Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DfER Defiles the Holy Name of Democrats

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Democrats for Education Reform (DfER) is a veritable who’s who of Education Deformers, privatizers, vultures and union busters. In California the group includes Gloria Romero, an anti-teacher Democratic state legislator, as well as Ben Austin, a leader of the astroturf organization Parent Revolution.  One of DfER’s primary objectives is to get pro-charter school, anti-teachers’ union officials elected to office.

Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, says the group’s name sows confusion and implies Democratic Party support for DfER-backed candidates when none exists. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Bauman sent a letter to DfER accusing it of violating California’s election code and ordering it to "cease and desist" its "unlawful" use of the word "Democrat."

Bauman said his fight was ". . .about preventing voters from being fooled."

However, the Democratic Party itself is engaged in the much larger deception of suggesting that it is somehow defending Public Education when many of its members have supported and promoted the same agenda as DfER.

It is true the DfER is all about gutting teachers’ unions, tenure and due process rights, as well as promoting charter schools, vouchers and other privatization schemes. But what has the Democratic Party done for education lately? Gov. Brown is currently extorting the public by threatening to slash another $5-6 billion from K-12 education if it does not support his tax increase this November, a tax increase that would temporarily increase taxes on the wealthy, while also imposing a regressive sales tax increase that would disproportionately harm lower income residents.

The Democrats did virtually nothing to halt the looting of $20 billion from K-12 education over the past four years. They have sat idly by as class sizes have mushroomed, while nurses, counselors, librarians and course offerings have been decimated. They have worked side by side with Democratic Gov. Brown to slash teachers’ pensions. They willingly participated in the corporate sellouts known at Race to the Top RttT, Common Core Standards (CCS) and NCLB.

The Times’ article framed the situation as turf war between various factions in the Democratic Party. And to some extent they were right. However, what is most unpalatable about DfER to Democratic Party hacks is not its disingenuous adoption of the name “Democrat,” but its presumptuous challenge to the teachers unions’ status as the preeminent non-corporate donors to Democratic Party candidates.

However, from the perspective of teachers, students and those who care about the quality of education in California, DfER’s party affiliations are irrelevant. DfER, like many of its allies on both sides of the aisle, still wants greater privatization and weaker unions and job protections, and it wants these things not because they will help children (they won’t), but because they will help business.

Obama Chooses Charter School Shill as His California Spokeswoman
According to the Times, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) is irate over Obama’s decision to choose a Parent Revolution executive as his spokeswoman in California and has even threatened to back out of his reelection campaign if he doesn’t fire her.

The Times portrayed the CFT’s response as petty Party politics, suggesting that the CFT was simply refusing to work with someone it didn’t like. Gloria Romero went even further, calling it “threatening” and “bullying,” thus lending credence to the argument that it is a turf war between Democratic Party factions.

Yet one must remember that Parent Revolution’s main purpose is to rally parents to demand that their neighborhood schools be turned over to Educational Management Organizations (EMOs) and private charter school operators, thus abolishing existing teacher contracts and union protections and reducing parental and community control by allowing management decisions to be made behind closed doors by EMO board members.

Hence, Obama’s California spokeswoman is not just a shill for the charter school and privatization movements, but further evidence of his general hostility toward teachers’ unions and K-12 education. Considering his extortionist Race to the Top competitive grants program, and his support for increasing privatization through charter schools and Common Core Standards, teachers should NOT be supporting his campaign, regardless of his choice for California spokesperson. Obama, in practice, as well as intent, has been as antagonistic toward public education and teachers as the Bush Administration.

This brings us back to the question of Party factionalism versus Party loyalty to Capital. If Obama, DfER and so many other prominent Democrats are supporting vouchers, charter schools, CCS, RttT, evaluation reform, and other questionable, unproven, yet highly profitable changes to public education, it would seem reasonable to presume that they are in it for the money, just like their Republican counterparts. That is to say, they support these “reforms” because they are good for business.

The only significant difference between overtly anti-union Democrats like Gloria Romero and ostensibly pro-union Democrats like Jerry Brown is their rhetoric and their funding streams. Romero’s group, DfER, takes in much of its funding from anti-teacher philanthropies, while Brown takes in much of his funding from the teachers’ unions. In the end, they both are bad for teachers and for students.

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