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Presidential Candidates of Public School Education

May 13, 2019 by

Shocking disclosure:  all presidential candidates will tell their potential voters what research says they want to hear. 

Among elected officials nationwide, the percentage of Republicans who are not hostile to public schools is statistically insignificant. Although individuals may finesse the way they present their positions, those positions are nonetheless firm and immune to persuasion.  They support vouchers ( for which they employ a lexicon of euphemisms, e.g: “scholarships”), charter schools and all other forms of privatization.

They almost invariably  despise unions and any professional autonomy for educators in their classrooms.

As election season nears, they tend to hedge their bets and pretend to broaden and democratize their outlook, unless they are in an intractably Red district, in which case they determine from a risk/benefit analysis that even the appearance of moderation is gratuitous. They will see things only in black/white unless political reality or uncertainty prods them into a stopgap measure of “shades of gray” vision.

But it’s a cinch to realize that the core Republican opinions on public education is poppycock.  They can debate “til the cows come home” ( or even after they’ve come home, had a glass of wine and gone to bed), but the dissembling of the GOP on education is not remotely as intellectually complex as it is venal.

For all intents and purposes, they are a lost cause.

Democrats are historically much more likely to philosophically embrace public schools, although in recent years there have been sectors within the party that have been associated with the anti-public schools biases that overall are far more entrenched and come more readily to Republicans.

The preponderance of Democrats abidingly respect the traditional separation of public money from the private institutions that in the cynically euphemistic name of “school choice” compete ruthlessly and on an uneven playing field with public dollars. Further, these charter schools, religious academies or other private operations are blithely detached from government oversight and regulations, which is exactly as they like it.

With rare exception, educators know the end-result of negotiation with Republicans: no-deal is a done-deal. Except when the GOP is jockeying for power and a quid-pro-quo might fit into their scheme of things for the moment, it’s hardly worth pursuing concessions from them. It can be amusing, however, to witness the spectacle of their tripping over themselves in a failing effort to come off as credible and reasonable.

The Democrats who so far have declared their presidential candidacy for the most part seem to have well-thought out and sensible positions on public education. They seem to have subscribed to them even prior to an expedient conversion recommended by an exploratory committee. 

Cory Booker and “Beto” O-Roarke, however, are arguably exceptions who have some explaining to do. They use language like Hollywood calls on special effects. Pyrotechnics sound so sincere.

After some verbal squirming and acrobatics,both have somewhat backtracked lately. They may have evolved a calculated ambiguity to mitigate the damage of being perceived as self-contradictory.  Politicians, even the more enlightened specimens among them, like to grouse about others having misinterpreted or quoted them out of context.

Image-making is essential to a successful career as a national leader.  They need to ingratiate themselves with the electorate now in order to achieve dominance over them later.

It’s in their DNA.  Is that reason enough to forgive them?

Ron Isaac

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