This past Saturday, I received a phone call from the Democratic Party. I don’t recall the caller’s name, but he launched into a speech about how they needed my help to fend off the Republican take-over of the House of Representatives. I let him continue for some time to try to instill in me the fear of what having a Republican majority in Congress would look like. Then he stopped suddenly and asked, “Can we depend on you for a donation of 100 dollars in our efforts to maintain Democratic control of the House?”
By that time, I could not help myself. I simply told him, “I could care less about the outcome of the elections this fall!” The caller then asked, “Why is that?”
“Well,” I said, “I really don’t appreciate how the Obama administration has treated teachers and educators with his Race to the Top agenda. You do know about Race to the Top?” “No, I don’t think I have heard about that,” he said.
At that point, I was amazed. This Democratic telephone fundraiser had never heard of Race to the Top. I said, “Tell you what, you might want to Google that sometime and learn where this administration stands on education issues.” I then told him how the Obama administration was simply continuing the the Bush administration’s emphasis on testing and about how that policy was destroying public education.
I doubt he paid any attention to my explanation of Race to the Top. I honestly doubt whether he heard anything I said. The fact is, his lack of knowledge about Race to the Top speaks volumes about his own political beliefs and convictions on about public education. It also reminded me of how I had made the mistake of voting for Obama in the last election. I had wrongly placed faith in a political party that historically has been a great friend of public education and public educators. That’s a mistake and assumption I will not make again.
Trust with the US Department of Education, Secretary Duncan, and President Obama is at an all time low among many educators. No matter how many times the Department of Education boasts on its blog “The US Department of Education Values Input from Teachers” many educators just don’t trust this administration. Many of us have too vivid memories of President Obama stating in March in response to the firings of all the Teachers at Rhode Island’s Central Falls High School, “If a school continues to fail year after year and doesn’t show sign of improvements then there has got to be a sense of accountability. That happened in Rhode Island last week.” That statement shows that we have a President who honestly believes that the failure of students falls exclusively on the backs of teachers. His department of education believes that too. Secretary Duncan applauded the firings of the entire teaching staff at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. In his words, education officials were “showing courage and doing the right things for kids.”
Because of these kinds of statements, many educators do not trust this administration any longer. President Obama’s attempts to soften his earlier rhetoric at the National Urban League Centennial Conference last week were inane political statements that mean little. To use the old cliché, “Talk is cheap.” His statement that he believes that “a teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s education” only continues to support his belief that the success of a student rests solely on the teachers who teach him. Never mind the conditions and others who are responsible for the success of that child. That shows this administration’s true ignorance and how distant they are from the educator who sweats it out in the classroom day-to-day trying to teach in conditions not conducive to learning.
I would love to have made these same points to the Democratic Party fundraiser who called my house, but I would have wasted my breath. He didn’t care about education or he would have known about Race to the Top. I did tell him that I also wrote countless emails about my concerns to the White House, National Democratic Party, and the North Carolina Democratic Party and all I’ve ever received in return are emails requesting money. “As far as I’m concerned, I really do not care what the outcome of the election is this fall,” I told him. “There’s got to be some kind of accountability with our politicians. At that point, he thanked me and hung up. If the US Department of Education and the Obama administration values input from teachers, then they need to begin seeking that input, not just from teachers who say what they want to hear, but from those of us who disagree with their education policy.