In the long run, education is the issue that will most determine this country’s role in the world.
In the long run, it will be the position of the leaders of the Democratic party, state by state and in congress, that will determine the quality of education in America.
Here’s a statement of DFER principles:
A first-rate system of public education is the cornerstone of a prosperous, free and just society, yet millions of American children today – particularly low-income and children of color – are trapped in persistently failing schools that are part of deeply dysfunctional school systems. These systems, once viewed romantically as avenues of opportunity for all, have become captive to powerful, entrenched interests that too often put the demands of adults before the educational needs of children. This perverse hierarchy of priorities is political, and thus requires a political response.
Both political parties have failed to address the tragic decline of our system of public education, but it is the Democratic Party – our party – which must question how we allowed ourselves to drift so far from our mission. Fighting on behalf of our nation’s most vulnerable individuals is what our party is supposed to stand for.
Democrats for Education Reform aims to return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children, first and foremost, in America’s public education systems.
We support leaders in our party who have the courage to challenge a failing status quo and who believe that the severity of our nation’s educational crisis demands that we tackle this problem using every possible tool at our disposal.
We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership. This requires opening up the traditional top-down monopoly of most school systems and empowering all parents to access great schools for their children.
DFER supports high standards, strong accountability, and public school choice. President Obama and Secretary Duncan have bravely supported DFER positions in most of their educational decisions.
I’m touring high performing California charter schools with Washington legislators today along with the fledgling WA DFER steering committee. Washington is one of a handful of states that does not allow charter schools.
After visiting high performing schools, we’ll discuss these five success factors:
1. No excuses culture. High performing schools all share a strong high expectations culture and a college and career ready mission.
2. Mission-supporting governance. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings frequently points out, nonprofit boards are formed to perpetuate a mission, while school boards are elected around a political mission. That difference makes it hard for school districts to form and sustain a clear intellectual mission and why they oscillate from improving to deteriorating.
3. Educational options. Families deserve access to at least one quality public school. Diverse views and educational preferences points to the benefits of a portfolio of public options.
4. Responsive management. Many charter schools are not particularly innovative academically, but they execute at consistently high levels as a result of responsive management. Charter schools typically don’t receive pubic facilities and pay rent out of their operating budget (which is also often smaller than district schools), so they are also very efficient and not bureaucratic.
5. New bargain. Charter schools typically offer higher starting salaries, hire teachers prepared through alternative routes to certification, evaluate effectively using available data, and quickly offer top performers additional responsibilities.
Many of the objections to charters (some aren’t good, some charters seem selective) are address by sound authorizing practices. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (another group that lists me as an advisor) has taken the guesswork out of initiating quality schools.
The one objection NACSA can’t answer is, “charters take money from already cash-strapped districts.” The answer to that objection depends on whether you think public education exists to serve students or district employees. DFER stands squarely on the side of children and families.