My man Bernie Sanders may be about to endorse Hillary Clinton, and Sanders may be securing Clinton’s and the party’s support on key policy issues (public option and community health care centers! minimum wage! but not quite TPP!), but Clinton isn’t making it any easier for me to jump and down for her with her stance on charter schools. Last November, she said she has supported charter schools for 30 years but sees them as a “supplement” not a “substitute” for public schools. Tuesday she drew brief boos from the National Education Association’s annual meeting for saying, “When schools get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America…. Rather than starting from ideology, let’s start from what’s best for our kids.”
NEA officials weren’t too worked up about that comment; they didn’t mention it in their glowing assessment of Clinton’s speech, focusing instead on Clinton’s call to move away from testing and the “blame teachers first” mentality of legislatures and the media.
Clinton, as usual, is just triangulating, trying to craft an ideal fuzzy middle position to minimize votes against her. One pundit says Clinton wanted NEA to boo her to defuse right-wing complaints that she’s too cozy with the teachers’ labor union.
I suppose as a pragmatist I should be fine with Clinton’s shifty stance. But given charter schools’ failure to produce a clear record of consistently superior performance, a pragmatist can still contend that mixed-at-best results do not justify creating a separate system of schools that operate without the same accountability (remember, a charter school was the next big scam sought by the GEAR UP players) as public schools and open the door to undermine and privatize our K-12 schools.
But hey, my man Barack Obama has backed some bad education policies as well. NEA, you can afford to push your Democratic endorsees a little harder, because the other party isn’t going to give you anything more effective or intelligble.