Hillary Clinton: Still on the Hook

12/28/2015 09:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall meeting at Keota High School, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall meeting at Keota High School, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Keota, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On December 22, 2015, Hillary Clinton spoke at a high school in Iowa, and she made a comment that speedily boomeranged on her:

I wouldn't keep any school open that wasn't doing a better-than-average job.

(See Clinton's full speech here.)

I wrote a wry response regarding the mathematical nonsense related to her misspoken goal of all schools' being "above average."

However, even as US News rushed to Clinton's rescue to say that Clinton's comment had been taken out of context, the greater problem is that Clinton tossed off such a comment at all.

School closure is destructive, and Clinton demonstrated her corporate-Democratic lack of awareness of the impact of the continued, privatizing-reform attack on the traditional, community-centered, American public school.

In November 2015, Clinton appeared to be critical of charter schools -- and her husband Bill assisted with the backpedaling as billionaire charter-pushing funders like Eli Broad tightened his grip in his wallet. As the December 17, 2015, Wall Street Journal reports:

WASHINGTON--Democrats backing the effort to overhaul American education have become increasingly concerned that presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton isn't committed to their cause, and some donors are holding back support for her campaign.

Their worries stem from skeptical comments she has made about charter schools and teacher evaluations, as well as her close relationship with teachers' unions, who are critical of both.

"There are a lot of deep-pocketed donors who are concerned, and they're going to hang onto their checkbooks until there is more clarity," said Whitney Tilson, managing partner of Kase Capital, who has given more than $150,000 to Democrats in recent years. He hasn't donated any money to Mrs. Clinton or the super PAC supporting her this year "primarily because of this issue."

Another major Democratic donor, Eli Broad, refused requests for contributions from another friendly super PAC, and only changed his mind after personal reassurances from former President Bill Clinton and campaign chairman John Podesta that Mrs. Clinton will support charter schools.

...Last month, she appeared to disparage charter schools, which are public schools operating outside of the traditional system. "Most charter schools--I don't want to say every one--but most charter schools, they don't take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don't keep them," she said in an interview with TV host Roland Martin at a town-hall meeting in South Carolina. ...

Policy aide Ann O'Leary posted an essay on medium.com assuring that "yes, Hillary Clinton supports charter schools," as long as they are high quality. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon added that Mrs. Clinton supports federal funding to expand "high-quality charter schools."

It seems quite popular to support "high quality" charter schools without supporting any solid, systematic course of fiscal and other operational accountability for such schools.

Then, of course, comes the destructive issue of charter churn as an excuse for that "high quality." In other words, "If a charter isn't high quality, we'll just close it and open another."

Clinton has yet to substantively comment on how her views on public education will meld with the newly-passed Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA), which leans heavily on standardized test scores even as it lacks any backbone for its generous language on "autonomous" charter school establishment and expansion.

She also has offered nothing on exactly what she considers to be a "good" or "above average" school. Yes, "above average" is a math term, but it is also a politically loaded term, just like "high quality" or "higher standards," which politicians toss about as though sprinkling bacon bits in a salad.

And, as blogger Peter Greene notes, she has offered no statement to the effect that troubled schools need assistance, not closing.

Clinton should be talking about the importance of curtailing school churn and of preventing school closure in the first place.

Eli Broad won't like such statements.

I agree with Greene: Clinton might not push for massive school closure, but she is also not pushing community school rescue, either.

Not good, Hillary. Not good.

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Originally posted 12-23-15 at deutsch29.wordpress.com

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

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She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published in June 2015.

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