Democrats await First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention Photo credit: Democratic National Committee
Democrats watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention
Photo credit: Democratic National Committee

Delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia yesterday approved their party’s platform that included a significant section on education.

The Good

There were some good aspects to the platform that I wanted to highlight.

  • Going after predatory for-profit colleges. I can’t argue with that provided they are actually engaging in predatory practices and using federal loans for the majority of their income, otherwise any enforcement should be left to the states. Being against fraud should be a bipartisan position.
  • “Democrats believe we must have the best-educated population and workforce in the world.” – Agree, we differ on how to get there.
  • It pushes mentoring. Having spent 13 years working with high-risk youth I am a big believer in mentoring. “We must find ways to encourage mentoring programs that support students in reaching their full potential. Mentoring is a strategy to ensure that children living in poverty have the encouragement and support to aim high and enter the middle class.” I’m not as thrilled with the focus on group mentoring because I believe one-to-one mentoring is more effective, but it does require more resources (mainly volunteer time).
  • “…we believe that standardized tests must be reliable and valid….” It would have been great if they would have singled out some tests as examples.
  • They oppose high stakes testing.
  • They recognize that parents should be able to opt their student out of assessments. This is best aspect of their platform.

The Bad

There are some points of concern within the education either by omission or pursuing the wrong strategy for a worthwhile goal.

  • Encouraging mentoring is one thing, pushing for federal funding for it is another.
  • No mention of the Common Core State Standards, but they use code phrase “Democrats believe all students should be taught to high academic standards.”
  • No mention  of student data privacy or any effort to protect it.
  • Sole focus on creating “good public schools” while ignoring (or worse coming out against) other forms of education. Parental choice in education is ignored with the exception of public charter schools which cannot “destabilize traditional public schools.”
  • Regarding providing relief for college student loan debt, it is a problem that should be addressed. Did Democrats ever stop to consider that perhaps federal involvement is what got us to this point to begin with? Also, what about personal responsibility? Lowering interest rates is good, but at some point we need to encourage students to find ways to get through college debt free without handing everything to them. There needs to be skin in the game.
  • “…strike a better balance on testing…” No high-stakes testing needs to end, period.
  • They oppose high-stakes testing, but for all the liberal reasons only, and it seem like they would approve if they were not applied “falsely and unfairly” to minority students or disabled students, an not used to evaluate teachers and schools.
  • Emphasing teacher recruitment and development is good, but doing it at the federal level is bad.
  • “And we will work to improve school culture and combat bullying of all kinds.” – Bullying is bad, but bullying prevention is not the federal government’s job, and sorry there is no evidence that a Democrat administration will focus on anything but LGBT issues when it comes to bullying.

The Ugly

These are the policies that make the Democrat platform nauseating for me.

  • Our schools are more segregated?  “Our schools are more segregated today than they were when Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and we see wide disparities in educational outcomes across racial and socioeconomic lines.” Exactly how is that? This had to be written by somebody who didn’t live during that period of time since it is such a colossally stupid thing to say.
  • Apparently Democrats are busy planting money trees. “…every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities. ” Who is going to pay for that? What qualifies as a “working” family?
  • Doubling down on affirmative action: “The federal government will push more colleges and universities to take quantifiable, affirmative steps in increasing the percentages of racial and ethnic minority, low-income, and first-generation students they enroll and graduate.”
  • I question whether creating a special fund for Historically Black Colleges and Minority-Serving Institutions is Constitutional. First it is unconstitutional because college education is not something the federal government should be involved with to begin with. Secondly, this is playing favorites. This goes beyond equality to some schools having a preferred status.
  • Universal pre-school… We should be encouraging more parental involvement with early education, not less. Head Start has been a failure. This is just an attempt to get more children out of their homes at an earlier age.
  • “We believe that a strong public education system is an anchor of our democracy, a propeller of the economy, and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams.” Say what? Are you kidding me?
  • Turning schools into nannies on the taxpayer dime: “We also support increased investments in afterschool and summer learning programs, which help working families, keep kids safe, and inspire learning at a time when many students are left unsupervised.”
  • Both parties have embraced the workforce development model: “We will invest in high-quality STEAM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand link learning models and career pathways.”
  • Ending the “school to prison” pipeline is good. Federal interference in local school policy involving discipline is not (unless there is blatant discrimination). Their platform reads, “We will end the school-to-prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT. ” Schools already feel like their hands are tied when it comes to discipline, and classroom management has become a real chore. I believe this has the potential to just make it worse. If a conversation needs to be had let it happen at the local or state level.

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

Teachers Unions That Do Not Represent Their Members

Embracing corporate influence and policies of greed, the National Education Association and…

Governor Pat Quinn Believes College and Career-Readiness Begins at Birth

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declares that “college and career-readiness” starts for children at birth further extending government reach to a younger age.

Six Problems with the Common Core State Standards Initiative

With Jane Robbins (below is an executive summary of a white paper…

NICHE’s Four 2012 Legislative Priorities

The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators rolled out their legislative priorities…