Today, I was able to meet with Senator Sanders with a small group of invited guests before his rally in Albany. I spoke for about two minutes on the “opt out movement” and the reasons that parents are boycotting the state tests. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time. This is what I wanted to say, but didn’t have the time:
There is much angst amongst parents and educators on who to vote for this year. Educators by and far hate the Common Core standards (just look at the polls — consistently at 90% unfavorable). We can’t vote for any of the GOP candidates, because they are all supportive of “school choice.” So, we look to the Democratic Party. However, teachers and parents are reluctant to vote for Hillary because she has a history of supporting charter schools and the Common Core standards.
This is where your (Sanders’) campaign misses a HUGE opportunity to win over teachers and parents alike. I believe that you (Sen. Sanders) are being unduly influenced by the leaders of the civil rights groups such as the NAACP. I know they have lobbied to keep the grades 3–8 testing as a federal requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was passed in December. The NAACP sees annual testing as a civil right; the right to have their kids take the same crappy tests that the white suburban parents have. My guess as to their motive is to ensure that their children get the same educational opportunities as the suburban students are offered, but I am confused as to how a high failure rate based on these tests does anything but demoralize the students, teachers, and parents. Perhaps there is another reason they want to see the failure.
When these schools “fail,” they are placed in “receivership” and handed over to for-profit charters (e.g. — Students First, Brighter Choice, KIPP, etc.). I suppose if I was the parent of a student attending a “failing” public school in the south Bronx or in Chicago, I might see the allure of one of these shiny new charter schools.
The problem however, is that these charters have a history of abusive “no excuses” behavioral policies, cherry-picking students from the public schools, and not being held financially accountable (e.g. — in New York, it is illegal for the Comptroller to audit charter schools). Charters also have a history of influencing politicians to increase their numbers. For example, in New York, the charter industry was one of the biggest donors to Cuomo’s campaign ($1.3 million last year alone). What do charters get for their generosity? They get more schools placed on the receivership list.
How can wehave a discussion on Common Core and charter schools without mentioning Bill Gates? Bill Gates has donated millions to the NAACP. The “leaders” say they want the Common Core standards and the requisite testing. However, the parents whom they supposedly represent, do not want Common Core, nor the testing; they want decent schools with adequate supports, financial and otherwise.
If Mr. Sanders wants to win this election, and he neglects to capitalize on these issues (and it’s the right thing to do anyway), he stands a good chance of losing this election.
I’m a conservative who is willing to support Bernie, but he needs to more publicly address K-12 issues. He cannot afford to focus solely on post-secondary issues. Kids have to graduate high school before they can go to college — even if that college education is “free.”
Please contact me if I can be of further service. My cell is 555–555–5555.
(BTW — Bernie autographed my opt out bubble sheet.)