By Dr. Michael Flanagan
So, I came to the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night determined to write about the terrible educational policies of the Obama administration and what education activists fully believe will be an even worse agenda under a potential Clinton presidency. I attended the DNC Convention as a guest blogger for the MOMocrats, to write about educational issues in the Democratic platform. I am one of the directors of the education activist group known as the Badass Teachers Association, or BATs. We fight to protect public education, for the rights of teachers and to improve the learning conditions of our students. BATs stand against the privatization of public schools through vouchers and charter schools, against the emphasis on high stakes testing and value added measurement of teachers through student test scores, for social justice, equity in education and the anti-union tactics of billionaires aimed at destroying the teaching profession. My focus up to this point however had been on Bernie Sanders and the protests surrounding the end of his campaign, the DNC bias against him, election fraud, the roll call vote, Bernie’s nomination of Hillary Clinton and the subsequent delegate walkout. The pieces I had written thus far did not include anything about education.
Both Hillary and Obama have embraced the privatization tactics of the education reform movement. They have accepted massive campaign donations from the Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and the hoards of charter schools and hedge funders throwing cash around like confetti. The President of the AFT Randi Weingarten, a Hillary Clinton surrogate and superdelegate, likes to say that with Hillary as President teachers unions will have a seat at the table. Public school teachers think that we in fact do not have a seat at the table; but we are in reality the main course.
Many teachers feel that we have been abandoned by both political parties. We also believe that we have even been sold out by our own union leadership. This is evident in the lack of solicited input from rank and file members as to who we should have supported during the presidential primaries. Both the AFT and NEA teachers union endorsed Hillary Clinton before the first vote was cast or any debates between the candidates. Our voices, like millions of disenfranchised voters during the Democratic primaries, were silenced. We have felt that the Democratic Party, once the champion of organized labor has disregarded us. Nothing proves that point more than placing Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former Mayor of New York City on their convention stage. In the eyes of NYC teachers, few people have done more damage to public schools than Michael Bloomberg. As far as teachers are concerned, spitting directly in our faces would be considered less rude than having him speak at the convention.
I was shocked by either the willful ignorance or pure hubris of the DNC to place Bloomberg, an admitted outsider, in such a prominent role at the convention. He started out as an entrepreneur who was a registered Democrat. He then switched to the Republican Party in order to become Mayor of New York City. He now apparently identifies as an independent. I am left wondering how the Democrats think they are going to cultivate support from public school teachers by placing one of the most despised educational reformers in America in such a key slot.
Bloomberg’s appearance was situated between Vice President Joe Biden, the newly nominated potential Vice President Tim Kaine, and outgoing President Barack Obama. His speech was well crafted, and obviously intended to show that the DNC has its own New York billionaire to speak against Trump. It was also clearly designed to target Independent voters, of which Bloomberg now labels himself. His vacillation and opportunism was evident by his choice of wearing a purple tie, blending blue and red to meld the Republican and Democratic ideologies. But let’s face it; his tie should have been green. Bloomberg supports the dismantling of our cherished public education system, and the auctioning off of its resources to his highest bidding cronies.
Speaking as an educator, and as a parent, I believe the DNC does not care about public education. They care about enriching Wall Street, at the expense of our children. This may well prove to be a fatal mistake for the Party. Considering that the day before Bloomberg’s speech, the majority of Bernie delegates walked out of the convention hall after Hillary’s nomination. The very evening of the President’s speech I was in the press tent when Nina Turner, Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and others held an impromptu press conference speaking out about the election fraud that no one in the DNC wants to talk about. They don’t want to hear how many people were marching in the streets protesting the rigged system that got us here. I was there, and heard the boos from the crowd when Bloomberg mentioned education. I am wondering if anyone running the DNC heard them as well? Or if they even care what we teachers think. They did not listen to us during the primaries, and based on this choice of speaker Wednesday night, they don’t seem to want our votes in November either. That is good, because they may not get them.