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Democrats are inviting trouble over education reform

Commentary: One of the nation's biggest teachers' groups has just attacked Democrats for Education Reform. Is the party itself pushing people who want to improve schools into the Republican camp?
Sen. Rodney Tom

Sen. Rodney Tom

Sen. Steve Hobbs

Sen. Steve Hobbs John Stang

If you wanted to get yourself crosswise with people who should be your friends, you hardly could do better than the Democratic Party of California as it voted recently to denounce Democrats for Education Reform. A party convention vote in California managed not only to take on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has backed reform school board candidates, and New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but also a parade of high-tech and other business leaders.

Said the head of the California Teachers Association, “These organizations are backed by moneyed interests, Republican operatives and out-of-state Wall Street billionaires dedicated to school privatization and trampling on teacher and worker rights.”

It's hardly news that Republicans nationally have been far more supportive of charter schools and other reforms than Democrats, tied as the latter are to the unions and the unions to the Democrats. In Washington, D.C., Democrats even were willing to go against local African-American groups backing school reform, though blacks are another key group in the Democratic coalition.

However, Democrats who favor charter schools or other education reforms are not a spirit conjured by the GOP. They are dissident Democratic donors who are tired of giving to a party that talks education reform, but doesn’t deliver.

Democrats for Education Reform, which has an active chapter in Washington state, therefore, constitutes an assertion that progress is more important than progressivism. It is a warning to Democrats against assuming there are no enemies on the left — certainly not if education is to be sacrificed to partisan solidarity.

In Washington state, a group called Stand for Children also backed pro-education reform candidates and stirred up partisan Democratic antipathy. It is probably fair to say that Stand for Children, though non-partisan, is mostly made up of Democratic donors who put education first. They also are effective, with 80 percent of their endorsed candidates winning in 2012.

Among the candidates they supported in 2010 was Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina, who now, of course, has become leader of the bipartisan tate Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. Another reformer, Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, has stayed with his party caucus, but also backs school reform — and bucks the union. The assumption is that the Washington Education Association is eager to retaliate against these and other Democrats — or Republicans, naturally — who dare to stand for reform. What’s new is that there is an education lobby backing reforms.

It’s surely now a political mistake to try to anathematize the office-holding school reform Democrats. Mostly they are backed by successful people who may support the Democratic Party but don't, in turn, rely on it. These donors therefore cannot be easily intimidated. Try to do so and the donors may retaliate more broadly against the Democratic Party.

Indeed, the odd thing that happens when you drive someone out of your party is that they don't just disappear. They may stumble around briefly. A few may fall back in line. But most eventually wind up joining the opposition. In this case, denouncing them as Republicans may make them consider becoming Republicans.

There are other good and related reasons they might do so, after all. Business leaders — including liberal ones — are probably more likely than the average person to study the news accounts of looming municipal bankruptcies around the country and of initiative crushing taxes in such states as Illinois and California. They see that costs imposed by government employee union leaders are hampering progress in many fields. They are drying up funds for purposes that most Democratic voters favor; most notably, education, but also the environment and parks, transportation, economic development, city planning and health research.

In this atmosphere, if Democratic operatives keep abusing groups like Democrats for Education Reform, they can expect a backlash from a section of another key part of the current Democratic coalition: big donors.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 6:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for your CONCERN -- and your long and distinguished record of support -- for the Democratic Party, Bruce. Your remarks deserve the same welcome, the same sober reflection, and the same cooperative, collaborative meeting of minds, that the Westboro Baptist Church gets at a soldier's funeral. I'll be laughing at this one all day long.

ivan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Ivan for outing this traitorous, ignorant, blowhard. And Crosscut wonders why it does not have more support from the intelligentsia?

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 3:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Love to see the usual even-tempered response from the Seattle "progressive" faction!

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 5:24 p.m. Inappropriate

NotFan uses the word progressive to describe anything and anyone he disagrees with. If required to provide a list of the values that define progressive he wouldn't be able to do so.

Posted Tue, Apr 30, 12:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle "progressive values" include:

- Self-dealing
- Corruption
- Hypocrisy
- Secrecy
- Double talk
- Increased taxation
- Lack of performance
- New sports facilities
- Apodments
- Bicycles
- Pseudo environmentalism

Would you like more?

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

And speaking of Kansas, this is the same Discovery Institute that tried to "reform" education there by "teaching the controversy" about evolution. Even Kansans rose up against the Discovery Institute. The article above is nothing but a melange of sour grapes and generalizations clearly intended as another pathetic attempt to sow division.

