The Michigan Education Association (MEA) revved up its attacks on President Donald Trump in advance of Tuesday’s presidential primary that pits former Vice President Joe Biden against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the Democrat side, while the president is essentially unopposed on the Republican side.
Last of @MEAOnline “Top Five” Reasons to Vote Tuesday against DeVos/Trump ed agenda – vouchers and for-profit charters. @PaulaMEAPres in the @freep: If Trump and DeVos do this, our public schools will suffer—even more. #Election2020 #FireDeVos #MichEdhttps://t.co/KqVeCjx5pm
— MEA Online (@MEAOnline) March 6, 2020
The brazenly partisan political attacks on President Trump by the Michigan teachers’ union is yet further evidence that the #RedforEd movement’s goal is, as Breitbart News first reported in February 2019, to defeat President Trump in 2020:
A well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.
This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.89
In 2020, 56 million students attend K-12 schools in the United States, according to the Center for Education Reform. Of those, 50.8 million attend public schools, and 3.2 million attend public charter schools. Of the 6.4 million K-12 students who do not attend public schools, 4.8 million attend private schools and 1.6 million are home schooled.
In a February op-ed, MEA president Paula Herbart wrote:
In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump proposed diverting precious resources from our public schools to failed voucher schemes that drive taxpayer dollars to private schools and wealthy special interests.
It’s only the latest gimmick by Trump and anti-public education Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to disinvest in our public schools and the future of our kids.
With Devos’ full support, for-profit charter schools continue raking in cash on the backs of our kids and taxpayers. This is nothing short of highway robbery as Michigan’s dedicated public educators continue doing more with less to help all students succeed.
Herbart’s attack on charter schools represents the accepted view among most union officials, Democrat candidates, and members of the educational establishment.
Both Biden and Sanders oppose vouchers. They also both oppose the expansion of for-profit charter schools. Biden has said he wants to end their expansion, Sanders has called for an end to for-profit charter schools entirely. As the New York Times reported, “for-profit charter schools . . . account for a small proportion of existing charters.”
But conservatives point to evidence that charter schools perform well, as Connan Houser noted in this commentary at the Hill in 2017:
Two studies were released this month from universities in California that demonstrate the effectiveness of school choice and the need for more options in education.
In early October, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a study which followed the educational progress of over 97,000 charter school students in New York over the course of four years. The research concluded that charter school students perform at a level equivalent to receiving an additional 22 days of learning in reading and 63 days in math per year when compared with their public-school counterparts. The results for students attending schools associated with a Charter Management Organization were even greater, adding up to approximately 57 additional days in reading and 103 in math.
Charter school minority students, who accounted for 92 percent of the study’s population, tested at a level equal to receiving at least 23 extra days of learning in reading, and 57 days in math when compared to traditional public-school minority students. CREDO was clearly justified in concluding that, for minority students, attending charter schools “indicated a significant academic advantage.” However, this was not the study’s most significant finding.
Last week, in the Wall Street Journal, Conor P. Williams, a researcher from the progressive Century Foundation defended charter schools:
U.S. charter schools enroll a greater proportion of students of color than traditional public schools and a similar proportion of English-language learners. . .
A better debate around charter schools would focus on how well they serve their students. In a Democratic debate last fall, Julián Castro claimed charters perform no better than district schools. One hears this often and it has some empirical grounding, in particular a 2013 Stanford study, which found that students nationwide learn at relatively similar rates in charters and district schools.
But charter schools are particularly effective with some historically underserved groups. The Stanford study found they foster greater learning than district schools for English-language learners as well as African-American and Hispanic students living in poverty. And charter-school performance varied widely by state. Charters in Massachusetts performed much better than the state’s traditional public schools, while charters in Nevada performed much worse.
The MEA’s attacks on Trump ahead of Tuesday’s primary masks the ongoing struggle within the #RedforEd movement. The activist #RedforEd leaders in most states are strongly supportive of Bernie Sanders, as was the case in Minnesota, where one of the heads of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers that recently authorized a strike vote spoke at an election eve Sanders rally, and another serves on the board of an activist group that endorsed Sanders in January.
State leaders of teachers unions have been united in their attacks on Trump, but more circumspect when it comes to the choice for the Democratic nomination between Sanders and Biden.
In Michigan, the MEA’s Herbart has unabashedly attacked President Trump, as she did in this retweet:
Why defeating Trump this fall is absolutely essential—but, alas, not sufficient. It’s going to take enormous work to build/rebuild democracy in the US and around the world. https://t.co/4QiqShGyuH
— Sam Bagenstos (@sbagen) March 5, 2020
On the choice between Sanders and Biden, Herbart has been more subtle, as she was in this recent retweet of Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) endorsement of Joe Biden:
.@JoeBiden has served our country with dignity and we need him now more than ever. I will do everything in my power to help elect him the next President of the United States. pic.twitter.com/DbB2fGWpaa
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 8, 2020
Herbart also retweeted this March 4 tweet from Joe Thomas, head of the Arizona Education Association:
When you openly doubt a losing candidate’s supporters will vote for the eventual nominee you are reinforcing that possibility. Set the expectation that everyone comes together. Reinforce it until everyone internalizes it as the only option. #2020election
— Joe Thomas (@AZ1Thomas) March 4, 2020
One week after Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, attention will turn to primaries in four large states where the #RedforEd movement has been very active since it burst onto the scene two years ago: Arizona, where the #RedforEd movement was launched in March 2018, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.
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