With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking back to '09. Boy was I wrong!

 Three years ago today, opponents of Renaissance 2010 protest Chicago school board decision to close or "turnaround" 16 schools.
It was three years ago yesterday, still joyful from the great election victory three months earlier,  that I took a swipe at Diane Ravitch for her comment:  
"It looks like Obama's education policy will be a third term for President George W. Bush. This is not change I can believe in." (Politico)
My response back then: "What a joke! Obama has done more to save public education in one month than the entire Bush regime did in 12 years."

Well it turned out, the joke was on me us. Obama's early positives -- including his rejection of school vouchers (pushed on him by DFER hedge-fund reformers), his 2009 stimulus package which looked then like a new deal for public education, including millions for new school construction, early childhood support, increases in Headstart, and investments in heath care for children. But the stimulus money dried up and all that soon gave way to even more testing madness, mass teacher firings and school closings forced on school districts in exchange for badly needed federal funds. Obama's right-center strategy led to concession after concession to the conservatives. The president soon joined the teacher-bashing chorus and he openly cheered for the mass teacher firings in Central Falls, RI., setting the tone for the next three years. Race To The Top has become No Child Left Behind on Crack.

Ravitch's forecast was right on the mark. I apologized to her in these pages a few months later. Her attacks on Obama's ed policies were hard for me to accept with her still embedded at the conservative Fordham and Hoover Institutes. But her break with the right-wing think tanks has been genuine and her book and speaking tour became the catalyst for the current resistance movement.

I also owe readers Roger and Margo a dinner the next time I am in San Francisco (see comments section).

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