Education requires funding. The place to start reform is with our idiotic tax system, not engage in ideologically driven teacher-bashing. But as I've state before, our kids will do just fine, because they're leaving this screwed up state. Way to go Rodney Tom!

Parent13

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, I couldn't help but to notice that the "Discovery Institute" has received $10M from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I'm not seeing much in original thought. This article is nothing more than spewing of "reforms" pushed by the billionaire boys and ALEC. None of these "reforms" have closed the achievement gap.

Has anyone noticed that the United States has the second largest population of children living in poverty?

Meanwhile, I recommend the state atleast begin paying for 6 periods of middle and high school per day. At the present time, the state is only covering half of our district's transportation costs.

Watching

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut doesn't have to publish anything that agrees with my views, but surely it can find more reputable writers than this fraud who pushes creationism in the schools under the banner of "Intelligent Design."

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 8:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Can any of the elected currently pass any of the standard high school tests needed to graduate?

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Define "active chapter" for DFER. As far as I can discern, it's a one woman office with a few moneyed members.

"They are dissident Democratic donors who are tired of giving to a party that talks education reform, but doesn’t deliver."

Are you talking nationally or in Washington State? Also, define "ed reform."

Because I can deliver you a fairly long list of good things happening in public education in Washington State. The DFER folks like to overlook these all the time in their quest for what they consider "ed reform."

"It is probably fair to say that Stand for Children, though non-partisan, is mostly made up of Democratic donors who put education first."

Really? And you will be letting us know how you know that, correct? Because Stand is more an astro-turf group that has aggressively sought to use money rather than reason to win their case.

"Mostly they are backed by successful people who may support the Democratic Party but don't, in turn, rely on it. These donors therefore cannot be easily intimidated."

Ah, the moneyed interests. And, "successful people" know best because, welll, they are successful? The backbone, the real working rank and file members of the Democratic party don't worry about those people. I don't care if Bill Gates never feels intimidated by them. I don't feel intimidated by him, either.

Instead of being bullies with money, why don't they sit down and talk with members of their party over an issue they disagree with?

You say that Dems are going to leave the party over one single issue because they aren't getting their way? Okay then, there's the door. Because we are the party that works TOGETHER and not the one that is small-minded and takes its toys and stomps out if they don't get their way.

What's hilarious is you could put all the money the teachers union has spent investing in Dems in a Starbucks cup and it would pale in comparison to the money that Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad and others have spend on "ed reform."

Oh and fyi, if those ed reform money bullies from out-of-state think they are coming to Seattle (as they just did in LA) to pour their money into our mayoral and School Board elections in November and believe they will get a mayor who will take over our school district and School Board, good luck with that. They will be in for yet another very rude awakening.

westello

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 9:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Who is Bruce Chapman? This article is NOT a surprise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Chapmand

Watching

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow, he's not a "progressive." That just shocks and horrifies you, doesn't it?

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

I had expected more reasoned responses to Mr. Chapman's article. Perhaps I have over-estimated the intelligence of Crosscut readers, at least on education issues.

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

And we Crosscut readers continue to hope for a higher caliber of opinion published on these pages than that expressed, in this instance, by a verifiable wingnut creationism pushing fraud.In most publications Chapman's long history of dishonesty regarding education issues would disqualify him from having his views published.

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:06 a.m. Inappropriate

There you have it: Seattle "progressives" would like it if they could "disqualify him from having his views published." Yep, the hypocrites who will then turn around and claim to be for free speech.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 10:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey Snus, let's see YOUR "reasoned response" to Mr. Jesus-Rode-A-Dinosaur.

ivan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 5:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Today I passed several people holding cylinders in their hands as they took "stress tests" administered by Scientologists. In this country no matter how wacked out your views may be you can find followers. The more funding you hvae the more respect you get. the Scientologists once administered the tests using soup cans with the labels removed. The Discovery Institute once mad an effort to pose as a Libertarian think tank.

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:02 a.m. Inappropriate

I actually think my response was well-reasoned.

I asked Mr. Chapman for definitions because I'm not sure what he is referencing.

I asked him for the data on who Stand for Children is. That's what you do if you want someone to back up an opinion.

I ask him what is wrong with sitting down together as Democrats (which he isn't) and talking about education.

It's fine for Mr. Chapman to have opinions. If he has nothing to back it up, well, it's not much food for thought.

westello

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

This article is a shockingly effective way for Crosscut to render themselves irrelevant. One more news blog I don't have to read any more.

word

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

You'd hate to have to read anything you didn't agree with, wouldn't you? It would make you kick and scream and stamp your little feet until you just melted!

