Back in May, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tapped Senator Bernie Sanders to help assemble six task forces which would make recommendations for the party’s 2020 platform. The allegedly moderate Biden joined up with the Vermont socialist in an attempt to unify the fractured party. But the report just released by the Education Unity Task Force, which featured Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García, two national teacher union leaders, reads like a typical union manifesto – bundles of taxpayer money going to traditional public schools, while minimizing any kind of parental choice. Long gone is 2000, when the Democrat’s education plan called for tripling the number of the nation’s charter schools.
The first paragraph of the education task force’s recommendations informs us that “As Democrats, we believe that education is a critical public good—not a commodity—and that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that every child, everywhere, is able to receive a world-class education that enables them to lead meaningful lives, no matter their race, ZIP code, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or household income.”
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But what can a parent do if the government fails in its responsibility? According to the task force, pretty much nothing. In fact, the group states that it opposes “any and all voucher and neo-voucher programs such as Education Savings Accounts and Tax-credit Scholarship programs.” The task force also wants to stop funding the popular D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher plan that allows mostly minority kids to escape the lousy union-dominated public schools in the nation’s capital.
Regarding charter schools, which are a great escape valve used especially by minority families, the task force recommends banning for-profit charter schools, and calls for requiring that federal aid for expanding charter schools be conditioned on district-led reviews of “whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students.” In yet another slap at charters, the group also wants a federal review of charter schools and new “reforms” about parent and community participation in charters’ “governance, accountability, and transparency.”
In a nutshell, they are trying to regulate charter schools into extinction. In fact, Biden said in May that if he is elected, “Charter schools are gone.” Period.
Instead, the task force suggests spending more money. A lot more, because it laughably insists that as a country we have been “underinvesting in our nation’s public schools.” The avalanche of proposed spending would go toward free college for students whose families earn less than $125,000, forgiving up to $10,000 in student debt per year for up to 5 years, free pre-k starting at age 3, expanding the Head Start program, doubling Pell grant allotments, tripling Title One spending, etc., etc., etc.
Nowhere in the wish list does the task force give an overall dollar amount it would need to implement all their spending ideas. Nowhere in the document does it mention that we already spend over $700 billion a year in educational outcomes, but perform less well than countries that spend a lot less per capita than we do. Nowhere in the document does it explain why Pell Grants – vouchers that go to college students – are terrific, but on the k-12 level they should be verboten.
Additionally, just in case anyone doubts Biden’s fealty to the teachers union, he stumbled through a one-hour webcam speech to the NEA faithful at the union’s annual convention, which was held online this year. He insisted that he is “teacher-centric,” will have a “teacher-oriented Department of Education,” and that education should be put more in the hands of educators.
It is notable that children were a distant second to teachers in his speech. And when he referenced “teachers,” he really meant teachers unions.
As a reform newbie in 2005, I was in a discussion with another teacher and opined that “the teachers union is an important part of the Democratic Party.” My friend corrected me, saying that I had it backwards – that “the Democratic Party is an important part of the teachers union.” I had the tail and dog confused, you see.
Voters who consider education important should really think twice about choosing Biden. His latest cringeworthy racial comment “If you (black voters) have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black” along with his sucking-up to the teachers unions should give any Democrat who cares about minorities and children pause this November.
This article originally appeared in the California Policy Center.