Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I'm Proud To Not Be A Trump Supporter, But Not So Proud to Be a Democrat Either

I found myself  flipping back and forth  between schadenfreude and disgust at last night's Republican circus.  Chachi, some Duck Dynasty guy, and a Calvin Klein underwear model strutted around the stage, Rudy Giuliani shrieked, Melania Trump (or her speechwriters) plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, speakers mocked the Black Lives Matter movement, and the RNC  had to shut down a convention chat window because anti-Semitic Trump supporters filled it with remarks like “Press H for Hitler,” “JOOS,” “BAN JEWS,” “OY GEVALT,” and “KIKE.”

Proud to be a Democrat, right? Only sort of. Last week the Democratic National Committee revised its education platform and, in a pander to right-wing nutjobs -- not unlike the RNC’s placation of racists and homophobes -- removed language that goes to the core of what civil rights leaders believe is essential to improving outcomes for disenfranchised students.

You can read the original and edited platform here. The gist is that the first version praised “great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools” but was amended to “we believe that high quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools.”

In addition, DNC delegates bowed to unionist pressure and obliterated original language that said, “we hold schools, districts, communities, and states accountable for raising achievement levels for all students  — particularly low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities,” to,
We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing, the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools, and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers. We also support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school.
(They also added this: “standardized tests must meet American Statistical Association standards.” Embarrassingly, as Matt Barnum pointed out, “ The American Statistical Association (ASA) has never published guidelines pertaining to the reliability and validity of standardized tests.)

In other words, down with school choice and accountability, two of the most important mechanisms American public schools offer for children trapped in zip code-circumscribed districts and our long history, pre-NCLB and Race to the Top, of veiling under-achievement through aggregated averages.

Take the DNC's aspersions of charter schools (please!). Student enrollment is a zero-sum game. If kids move to an alternative public school like a charter  then they no longer attend the traditional school and state aid travels with them. Does that count as destabilization? To anti-charter lobbyists, it does. And according to the DNC platform, that’s justification enough to undermine the will of parents who can’t afford to exercise choice by the most common American form, moving to a better district.

Regarding the second dilution, last year the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of the nation’s major civil rights groups, issued a press release that “announced their opposition to anti-testing efforts springing up across the country that are discouraging students from taking standardized tests and subverting the validity of data about educational outcomes.”

As Shavar Jeffries of Democrats for Education Reform notes,
The [revised] platform stands in stark contrast to the positions of a broad coalition of civil rights groups, which have made clear that those encouraging testing opt-outs are harming the prospects of low-income and minority children and that having clear academic performance benchmarks tied to school turnaround efforts is necessary to promote a more equitable education system.
Peter Cunningham, a lifelong Democrat like me, wrote last week that the DNC’s revised education platform belies our party’s long history of  fighting for "the little guy,” in this case literal little guys: children, especially those long oppressed by “adult rules about governance or working conditions.” The platform “adopted behind closed doors in Orlando last weekend, “ he continues,  “affirms an education system that denies its shortcomings and is unwilling to address them.”

I was proud to not be a Republican last night who would vote for Trump. But right now I’m not so proud to be a Democrat either.