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:12 a.m. Inappropriate

I read your troll comments all over the place. I don't agree with any of them. But I neither kick, nor scream, nor stamp my feet, nor melt. I just say to myself "Oh, him again," and move on to the next thing. So please don't project your own reactions onto others.

ivan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 3:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, but your very first comment in this thread was a classic "progressive" tantrum.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 5:34 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't think that was the real NotFan. the word "progressive" isn't used in the comment.

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

You drop race as a red flag but the NAACP is generally opposed to many of these so-called reforms. A real reform involves systemic and rational change, not market-oriented privilege-based reforms that rely on those with money to pick winners and then cast crumbs to those not as financially gifted. And that's why the NAACP opposes these reforms, versus AstroTurf pro-market/kids-as-competition front groups.

alexjon

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 2:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Stand for Children "is mostly made up of Democratic donors"?! Like far-right Connie Ballmer who has fought progressive tax reform that would actually FUND schools? She accounts for $25,000 of the $40,638.23 their PAC has raised this year.

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 3:07 p.m. Inappropriate

"Far right" Connie Ballmer's political contributions skew almost exclusively Democratic. Maybe she's "far right" by comparison to your communist beliefs?

http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/contributions/connie-ballmer.asp?cycle=12

But you're mad that she doesn't support an income tax. You know, like the majorities of voters in every single county of Washington State. Yep, quite the nest of right wingers here! Will you and the rest of the "progressives" ever stop whining, or is that your hobby?

News: We will never have an income tax in this state. If you can't handle that, California beckons!

NotFan

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 2:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Instead of rhetoric, here's the reality: Educators know Sen. Steve Hobbs has failed to reduce overcrowded class sizes or increase funding for K-12 schools. Our kids are packed into the fourth-most-overcrowded class sizes in the country. and Sen. Hobbs voted for a Senate budget that has ZERO funding to reduce class sizes.

In other words, Sen. Hobbs is ignoring the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision and his paramount duty to fund our kids' education.

BTW, Stand for Children lost its two biggest candidate races last year: Republicans Rob McKenna and Dawn McCravey (who lost to state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe).

And just last night, James Bible of the NAACP gave an excellent speech to a group of WEA members. He criticized the overemphasis on standardized testing and so-called education reform.

RichWood

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 10:40 p.m. Inappropriate

If money was the cure for the educational system in this state, it would have been cured a long time ago. The problem is beyond mere money. Teachers, WEA, and their supporters are at war with parents and students and neither side is winning. And that's the problem, it's more about winning not educating students. Washington D.C. and California are the examples that we should be avoiding, but no, we seem hell-bent on driving over the same cliff.

Djinn

Posted Fri, Apr 26, 11:20 p.m. Inappropriate

So Gates-funded Crosscut is now running PR product from the Gates-funded Discovery Institute, speaking in favor of Gates-funded DFER and Gates-funded Stand for Children ...all without disclosure of the common funding relationship.

At what point do we start calling it Gatescut? For me the point has been reached.

spock

Posted Sat, Apr 27, 7:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Yep, seems like Democrats have pushed all the creationists and racists and all sorts of people with bad ideas into the Republican Party too. To Mr. Chapman, it's a wonder that there are any Democrats left.

Posted Sat, Apr 27, 8:55 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a dreadfully written piece without any actual facts or data behind it. What a shame that reasoned discourse has been reduced to this level.

Mr. Chapman writes about the recent vote by the California Democratic Party to denounce Democrats for Education Reform. Unfortunately he doesn't appear to know much about the vote. The members of DFER are not, in fact, Democrats. Mr. Chapman gives the example of Mayor Bloomberg in New York, an avowed Republican.

Mr. Chapman writes sneeringly about how the teachers' union and Democratic party have ties, but doesn't make a similar sneering reference to the moneyed interests and out-of-state Wall Street billionaires who have similar ties to the Republican party. The positions are perfectly analogous, but only the unions and the Democrats earn Mr. Chapman's sneer.

Mr. Chapman claims that Democrats opposition to so-called Education Reform also goes against African-American groups which back them, but the NAACP opposes the corporate- and billionaire-sponsored Education Reforms promoted by Mr. Chapman, DFER, the Gates Foundation and Stand for Children.

