Home > Uncategorized > “Reformer” Fred Hess Misses the Point: It ISN’T Blue vs. Red… It’s Public Governance vs. Private

“Reformer” Fred Hess Misses the Point: It ISN’T Blue vs. Red… It’s Public Governance vs. Private

March 25, 2019

American Enterprise Institute’s “Resident Scholar in Education Policy” Frederick Hess recently wrote an article for The Hill lamenting the fact that a huge majority of “reformers” are making donations to the Democratic Party instead of the Republican party. He attributes this decision to a rejection of Donald Trump and, because the most vocal Trump resisters are progressive, he makes the assumption that reformers are making donations to Democrats based on a “litmus test”. He writes:

What’s on display here is the embrace of expansive litmus tests by some of the more outspoken denizens of school reform. The reality, of course, is that every movement, by definition, requires some agreement on core beliefs. After all, people have to agree on some things in order to work together. The striking thing is how all-encompassing those core beliefs have become in school reform circles. Two decades ago, the nonnegotiable beliefs could be summarized thusly: 1] schools can and must do better and 2] ideas like school choice and educational accountability are probably part of the solution.

Today, though, the school reform community seems to take its lead from those who insist that being an agent of educational improvement requires one to think “correctly” about a host of issues, including diversity and inclusion, white privilege, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, immigration, the causes of poverty, taxation, climate change, gun control, and more. For many influential school reform groups, these ideological predilections are not incidental — but are omnipresent and woven into their worldview, talking points, and agenda.

Mr. Hess assumes that reformers are donating to Democrats in response to the loudest voices in the party. I doubt that the reformers are taking their lead from “…those who insist that being an agent of educational improvement requires one to think “correctly” about a host of issues”. Rather, I think that the “reformers” are fleeing the GOP because they do not agree with the DeVos wing of the party who favor using tax dollars to fund religious schools, fly-by-night on-line providers, and homeschoolers. Moreover, as long as the Democratic Party is controlled by the Clinton-Obama wing who continue to buy into the notion that “choice” is a civil rights issue they have nothing to fear. Here’s hoping that the DNC either changes its thinking about “reform” or that the progressive wing prevails in the nomination process.

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