grades? Should schools be judged by how well their students do on test scores? Is an A school simply one in which the children score high on the state standardized test?
- Due process? Where do the candidates stand on due process (aka tenure) for K-12 teachers?
- National Teacher shortage? How will the candidates relieve the national teacher shortage? How will they encourage more students to go into education?
- Common Core? We know Lily loves her some Common Core, but not all of us do. I find many of the early childhood standards to be developmentally inappropriate. Where do the candidates stand on this issue?
- The U.S. Education Department? Do they want to save the USED? Right now it’s filled with privatizers, DFERs, and “reformers.” How will a Clinton (or Sanders, or O’Malley) administration differ?
Lily, your questions about equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and the middle class were good; The candidates’ desire for universal preschool and affordable college is admirable. But it’s not enough. In the last two presidential elections the NEA supported President Obama because he said the right things. That’s not enough any more. I want more details. We still don’t know if any of these candidates support the corporate privatization of public education. I could make an educated guess, but it would have been nice if my professional association asked more detailed questions, or provided us with the answers to more detailed questions.
The candidates need to earn our endorsement. We need details, not vague references. We need assurances, not campaign sites that don’t even acknowledge the major issues facing today’s public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.
NEA’S RESPONSE TO MY COMMENT
Replying to your message about NEA’s presidential primary recommendation
…Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts surrounding NEA’s recent primary recommendation of Hillary Clinton for president. I want to spend a few moments highlighting our process since February and, ultimately, our decision to move forward with the Clinton recommendation.
NEA members and leaders have engaged in our primary presidential recommendation process since last February, identifying and reaching out to nearly 25 candidates from both major political parties. Throughout this process, we asked for input from candidates and, equally important, did our best to highlight candidates’ positions on education issues for members like you. Throughout the last few months, we distributed a candidate comparison highlighting each candidate’s positions, hosted a tele-town hall with members to discuss the presidential field, and provided updated candidate positions via social media.
Just three candidates – Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders – met with me to discuss their positions on the issues. Afterward, I made it a priority to ensure all three taped interviews were distributed to NEA members and leaders throughout the country, which you can view right now.
These interviews remind all of us that each candidate is a dear friend of strong public schools and the students and children we work with, and Hillary Clinton’s proven track record, coupled with her comments throughout the recommendation process, is why I brought a recommendation for Secretary Clinton to the NEA PAC Council and Board of Directors for their consideration. Their discussions were thoughtful and robust, and our Board was able to spend time with Secretary Clinton on Saturday to discuss our issues.
Throughout this process, I am proud that NEA’s members and its leaders have had the opportunity to speak on this recommendation, and today I believe there is too much at stake to remain on the sidelines. Please continue to share your views, and go to Strong Public Schools for updates.
Only together can we work to ensure the next president ensures every child has a quality public education regardless of zip code.
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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.