Another Clinton Presidency? Let’s Recall the Role of the First Clinton in Establishing Achieve and the Common Core

Much is being written about the AFT’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  As American citizens consider who they believe would make the best president when it comes to education policy, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In 1996, corporate superstar Lou Gerstner hosted an education summit at IBM headquarters in Palisades, New York.  This is where Achieve was born.  You remember Achieve, don’t you?  This organization is responsible for the construction of our Common Core State Standards  — the extension of their American Diploma Project.   In attendance at the Palisades Summit were our nation’s governors, accompanied by at least one corporate CEO from each of their respective states.   It was literally an elite  “who’s who” of education reform, too.  Marc Tucker (remember his letter to Hillary Clinton?) was there along with the leaders of the NEA and the AFT and other folks deemed to be “resource people.”  Diane Ravitch was there representing New York University.  Denis Doyle attended as a representative of the Heritage Foundation.  Doyle had recently co-authored the book Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools with Lou Gerstner and he would go on to co-author a book  with Susan Pimentel (one of the chief architects of the CCSS).  And there were other folks as well who would provide commentary about what took place at Palisades.

President Bill Clinton was there and gave a speech on the second day.  What’s ironic is that some of the conservative education reformers in attendance sang the praises of Clinton’s speech at Palisades.  For example, as I explain and cite in my book (p. 121):

“The bipartisan spirit of the summit was impressive.  On the second day, President Clinton delivered a speech that Doyle described as ‘calculated to please.’  Doyle explained, ‘not surprisingly … it was a speech 95% of which any Republican could have delivered with complete conviction.’  Chester Finn, who attended the summit as a representative of the conservative Hudson Institution, noted that ‘it was a speech which Ronald Reagan could have given.’”

The love feast of Republicans and Democrats and corporate America at Palisades in 1996 resulted in the birth of Achieve and the Common Core State Standards.  President Clinton was there and wholeheartedly endorsed the process of systemically reforming America’s public schools.  “The president even gave a shout out to Bill Gates, a rising corporate superstar who would later join the ranks of CEOs with the big minds and big ideas about education reform, by referring to Gates’ book, The Road from Here.” (p. 121)

So — when you consider who you think will best serve the needs of our public school system in America, please remember that we already have the legacy of the first Clinton presidency in the public education arena.  And I have no doubt that this legacy will continue if Hillary is elected.

This is why I cannot support another Clinton presidency nor any presidency as a result of the current Republican gaggle.  I can only support a candidate who has vowed to address income inequality and to stave the economic and democratic public school blood-letting in our country.  Only Bernie Sanders has the courage to work in the interest of our democratic pluralistic nation and hold public spaces as sacred — not places to be exploited for profit by Wall Street.

To Endorse or Not Endorse — That is the Question

This has been an interesting few days in education reform.  First the Network for Public Education (NPE) published their qualified endorsement for the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization package entitled the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA).  Then, the AFT announced their endorsement of Hillary Cllinton for president.

I will comment briefly on these two endorsements.  First, while NPE understandably seeks to provide leadership and guidance for public school supporters, I believe it is problematic to endorse a bill that does little if anything to limit the expansive role of corporations and entrepreneurs intent on, as Chester Finn once said, making a dime in the education sector.  An organization’s choice to endorse, or not endorse, or stay silent says a great deal about the organization’s leadership.  So, on one hand, I am thankful to know how NPE feels about the current rewrite of ESEA.  On the other hand, it makes me question their ability to compromise on so many important issues.  This is not an era in which compromise will benefit our nation’s children and public school system.  We should not be willing to accept crumbs at the policy table — hoping for something more in the future.  That day will never come as long as we elect corporate sponsored neoliberals.

Which leads me to another organization’s statement regarding ECAA: The United Opt Out Movement’s statement:  “Why UOO Opposes ESEA(ECAA) and Supports the Necessity of Revolution.   There is nothing tepid in UOO’s statement and no compromise.  And the Opt Out Movement is making a difference in the policy arena.  They are forcing politicians and policy makers to listen through their actions.  Corporations and privatizers understand one thing — the bottom line — money.  Pearson is feeling the pinch as states reject their tests.  I agree with UOO.  I will not support a bill that only offers the old adage — “education is  a states rights issue.”  A lot of damage has been done to children over the decades in the name of states rights.  That is not progress.  The federal government’s role has, in fact, been to protect our nation’s children from abuses in the name of states rights.

As far as AFT’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton is concerned — well, there should be no surprise there.  Randi Weingarten is on the board of Clinton’s PAC —  Priorities USA Action.  Facebook has been on fire since the announcement of AFT’s endorsement.  AFT members are outraged and, although I am not a member of the AFT, I also find it difficult to understand the need for such a premature endorsement of a candidate — except that Weingarten is loyal to one candidate for obvious reasons.