Presidential politics and education—it’s like crawling through the desert. You see the same old landscape, and then, out in the distance you see real teacher support and quality schooling! And you hear “I will make public schools great again!”
We are bombarded with statements that sound supportive of public schools and teachers, parents, and students, but as one crawls closer to the mirage, we learn it isn’t always what one hears or sees.
The closer you get the more you realize—it’s an illusion.
In the next few posts I will be looking at the Presidential candidates and mirages.
Hillary Clinton gave a rousing speech for teachers where she praised public school teachers. She’s riled up about those who blame teachers for society’s problems.
But I think we should be asking her what she really means.
Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t like to see teachers blamed, but isn’t she a part of the old guard that brought about high-stakes standardized testing which has been used to blame teachers?
In all fairness, she supported lowering class size too. She cares about early childhood education, and I believe she is the only candidate who has mentioned autism. But I have not heard her talk much about these topics, aside from preschool, on the campaign trail. Why not?
Clinton backed No Child Left Behind, and much earlier, when her husband was Governor of Arkansas, she helped create high-stakes standards. She chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Commission.
Even a few months ago she said she would close public schools with poor test scores. This has already been done in most cities across the country with disastrous effects.
Poor test scores are blamed on—teachers and students!
Teacher Pay (Equal Pay) in K-12
In the video above, Clinton said that teachers need better pay. Next, she cheers on equal pay for women. But to associate equal pay and women in regard to public schools makes little sense. Why?
Teacher pay has always been an issue, but in public schools teachers are usually paid by yearly step increases. It has nothing to do with gender. Male and female teachers get the same step increases, which you could say is fair.
This is different at the university level where there can be unequal pay between men and women.
Teach for America?
The real teacher pay issue in regard to K-12 education, Hillary Clinton should discuss, involves fast-track teachers who are taking jobs of real career teachers.
Cities contract with Teach for America even if they have enough real career teachers for the jobs. They have done this in Minneapolis, Chicago, Memphis and many urban areas.
Teach for America, and other teacher fellow programs, recruit individuals to teach for a few years and then leave. This means those leading in the classroom never climb the step to better pay. They leave the classroom, opening the door for a new round of TFA novices. With programs like this, school districts pay less for teachers who are never fully prepared to teach.
Career teachers who plan on staying in the profession command higher salaries the longer they teach. They are the teachers under attack by groups like The New Teacher Project.
Clinton seems to support Teach for America, although I have not heard her discuss it. She does, however, speak in terms of a “new” teaching workforce. I believe this is a euphemism for TFA.
But if that is not what she means she should tell us.
Charter Schools and Public Charter Schools
Hillary Clinton sees charter schools as public schools. Charter schools were started under the Clinton administration. So when she says she is for public schools it is important that she distinguish between real public schools and charters that are only public because they get tax dollars.
Clinton recently praised the success of Eagle Academies which are all-boys’ schools in New York. Eagle Academies are New York chain charters that she hopes will spread across America.
Single gender schools are controversial, but Eagle Academies seem to have a good track record. It is also positive that they are under the auspices of the local school district and union teachers have a part in running them.
To her credit, she is also against vouchers and tax credit scholarships to private schools.
But what about charter schools not run by the local school districts? There are more of these and many of them go unregulated.
What are her views on Green Dot, for example? Or, Rocketship, which are mostly online?
I’d like to know what she thinks about the “disruptive” technology movement to have students sitting in rows of carrels working online for all their learning.
And why are charters, despite mostly poor results, being pushed so heavily by the Obama administration? Why do states now have the right to usurp local authority to open charters run by nonprofit and for-profit charter chains even if they aren’t quality schools?
If she becomes President, will she regulate charter schools and insist they all be under the local school district and employ real career teachers?
Why even have charter schools? School districts had alternative schools for years before the charter school experiment.
Taxpayers really do have the right to insist that charter schools be regulated or ended.
Bill Gates and Common Core
While Hillary Clinton never mentions Bill Gates in regard to education, we all know he is in the room. He is behind almost every education reform affecting schools today. The Gates Foundation is a prominent supporter of the Clinton Global Initiative. So, would a President Hillary Clinton follow the education ideas of Bill Gates? Would the Gates Foundation have as much clout with education policy as they do now?
And we know that Clinton holds people like Eli Broad in high regard. She has been pictured dining with the Broads at a fancy gala and concern has been expressed by a variety of teacher groups. At one point she was his lawyer.
Clinton also worked for Walmart, so one assumes she likes the Walton agenda for privatization of public schools.
When you are friends with those who dislike public education and career teachers, and want to see an end to both, how big of a real supporter of public schools and teachers can you be?
So she can yell about support, but I worry that her claims are only a mirage.
These are just some concerns about Hillary Clinton and public schools.
Next—Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.