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Campaign 2016: Not So Fast (Or Far) On The Reform Rollback Bandwagon

Tnr hrc conor williams
The divide within the Democratic party is endlessly fascinating and especially notable this week during which we see civil rights groups and teachers unions divide over the rewrite of NCLB.

In National Journal (Senate Democrats Scramble to Avoid a Split on Education Bill),Fawn Johnson notes that unions and civil-rights groups "may end up on opposite sides." If things end up that way, it could "severely weaken [Democratic members'] bargaining leverage in a conference committee with the House." Reading the NEA quotes in the piece, it would seem that the teachers union is feeling pretty strong right now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic divide looks to affect the Presidential campaign as well.  Last month in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy), Conor Williams notes what many others have said before: "there’s evidence that a Clinton Administration would mean a substantial departure from [Obama administration] reforms." Candidate Clinton has sought to straddle these differences, but as Williams notes there is more money and more momentum behind the reform critics and their backers. 
 
However, it's worth remembering that for a time in 2008 some progressives thought that Obama was their man thanks in large part to his much-touted but ultimately meaningless support for Chicago's local school councils. (A bit of history that's often forgotten but I happened to write about.) It's hard to imagine candidate Clinton or her team locking into education policy positions unless it absolutely has to -- or necessarily keeping promises made once the election is passed.
 
All this to say: Notwithstanding the outcome of the ESEA rewrite effort and the liberal surge of 2014-205 and all the rest, reform critics and teachers unions are in a mixed situation right now -- newly resurgent and powerful within education circles but somewhat embattled in the larger political world. They are too smart to say it publicly, but they don't have unfettered leverage over Democratic candidates and elected officials despite the current zeitgeist in EducationLand.  
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