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Enough is Enough!!!

April 1, 2010

Politicians – of both parties – will periodically say one thing, and then turn around and do another.  We get that.  We recall a presidential candidate back in the 1980s who denounced “voodoo economics” – and later embraced the very policy he’d criticized. (That same politician pandered to his party’s right wing with the famous slogan “Read my lips, no new taxes” – and then agreed to raise taxes a few years later).

We likewise recall a California governor about thirty-odd years ago (who’s still around, and would like another try at the job) who initially opposed 1978’s Proposition 13 – which laid waste to funding for public education.  But after California’s voters gave Prop. 13 the thumbs up, he then started calling himself a “born-again tax crusader.” (This is not a happy memory for educators, but nonetheless, we get it.)

But even when we give the benefit of the doubt to politicians, one struggles to understand the logic and reason behind certain actions.  And currently, we’re very concerned by the ongoing mistreatment of public education by almost all players across the political spectrum.

Although we’ve seen a “changing of the guard” in the nation’s capital, with political power transferring from the Neoconservatives from the South over to a team of self-professed liberals from the Midwest, the demonization of public schools not only continues . . .it has taken on the intensity of a favorite pastime.

Under the previous administration, those from the political right --who typically decry the expansion of federal government and profess to be champions of local control -- saw no problem in imposing stifling and strangling federal regulations on local school districts through the (now very unpopular) No Child Left Behind.  And the relentless denunciation of public schools, and all that was once perceived to be good and respectable about public education, continued for eight years under the administration of President George W. Bush.

And then, after the 2008 November election, the halls of government were suddenly filled with individuals more identified with the political left, who claimed to be friends of public education. These are the same folks who have bitterly complained over the years about the creeping racism and conservative elitism (in the form of programs like school vouchers) weakening the beacon of democracy called public education.

Alas, the new team in the nation’s capital is disappointing some of us.  The uncomfortable truth is that not only have the attacks on public education and educators continued, they have intensified under the new federal administration.  The broad pronouncements laying blame at the door of many neighborhood schools have become more insulting and demeaning.  If anything, there appears to be an enhanced sense of unchecked arrogance and unfettered entitlement of federal power to encroach onto public education.

The federal Department of Education appears to be trying hard to assert more influence on decisions that affect the learning and eventually the future of our children, without considering the unique nature of each community or adequacy of resources available to schools. The apparent glee with which members of the administration talk about identifying and closing “low performing schools,” and firing the principals and teachers who’ve been trying to turn them around, is questionable to say the least.

Pause to consider. We all want to see our schools improve.  No one wants the learning for our children to improve more than those who have committed their lives to public education.  However, just as American people didn’t want their civil liberties to be taken away under the guise of the war on terror, they don’t want to see their public schools demonized and the institution of public education dismantled just because so-called friends of education in Washington claim to have the silver bullet.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?