Hillary’s Current Education Advisor “at center” of No Child Left Behind

Jake Jacobs
Mar 9, 2016 · 4 min read

If you were shocked by the 2012 John Podesta/Jeb Bush video where the biggest Obama, Clinton and Bush fundraisers called a truce over corporate education reform, be sitting for this one…last June, Fortune magazine featured Ann O’Leary, “the wonk shaping Hillary’s plans for the country”.

Those plans include standardized testing, Common Core and charter schools. In charge of economic and education issues for Hillary, she is an ivy educated lawyer and senior fellow at Center for American Progress who served in Obama’s transition team and most recently worked for billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, a perennial DNC delegate and board member at CAP. From the article:

“O’Leary’s connection to the Clintons dates back to the ’90s, when she worked in the White House…O’Leary is a diehard policy wonk, especially keen on anything that affects families or education. As Clinton’s Senate aide in 2001, she was at the center of No Child Left Behind — a once popular education initiative that has since soured in the public mind.

“It was a really important moment,” she says of the law, which Ted Kennedy crafted and George W. Bush signed. “When you look back at what happened, this was serious, bipartisan, constructive work. We were committed to high standards and helping states get there.”

Implementation, she concedes, has been a rocky road — and she praises bipartisan reform proposals. On the newest flashpoint in education, Common Core, she notes that it was an initiative created by governors, not Washington, and notes that it has worked better in states like California, where cautious implementation preceded any focus on test-taking.”

Test taking was in tall order nationwide, however, as Podesta pushed RTTT’s prescriptive test-based accountability, including “growth” formulas that didn’t stand up to scientific or thus far, legal scrutiny. In NY, they added two extra days, while testing most students over their abilities, and artificially manufacturing all the “failing schools” we’ve been hearing about.

THE SHELL GAME: O’Leary is co-founder of the Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to promote legislation to help children and families from “cradle to grave”. Some goals seem noble, like parental leave, teen pregnancy prevention or support for single parents, but what about K-12 education?

Here it splinters into another organization called Partners for Each and Every Child (sound familiar?) and it gets reformy, looking for “strong policies” to improve “student outcomes”, taking aim at teachers, schools, families and communities. They talk about lobbying all 50 states to implement ESSA and define Community Schools, providing “infrastructure” such as policy drafts, staff, research and communications, while the larger CAP octopus directs campaign cash, astroturfing and revolving door jobs.

THE MERRY-GO-ROUND: The “Partners” group itself is chock full of ex-Duncan aides, ex-Clinton administration officials and CAP associates, but in particular, key staffers from the US Dept. of Ed’s Civil Rights division, such as Molly Mauer, Guy Johnson and Andrew Amore.

This is very interesting in light of the recent battle over federally mandated annual tests in the recent ESSA law, where “civil rights groups” formed a supposed firewall for keeping in vastly unpopular annual tests, even after it became clear that the rank and file in these same groups opposed the tests. “Partners” touts alliances with civil rights organizations, elected officials and state and local education officials, the type they indubitably hire after leaving office.

Those voices on the payroll are amplified by coordinated astroturf mills such as Campbell Brown’s, everyday sullying the word “news”.

BIG LABOR CAVED: The funding for the reform-minded “Partners” group is no surprise, coming from the Gates, Carnegies, Hewletts and Ford foundations, but also from the AFT and NEA, meaning this is “teacher” money, quietly used since at least 2013 as part of the CAP mobilization to set up what Politico has called Hillary’s “policy shop in waiting”.

This would explain the AFT’s executive-only vote which even Hillary-supporting teachers said was way premature. The NEA executive-only vote then came in the teeth of that backlash, trampling hopes for a conversation about Bernie as he was already surging in support. The union leaders are positioned nicely for an eventual Hillary win, teachers look towards more CAP policies to follow NCLB and RTTT, and social studies teachers everywhere wonder where the authority for federal tinkering and unfunded mandates comes from — certainly not the 10th Amendment which appears to prohibit it.

GETTING WEIRDER: This doesn’t involve education, but Ann O’Leary’s marriage to California Supreme Court judge Goodwin Liu became an issue when Hillary’s emails were released. They revealed that O’Leary asked Hillary in 2009 to get Obama to nominate her husband for SCOTUS. Hillary did so, but had O’Leary write two sets of talking points for her, one meant for White House counsel painting Liu as “more liberal” while another set was sent to Sen. Feinstein making him sound “not too liberal”.

Liu’s 2010 nomination was withdrawn after a Republican filibuster, but this illustrates not only how super-tight Hillary is with O’Leary, but how Hillary was influencing Obama right from inauguration. Could O’Leary be on the short list for Secretary of Education, seeing how John Podesta actually makes the determination?

And how jarring is it that the unions have so silently been part of this?

The funders of Ann O’Leary’s policymaking nonprofit

Cross-posted at Mercedes Schneider’s Edublog.

Jake Jacobs

Written by

NYC Art Teacher, Education Reporter for The Progressive. Podcast at NYupdate.org