It’s rare that Democrats are cast as puppets of the Trump administration. But on the issue of education, many Democrats who have long supported school choice are newly on the defensive within their party, forced to distance themselves from President Donald Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos.I would note that until this January, the most powerful advocate of school privatization and the attack on teachers was one Barack Obama, and his Education Secretaries, Arne Duncan, and John King, Jr.
The unusual dynamic started soon after Trump’s inauguration, when a teachers union in Los Angeles sent voters mail depicting two charter-school-friendly school board contenders, both Democrats, as “the candidates who will implement the Trump/DeVos education agenda in LA.”
The message was repeated in New York, where the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group partially funded by teachers unions, likened Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies to Trump’s. The group urged online audiences to “stop Cuomo from doing Betsy DeVos’s dirty work.” In New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker opposed DeVos’ appointment but came in for criticism for working with DeVos on school choice initiatives when he was mayor of Newark.
But with Trump and DeVos ascendant, defenders of traditional public education policies have a foil in Washington to bludgeon their reform opponents.
“DeVos and Trump have been explicit about a message of privatizing education and defunding public education in a way that I think reflects us saying, ‘We need to push back on that. We need to protect and strengthen education,’” said Tony Thurmond, a California state assemblyman running against Tuck for the open schools chief post next year. “I’m being really intentional about speaking out against those things.”
While education in recent years has rarely risen to the top of voters’ minds in statewide elections, the effort to yoke reform Democrats to DeVos could prove effective, especially in heavily Democratic states.
Now that a Republican is in control of the federal burocracy, and endorsing marginally worse policies, Democrats are suddenly against it.
Support for labor unions, and the dignity of workers should be a core Democratic Party value.
It wasn't under Barack Obama, (he abandoned card check) it wasn't under Bill Clinton, (NAFTA, etc.) and it certainly would not have been under Hillary Clinton.
We need better Democrats.