We need to start with this: there's just absolutely no way that Mitt Romney should be allowed access to the White House. Paul Ryan's insane lies are more than enough on their own to disqualify the Republican ticket. But that doesn't mean Obama is doing the right thing on education; to the contrary, his campaign appears to be trying to cover its tracks from the last four years. As one of my commenters, NYC Educator, put it:
I'm also finding it impossible to vote for Obama, despite his lip service to reason. As long as Duncan is in charge, taking orders from Gates, there are really very few areas in which their ed. policies differ. Didn't Ravitch write a column wondering why Obama gave Bush a third term in education? I'd argue, with VAM, they managed to make things worse.Good comment, because it hits on the three big issues involved in whether teachers should support Obama or not:
I'm looking at Jill Stein this year. I'm a lifelong Democrat, and the first one I voted against was Andrew Cuomo. Unless we get something more than pretty words, Obama will be my next.
I am amazed that our unions did not demand concessions before the elections, as did the LGBT and immigrant communities. The chances of extracting them when he no longer needs our support, to me, appear less than remote.
1) There is very little space between Obama and Romney on education. I wish it wasn't true, but it is: they are basically coming from the same place on K-12 education (there's more division on higher ed). Romney has said Race To The Top - Obama's signature program - "makes sense." He would: it calls for more charters and test-based teacher evaluations, things they both seem to love. No wonder the public sees so little difference between them.
2) Despite Obama's horrible education record, there's no where else to go. What other choice do we have? There's no viable third-party candidate, so a vote for anyone but Obama is essentially a vote for Romney. I can't, in good conscience, throw my vote away, especially having lived through the horror of the Bush years. People kept telling me back then, "There's no difference between Bush and Gore!" They were wrong: ask the people of Iraq or New Orleans. Or consider that we now live under the Roberts court.
3) Why should the teachers unions support Obama when he's sold out teachers? This one is tough. If the unions had withdrawn support, the vacuum would have been filled by someone else, and then where would we be? Remember, we saw this in action in Illinois: when the union withheld support to Democrats as a punishment for screwing teachers over on pensions, Jonah Edelman got a bunch of plutocrats together to fill the money hole. Can we really afford to sit on the sidelines, even when our "allies" stab us in the back?
So we're in an impossible position: we have no where to go but to a candidate who is not treating us well. What can we do?
This is the best plan I can think of:
1) Start making noise now that Arne Duncan needs to go. That should be the minimal price for our support of Obama. Duncan has no business running education policy; he has been an absolute disaster as Secretary of Education. The new term is the best time for Duncan to be gracefully thrown out the back door and replaced with someone who will be pro-teacher and pro-public schools.
2) Grab on to Obama's current position - against excessive testing and large class sizes - and never let go. He has now officially come out against excessive testing and large class sizes. Great; he needs to be reminded over and over again that this is his policy.
3) Lay down plans for 2016. Andrew Cuomo is not acceptable; neither is Dannel Malloy. When politicians like Mark Dayton do the right thing, we should reward them (like this). At the same time, sellouts like Cory Booker need to learn that there is a price to be paid for backing the anti-teacher agenda.
That's all I can think to do right now. Not very satisfying, I know. But what else can be done?
If the 2016 election is between the two on the left, teachers will be in big trouble.