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Purge Charter School Advocates from the Democratic Party


A very short time ago, Rheeists were Democratic Party power players. Remember that charter schools and so-called “education reform” were at the very center of the Obama agenda. Not only was Secretary of Education Arne Duncan right out of that world, but he was also one of Obama’s closest advisors and oldest political friends. But given the utter bankruptcy of charter schools, a movement straight out of neoliberal privatization (which, despite the feelings of some LGM commenters, neoliberalism wasn’t a term made up by Bernie supporters to make Chait or Hillary supporters feel bad) that sought to provide “market solutions” to education problems that busted teachers’ unions and pretend like poverty wasn’t the biggest issue in education, it’s extremely refreshing to see Democrats purge charter school advocates. Take Colorado:

Delegates at the Colorado Democratic state assembly Saturday sent a clear message to the state chapter of Democrats for Education Reform: You don’t have a place in our party.

After booing down the head of the education reform organization, who described herself as a lifelong Democrat, delegates voted overwhelmingly Saturday to call for the organization to no longer use “Democrats” in its name. While it’s unclear how that would be enforced, the vote means a rejection of DFER is now part of the Colorado Democratic Party platform.

The platform amendment reads: “We oppose making Colorado’s public schools private or run by private corporations or becoming segregated again through lobbying and campaigning efforts of the organization called Democrats for Education Reform and demand that they immediately stop using the party’s name Democrat in their name.”

DFER Colorado State Director Jennifer Walmer was clearly emotional as she defended her organizational and personal commitment to the Democratic Party. She was booed throughout her remarks and stopped speaking at one point to ask to be allowed to continue.

“My father used to have precinct caucuses in my home,” she said. “I’ve canvassed for Democrats my entire life. I have only ever supported Democrats. My board, which is a board of elected Democrats, we are simply focused on the idea that every child deserves access to a high-quality education. We are adamantly opposed to the Trump and DeVos privatization.”

Vanessa Quintana, a political activist who was the formal sponsor of the minority report, was a student at Denver’s Manual High School when it was closed in 2006, a decision that Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, then Denver’s superintendent, defended at an education panel Friday.

She said that before she finally graduated from high school, she had been through two school closures and a major school restructuring and dropped out of school twice. Three of her siblings never graduated, and she blames the instability of repeated school changes.

“When DFER claims they empower and uplift the voices of communities, DFER really means they silence the voices of displaced students like myself by uprooting community through school closure,” she told the delegates. “When Manual shut down my freshman year, it told me education reformers didn’t find me worthy of a school.”

There simply should not be any place for neoliberals in the Democratic Party. Purge them all. The Democratic Party needs to stand for strong public schools, strong teachers’ unions, and a strong tax base to fund these things. I don’t want Cory Booker welcoming Mark Zuckerberg to talk about funding schools. I want Cory Booker talking about taxing Zuckerberg at 1950s tax rates to fund education. I want Rahm Emanuel to be forced into the Republican Party. The base revolt within the Democratic Party is happening different ways in different places, as Steve’s post from earlier today about New York and California indicates. But all of these revolts are positive. And when the Democratic Party is taken over by people who reject Republican-lite policies, well this is exactly the politics we should be engaging in. This is how conservatives took over the Republican Party and eliminated Nelson Rockefeller types from relevance. We must do the same. And indeed we are.

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