There have been numerous friends insisting that Hillary Clinton’s comments this week about closing any schools performing below average were nothing more than a case of misspeaking and letting hyperbole get away from her. Mmmm, probably not. http://freebeacon.com/issues/hillary-clinton-threatens-shutter-underperforming-schools/
Clinton is walking a tightrope between well established long-time friends at DFER and major donors, on the one side, and the highly energized grassroots movement which has suddenly arisen and grown in opposition to Test Based Reform over the last 3 years on the other side. These new actual real voter groups of parents/teachers are making education an inconveniently complex issue for the campaign, but one that is being consciously managed.
Clinton was firmly in the standardize & privatize-through-testing & charters group for many years. She counts among her major donors, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and Goldman Sachs-- all also major supporters of full implementation of charters and privatization. She and her daughter seem from all outward statements to be deep admirers of the Gateses, who have persistently funded the standardized testing movement for fifteen years.
It would be foolhardy for teachers and parents to assume that Mrs. Clinton has experienced a philosophical conversion to fully supporting public schools, and anyone who observed her in the Benghazi hearings should be hard pressed to believe this is a woman whose message got away from her. She hasn’t haphazardly spoken since commenting on baking cookies in 1992, and one could argue even that was considered speech.
She is a highly skilled and experienced lawyer, politician, and diplomat trying to walk the middle between two sides, both of whom she needs to achieve her goal of becoming president.
Reduced turn out or peel off from rank and file voters disillusioned with the party’s Ed policies has the potential to cost her the election, but she will need the big dollars from her mega donors to avoid being overwhelmed by the Republican ad campaigns.
She was very deliberate to very publicly clinch both the teachers’ unions’ endorsements very early through a carefully crafted series of messages that promised little or nothing, freeing her to comfort and reassure her traditional backers.
She will not, of course, close half of schools when/if she becomes president; mostly because it would be illegal to. Would she implement policies that would enable states to close them? That’s a much more likely proposition, and the new ESSA law gives her the perfect tools to do it.
But teachers and parents, unionized or otherwise, should be savvy enough to understand; this was no faux pas. It was a clear and deliberate message to her financial backers. It could be paraphrased, “When I accidentally speak my mind, (Woops! Wink, Wink!) I still agree with you. Bear with me while I placate this audience of frustrated parents and teachers!"
Does that make Sanders or O’Malley a better choice on Education issues? Unfortunately, no. Sanders posted a pro-testing vote on the Murphy Amendment only recently and helped make sure annual testing stayed in the new Ed law, and O’Malley cheerfully ushered in high stakes testing as governor of Maryland.
Because Republicans are dedicated to starving schools and profitizing them as an expression of neo-capitalism, and Democrats claim the same reform policies under the flag of neo-liberalism, those interested in what really happens to children of all economic classes and ethnicities during their school days are left with no viable candidate; and don’t think Hillary, the billionaires, the charter industry, and the other Ed policy elite don’t know it.