Which Interest Group Has Democratic Candidates Terrified?
One of the biggest critics of teacher’s unions and particularly of teacher tenure is former CNN host Campbell Brown. She hosted an education forum in New Hampshire featuring six Republican presidential candidates. She was planning on hosting a similar one in Iowa featuring the Democrat presidential candidates.
However, according to Politico, not a single Democrat decided to appear with Brown.
“What happened here is very clear: The teachers unions have gotten to these candidates,” Brown told POLITICO. “All we asked is that these candidates explain their vision for public education in this country, and how we address the inequality that leaves so many poor children behind. … President [Barack] Obama certainly never cowered to the unions. Even if they disagree with the president’s reforms, you would think these candidates would at least have the courage to make the case.”
[...]American Federation for Children executive counsel Kevin Chavous, a former Democratic city councilor in Washington, D.C., complained that the unions are trying to turn opposition to school reform into a litmus test for Democrats. He pointed to surveys by Joel Benenson, an Obama pollster who is now helping Clinton, suggesting that many Democratic voters, especially minority voters, support reform.
“It’s shameful how my party is being held hostage by the unions,” Chavous said. “I see no difference between their strong-arm tactics on the Democrats and the gun lobby’s tactics on Republicans. And for the candidates to refuse even to discuss these issues, I think it’s insulting to the Democratic base of black and brown voters.”
On the other hand, nearly all Republican presidential candidates support school choice and education reform. The country is full of successful charter school and school choice experiments. In New Orleans, nearly all students attend a charter or private school. Republicans would be stupid not to exploit this.
President Obama has been a surprising supporter of many education reforms. His administration has encouraged charter schools and his supported accountability for teachers based on test scores. The unions say those have failed and are calling for a return to traditional public schooling.
Brown still plans on having an education forum in Iowa, but Instead of having Democratic candidates for president, she will try and have other Democrats participate.