Democrats and Education

New post from Mark Tuminello –

Mark Tuminello educationSlate ran an interesting article this week that points out education as a major argument within the democratic party.  Even though the press most often runs stories of political infighting about topics like how much we should tax, how tightly we should regulate banks, and how high marginal tax rates should be for high income families, education has a much wider swatch of opinions…and just as much fervor.

In some of the financial questions facing democrats listed above, the differing views don’t represent entirely differing philosophies.  Instead, it’s really a matter of a few percentage points here and there.  Discussion about taxing high income families is about how we should carry out the agreed upon policies.  The divide among democrats is much more significant.

We know that democrats want to be the party that believes strongly in a very high quality of government-provided educational services.  So where is the divide?  Many teachers align themselves with democrats because of the importance placed on providing educational services for the country.  Teachers have actually gotten very involved in party politics, seeking to improve their own economic interests.  At the same time, many political scientists and writers, great thinkers, are worried that policies that exist to benefit tenured and incumbent teachers have become a major impediment to the quality of American education.  And democratic office holders find themselves on different sides of this issue all the time.

So where does the party stand on this issue?  It is very unclear at the moment.  What’s worse is that education is so rarely a large national discussion.  Instead, the president, congress, and other elected officials debate about taxes.  What has resulted is that education remains a disagreed-upon but rarely debated issue.  Whether democrats will be caught not knowing the party-line answer to questions of macro-level education trajectory remains to be seen.

The reform faction, on the surface, is winning out at the moment.  Many democrats have been persuaded to this thinking…for the time being.  Should the party be pushing for more charter schools?  Should teacher evaluations be tougher?  Education feels more important than a second-tier issue, but it looks like for the close future, it will remain there.  One day these party differences will come to light, and democrats will have to find a way to generally come to an agreement.

from Mark Tuminello

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