On Education, Democrats Bow to Unions Again
When less than half of our students can read or do math at grade level, the message should be clear: our public education system in the United States is in crisis. At least that’s what Campbell Brown thinks.
Brown, a former CNN anchor, formed her non-profit organization, The Seventy Four, with that in mind. The Seventy Four is billed as a non-partisan, non-profit education news site, dedicated to ensuring that the 74 million Americans under the age of 18 get the world-class education opportunities they deserve.
Non-partisan though it may be, Brown’s organization is hardly apolitical. The Seventy Four has not shied away from presidential politics. In August, they hosted a New Hampshire Education Summit for Republican candidates for president, where candidates were pressed for policy ideas to address the education problems in the United States. Brown moderated one-on-one discussions with each of the six attendees (Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. John Kasich, Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush) before a live audience of New Hampshire voters.
The event gave these candidates an opportunity to pitch their ideas – and records – on education, while it allowed The Seventy Four to draw attention to the issue of education.
Brown scheduled a similar forum for Democrats on October 22, in Iowa. When Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi committee was scheduled for the same day, Brown offered to reschedule to accommodate the candidates’ schedules. If it had gone anything like the New Hampshire forum, it would have brought significant national attention to the issue of education, and given the Democratic candidates an opportunity to push their education policies.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the two largest teachers’ unions in the country – the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)– both incensed by Brown’s advocacy for teacher tenure reform and school choice, worked behind the scenes, twisting the Democratic candidates’ arms. And, tragically, it worked. As of this week, not a single candidate had responded to Brown’s longstanding invitation.
This story underscores the unfortunate reality in the politics of education policy: time and time again, the chief antagonists of any reform whatsoever are intransigent teachers unions. And time and time again, America’s seventy four million children are the biggest victims when the status quo is preserved yet again.
In a press release in response to headlines this week that Brown’s event was cancelled, AFT President and Clinton ally Randi Weingarten attacked Brown for pursuing reforms. That is a disgrace. Brown should not be criticized for her activism on this issue. She should be lauded.
But even more disgraceful is the absolute lack of political courage on the part of candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Neither has anything to lose from either union – both have already endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Brown was very clear that she would allow candidates to share whatever their education policies were – no matter how conservative or how liberal – and yet, neither Sanders or O’Malley was willing to stand up to their special interest bullies.
Republicans and conservatives represent the only hope for real reform of our education system. And there are quite a few Republicans stepping up to the challenge, such as Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who have all touted specific proposals and advocated for 21st century approaches to education.
It’s plain to see that the longstanding status quo perpetuated by partisan teachers unions is failing students across the country. Change is needed. Real reforms are critical. And it is conservatives who must lead the fight for the future of America’s education system.