A teaching colleague from Washington mentioned in one of the FB pages I help administrate – Save Our Schools Florida – that she admired the activity on our page. When she told us about what they were beginning to do in her state, it made me realize that to transition from the energy of the SOS March it will be necessary to accept and recognize political realities. Battles will have to be fought on both national and state fronts. These most immediately will be found in the 2012 presidential race and in state legislatures currently in session.
Collaboration between states can be critical. We don’t seem to be doing this right now, but the school reform movement is sure doing so. Its rock stars like Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush routinely make presentations to state legislatures. Billionaire funded groups like ALEC and Stand for Children hop from state-to-state to both write and affect school legislation. Simply by being aware of what’s happening and providing – if you will – actionable intelligence to colleagues in other states will make a huge difference.
State legislator’s privatization schemes use provisions from both NCLB and RTTT to justify their efforts. Defeating the two is closer to a reality with Arne Duncan’s takeover of education policy this week. Neither piece of legislation is popular anymore, and the unpopularity is bipartisan. Without the ammunition of federal guidelines, even the most powerful privatization ideologue in some state legislature isn’t so big and bad. They will be forced to deal directly with stakeholders and answer to voters for their policies. Ultimately the students and families are better served because the decision-making occurs closer to them.
As its clear this opposition to NCLB and RTTT is bipartisan, we will need to both look for and accept allies from wherever we can find them. Duncan’s move this week to grant state waivers from NCLB as he alone sees fit has prompted the attention of voters who were once casual observers of public education policy.
There’s reason to be confident that bith NCLB and RTTT will enter 2012’s presidential politics – and be driven from the republican side. Two of the GOP’ leading candidates in Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann ardently opposed NCLB long before Duncan’s power grab. Perry furthermore declined – and quite publicly – not to allow his state, Texas, to apply for RTTT money. His state furthermore dropped out of joining the common core standards bandwagon. The two other frontrunners in the race, former governors Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, are standardized-test based, market reformers. These clear distinctions give us the opportunity to make all the GOP hopefuls talk and debate education policy during the run-up to individual state primaries.
Ours by definition, is a grassroots movement; one which draws followers from all over. We share a similar reality in our understanding of both the facts on the ground and what we are trying to preserve. Our point of view can be easily distinguished from the mantras and slogans of the school reform juggernaut. The critical, dynamic connection between teaching, learning and schools is at risk. It is this that has become imperiled by the money, marketing schemes and misguided assumptions of a few.