Barack Obama's teacher bashing and union busting neoliberal 'school reform' programs take an ironic turn following the November 2, 2010 elections... Will it take Republicans to ignite the flames to finally cinderize Race To The Top?

For the past two years, many so-called "Progressive Democrats" have been silence by their support for the Obama administration despite the fact that one of the three biggest issues over which Obama betrayed many of those who worked for his election was education (the other two might be listed as the economy and the imperial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere). Generally, however, despite the fact that Obama's secretary of education has been furthering an agenda that promotes "market" solutions (charter schools and merit pay), privatization, and union busting, Obama progressive have ignored the education agenda of the Obama administration as if Arne Duncan and "Race To The Top" were an improvement over the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind." One egregious example of the still fawning done by "progressives" in the fact of the Obama onslaught on public schools came prior to the November 2 election when Chicago write and attorney Thomas Geogehegan managed to list ten things the Democrats would do to energize the "base" in a Nation magazine article and ignored Obama's neoliberal attacks on public schools and teacher unions.

By the time he appeared at the July 2009 convention of the National Education Association (above), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had destroyed most of the support that President Barack Obama had gotten from America's public school teachers through the privatization and union busting programs of his "Race To The Top" neoliberal education program. One year before the NEA 2009 convention, teachers composed the largest single group at the 2008 Democratic National Convention that nominated Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States. Obama's appointment of Chicago's Arne Duncan, whose career had been built on attacking teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union, was the beginning of the betrayal of teachers' support that resulted in Obama's defeats in the mid-term elections in 2010. Those who had once supported Obama at the grass roots level simply sat out the November 2010 elections because of the teacher bashing agenda that had unfolded over the two years since the stunning Obama victory in 2008. Substance photo by Rich Gibson.The November 2, 2010, election debacle for the Obama wing of the Democratic Party was partly the result of Obama's relentless attacks on public schools and teachers unions. Teachers who had worked overtime in virtually every county in the USA to assure Obama the November 2008 election knew they had been betrayed as soon as Obama announced the appointment of Chicago's Arne Duncan to be U.S. Secretary of Education in December 2008. A month later, Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education, and soon after, the neoliberal attack on public education and teacher unions called "Race to the Top" was launched by Obama's own management team. By the time Obama endorsed the firing of teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island in 2010, a large number of American teachers realized their faith in Obama and their work and support for him had been betrayed. But while Central Falls was far from unique, more incisive critics noted that the only difference between the Central Falls attack and what had been taking place in Chicago for nearly a decade under Arne Duncan was the color of the teachers who were being fired. A large majority of those teachers fired under "Renaissance 2010" in Chicago during the Duncan years (most of which saw Obama at a leader in Illinois politics) were black teachers who had staked their careers working in some of America's most neglected and impoverished ghetto communities. They became corporate Chicago's scapegoats, but it was not until Central Falls that more teacher leaders noted just how great the Obama betrayal was.

Despite the occasional hypocritical statements about the heroism of teachers, the Obama education agenda was an attack on public schools and public school teachers. It culminated when Obama hosted some of the players from the movie "Waiting for Superman" at the White House, thereby endorsing the teacher bashing of "Waiting for Superman" heros Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada.

But less than two months after Obama's stinging defeat in the November 2, 2010 elections, Obama is being promised more problems with his education agenda — coming from right wing Republicans as well as informed teacher activists and public education supporters. In a dramatic New York Times article on December 12, 2010, the nation's "newspaper of record" took notice of the irony, and of the new problems facing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as he attempts to implement a third year of privatization, union busting and bashing public school teachers as U.S. education policy.

There are any number of ironies in the article in The New York Times (below), not the least of which is that Times reporter Sam Dillon has been a cheerleader for Arne Duncan's version of reality since he wrote the first stories about Duncan a month before Duncan was put into office. Since then, most Times articles on the public schools have been Race to the Top propaganda, like the one below. Consider: More than two years after Obama defeated John McCain and became President, Dillon is still reporting on national education policy as if the "No Child Left Behind" law of George W. Bush were the center of the controversy, ignoring the massive resistance to "Race To The Top" and Duncan's versions of reality. No mention is made in the Times article about the controversial ways in which Duncan's RTTT funds were awarded to a handful of states, to the push for privatization through charter schools, through the completely bankrupt attempt to foist merit pay on public school classrooms, or to the policies of "turnaround" which have succeeded in scapegoating inner city, mostly minority, teachers in the name of corporate "school reform."

THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE FOLLOWS HERE (Provided to Substance by Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test):


Washington -- For two years, backed by a friendly Congress and flush with federal stimulus money, President Obama’s administration enjoyed a relatively obstacle-free path for its education agenda, the focus of which is the $4 billion Race to the Top grant program.

But with Republican deficit hawks taking control of the House next month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will no longer have billions of dollars to use at his discretion.

The administration is also having to recalibrate its goals for working with Congress to overhaul the main federal law on public schools. Fortunately for the administration, its ambitions for the law, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind effort, are shared by Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who will be the chairman of the House education committee.

“It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to — everybody has complaints about N.C.L.B.,” said Mr. Kline, who would oversee any revision of the law by the House. “So we’d love to fix it.”

Mr. Kline and Mr. Duncan said in separate interviews that they had a good working relationship, and they appeared to agree on some major changes to the law, like overhauling its school accountability system.

Because it requires every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, the system has already labeled thousands of schools as failing, often because disabled students or recent immigrants have been unable to pass state tests.

“Unless we change the law, it’ll label every school in the country a failure, even though there are lots of phenomenal schools out there,” Mr. Duncan said.

Mr. Kline echoed those concerns. “We’ve got a law that’s out there affecting schools in a negative way,” he said. “So absolutely, the law’s accountability system will have to change.”

Mr. Kline said he hoped to foster bipartisan cooperation. “Let me hasten to say that that doesn’t mean we won’t disagree — perhaps on many things,” he said. “But if you don’t work together, you won’t get a product that’s acceptable to the American people.”

Dozens of major education groups representing teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, businesses and civil rights groups are urging Congress and the Obama administration to rewrite the law.

“Our school systems are under tremendous pressure because of its flaws,” said Eugene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents the 50 state school superintendents. “Are we at the point of implosion? I don’t know, but we need to rewrite it.”

Still, because of the divided Congress and Washington’s competing priorities, Mr. Wilhoit said that many of his colleagues doubted that Congress would succeed in reworking the law next year. An attempt at a major revision collapsed in 2007.

The No Child Left Behind law is the latest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which channels federal money to disadvantaged schools. It has been updated several times in a process known as reauthorization.

But the 2001 rewrite, which President George W. Bush named No Child Left Behind, expanded federal power by requiring annual standardized testing and greatly extending the law’s oversight of state education agencies and local school districts.

During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama criticized the quality of the standardized tests that had proliferated under the law. But since his election, his administration’s focus has been Race to the Top, which Mr. Duncan used to further expand federal influence, dangling the $4 billion in grants before the states to persuade them to eliminate caps on charter schools, overhaul teacher evaluation and tenure systems and undertake other measures that fit Mr. Obama’s vision.

Mr. Kline said he wanted to scale back Washington’s role.

“Governors, superintendents, the school boards, the principals — they’re saying the federal government has gotten too deeply entrenched in the schools,” he said.

If the philosophical divide between Republicans and the administration appears deep, Mr. Kline insists that members of his committee’s staff from both parties are already working with administration officials to identify parts of the law that may be relatively easy to change.

“As you’re working, you say, ‘Look at this — Republicans and Democrats already agree — maybe we should just step up and fix it,’ ” he said.

Last year, the administration issued its blueprint for the law, which included maintaining the required annual reading and math tests. Among the sweeping revisions, though, was a proposal to replace the pass-fail school grading system with one based more on whether students were showing academic improvement, not just on how many were proficient.

It also proposed replacing the law’s requirement that all teachers have valid credentials with a requirement that states develop evaluation procedures to identify effective instructors, based partly on student test scores.

Mr. Duncan and a White House official said that despite the Republican takeover of the House, they still hoped the blueprint would guide the legislative overhaul. But Mr. Kline said he told Mr. Duncan that the House would not enact the blueprint.

“The conversation with Arne was — not to be too blunt about it — that we’ve got to work with what we have here, a split Congress and a Democrat in the White House,” Mr. Kline said. “We don’t get to just say, ‘This is what we want,’ and it magically becomes law. Some of these things are going to be hard.”

The fate of Race to the Top remains uncertain. The administration has requested $1.35 billion to continue the program. Last week, the lame-duck Democratic-led House approved $550 million, and the Senate has approved a similar amount. Experts said that level of financing would not inspire as much enthusiasm among states as $4 billion did.

Mr. Kline said he opposed any additional financing and might hold hearings on how Mr. Duncan decided to give chunks of the $4 billion to some states and not to others. “I’d like to have somebody come explain to me how that worked, because there are a lot of questions out there,” Mr. Kline said. 

Forwarded to Substance by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director, FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779, cell- (239) 699-0468, web-


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