News Release

Ravitch: K-12 Education, Election Non-Issue

Unknown[John King was confirmed by the Senate on Monday as education secretary. The Institute for Public Accuracy issued this news release when he became acting secretary.]

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr at gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is an award-winning leader in education and the author of ten books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “The 2016 presidential campaign is notable for the near total absence of discussion of K-12 education.

“For the past 15 years, the nation’s public schools have been the victims of the failed federal policies of the Bush and Obama administrations. Both promoted standardized testing as the measure and the purpose of schooling. Both encouraged privatization by promoting the public funding of privately managed charters. Consequently, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of public schools have closed during this era because of low test scores, and thousands of teachers and principals have been fired because of low test scores. Education has increasingly become a commodity in a marketplace, where parents are expected to choose their children’s school. Typically, school choice is an illusion. It is the schools that choose their students, and they don’t want the kids who might get low scores.

“As a result of these policies, the charter school industry is booming, nearly half the states have adopted voucher programs to allow public dollars to subsidize religious education, experienced teachers are leaving their jobs, and there is a growing national teacher shortage.

“With all this turmoil in the nation’s schools, caused by Washington policies, you would think that the candidates might have something to say about their plans to bolster the public schools. If you thought so, you would be wrong. The Republicans all endorse both vouchers and privately managed charter schools, which are heavily funded by the Koch brothers, the Walton Foundation, and others who see them as a way to get rid of teachers’ unions. The Democrats, with only minor digressions, have avoided talking about schooling, although they are quite eager to talk about preschool and higher education.

“Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton support early childhood education. Both want to make higher education either free (Sanders) or affordable (Clinton). But both are notably silent about the Bush-Obama policies that have put standardized testing at the center of schooling and about the federal government’s favoritism towards charters, despite the ongoing revelation of charter scandals, frauds, and lack of accountability. Clinton has been equivocal about charters. Sanders was asked about them at the Ohio Town Hall, and he responded that he supports ‘public charter schools.’ This was an incoherent response since all charters call themselves “public charter schools,” even when they operate for-profit and are run by national corporate charter chains.

“Unless journalists ask the right questions, the candidates will continue to promote privatization (as the Republicans do) or to be silent (as the Democrats are).”