Mr. Chapman writes of DFER in Washington State as an active chapter, but it is only an astro-turf group with funding but not members. What, Mr. Chapman, is the membership of this "active" organization? Same for Stand for Children. It is just another astro-turf finger puppet of the Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation has funded a handful of these finger puppets to create the illusion of a chorus when it is, in fact, only a single voice, albeit a rich one. Mr. Chapman doesn't have to be a journalist to discover and report this; he only needs to be honest. What a shame that he is neither.

Nothing is as strong a signal of Mr. Chapman's dishonesty than his characterization of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus as "bipartisan". That's revealing, isn't it?

This reveals that Mr. Chapman subscribes to the "one drop" policy. If even one self-described Democrat supports a so-called Education Reform, then the party is failing to represent its constituents by opposing them. If there are even two members of an astro-turf PAC then it represents The People. If even one person of color supports charter schools then the Democrats should reflect the view of that one person. This is a ridiculous standard.

Equally ridiculous is Mr. Chapman's view that public sector unions are responsible for the tenuous financial condition of states. He doesn't seem to count the impact of tax revolts. No, it's those greedy teachers, police and firefighters. Those bastards getting stinking rich on their ostentatious salaries of $40,000 to $80,000. In truth, the strained finances of states and municipalities are more attributable to tax breaks granted to corporate interests and the people who really are ostentatiously wealthy.

Mr. Chapman is no one that the Democratic party should look to for advice. Not only because he clearly doesn't have their best interest at heart, but also because he is wrong most of the time. Especially about education issues. Go back and see what he wrote about Seattle school board races and you'll see how flawed his vision really is.

coolpapa

Posted Sat, Apr 27, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Really, intelligent design? That is kind of a backwater idea like phrenology, not a whole lot of street cred there.

Where's the article by Turkana Boy on how advancing cookie cutter ALEC legislation just makes you look like a toadie for Jeb Bush.

Posted Sat, Apr 27, 12:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Really, street cred?

In the journals, scientists are fleeing Darwinism like rats off the Titanic, you talk about street cred like you know something.

Street cred! Sheesh!

Billsey

Posted Sat, Apr 27, 5:29 p.m. Inappropriate

"In the journals"??? Oh? Which journals and whose articles? Great example of defensive posturing when you have nothing to back up what you say. Likening scientists to "rats" tell us a lot more about the mind of Billsey than it does about anything else. While you're at it, send us some links to pictures of Jesus blessing the dinosaurs. Last...I had no idea that anyone in 2013 was still taking Bruce Chapman seriously...except, of course, for Bruce Chapman.

TaylorB1

Posted Mon, Apr 29, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

It's outrageous and sad that the education reform debate is focusing on astroturf groups funded by Bill Gates, and f'ing creationists! Our public schools are at the front lines of dealing with all of the social consequences of our distressed society. It shows up with the staggering increase in kids with ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, autism, dyslexia, turrets syndrome, alcoholic or drub abusing parents, nutrition problems like obesity, anorexia, diabetes, etc. We dump these kids into a classroom with 25-30 other kids and expect 1 teacher to get all of them to pass some stupid test that doesn't accomplish anything except lining the pockets of the company that sells the test, and give out-of-touch policymakers (like the writer of this piece) a remote sense of 'accountability.'

I don't think anyone understands what a cluster the present day classroom is. It is truly amazing what teachers are able to accomplish in this environment. Just reduce class size and give the heroes in the classroom a fighting chance to make a difference. That's what they signed up for, and we can't seem to give them a chance to succeed.

Posted Tue, Apr 30, 12:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Hey, let's reduce class sizes to one, and pay teachers half a million a year. But I'm sure you'll still have something to whine about.

NotFan

Posted Wed, May 1, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

This opinion piece is pretty funny. I guess if you can't pay for content you have to expect a whole mix of good, bad, and ugly. Bruce Chapman?? Seriously?? This guy's policies and theories have more holes in it than national cheese bank of Switzerland. No one with any grain of science or education understanding pays attention.

Treker

Posted Fri, May 3, 9:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh yea - teachers working in public education must be National Board Certified and have the necessary base requirements and certified endorsements. Private teachers - no certification required - no other certificaton required!!

Treker

Posted Fri, May 3, 2:58 p.m. Inappropriate

The example of Rodney Tom shows the limits of this big-tent party thinking. What good is it to be so inclusive that you support people who want nothing to do with your party and throw the Senate to the other side? You don't generally see Republicans making this mistake; they expect politicians to dance with the one who brought 'em.

By the way, Bruce, you should really acknowledge your dog in this fight; charter schools and vouchers are a way for you to get public funding for Christian science education.

DannyK

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