Speaking of the internecine split within the Democratic Party on education reform (see quote below), Andy Rotherham of Bellwether and Richard Whitmire (of“On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools are Pushing the Envelope”) have a column in USA Today on the feud between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Success Academy Charter Schools founder Eva Moscowitz, and how this local battle is an emblem of a national rift:
The de Blasio-Moskowitz confrontation neatly sums up the growing national Democrat vs. Democrat battle. The de Blasio wing of the party sees teachers unions as important institutions standing up for the average guy; the reform wing sees them as just another special interest. The de Blasio faction sees school testing as a scheme to discredit public schools; the reform wing sees testing as a tool needed to protect poor and minority students from slipping into education oblivion.
At the heart of this confrontation is a fundamental philosophical divide over what constitutes a common school. The goal championed by Horace Mann in 1838 envisioned students of all backgrounds mixing together to receive a common, community education. In our own warm fuzzy memories, that's the system many of us think we experienced.
But did we? In truth, the well-off kids went to far better "common" schools. The less well-off and minority students went to schools that didn't give them an equal shot in life. Those in the education reform world tend to see the common school as an ideal that can be realized through different approaches, like charters. Their critics believe in traditional school districts and unionized teachers.
Also see today's column in the Daily Beast, which asks, "When does a local education fight become a national bellwether? When it touches a policy lightning rod, scrambles partisan allegiances, and involves political actors who stand in for whole political ideologies."