Education Reform

Arthur Camins: Time for Democrats to Divorce the “Bipartisan” Education Policy Agenda

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Arthur Camins calls on the Democratic Party to divorce the “bipartisan” education policy agenda that has been in place for the past four decades. This is the agenda of competition, testing, accountability, and choice. It actually was the Republican policy agenda first, and the Democrats decided to embrace it. What did the Democrats give up when they endorsed the Republican education agenda? Democrats in Congress used to oppose testing and accountability; they used to advocate for equity, funding, and teacher professionalism. But, as I have written over my past three books, Democrats slowly gave up a winning and relevant hand and slipped into the Republicans’ tough stance towards students, teachers, and public schools. How has that worked out? Not so well. The trend lines on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been completely flat for the past ten years. The scores of the bottom 10 percent have actually declined. Test prep can lift scores just so much, then they go flat.

Camins writes:

It is time for Democrats to file for a divorce from a four-decade bipartisan education policy marriage.  The case is clearer now than ever. There are irreconcilable differences. A marriage with one partner committed to competition as an improvement driver and the other to equity and democracy is an inevitable failure. A partnership in which one party prioritizes tax cuts and deregulation for the wealthy and the other quality education for everyone results in abuse of the least powerful partner. A record of persistent child abuse makes a complete separation a necessity.  

Democrats: If not for your own moral integrity, do it for the kids.

To see evidence of that unfortunate marriage of Democrats and Republicans, read the articles co-authored by Arne Duncan (Obama’s Secretary of Education) and Margaret Spellings (George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education). Here is one of the best examples:

We have long benefited from a broad coalition that has advanced bold action to improve America’s education system.

That coalition has waned. It’s time to rebuild it.

Today, education is blessed with bipartisan agreement on what works, and cursed with bipartisan complacency at every level on taking action.

As Arthur Camins knows, that “bipartisan agreement on what works” has been a disaster: testing, charter schools, evaluation of teachers by test scores, closing schools with low scores, competition, threats.

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