I was talking with some friends who live in Congressman George Miller (D. Contra Costa) district. Miller is important since he is the Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee which is the starting point for the revision of No Child Left Behind re-authorization. Cong. Miller has held a series of town hall meeting in his district. However, as reported, these town halls were controlled and limited. Well informed teachers were limited from participation. Here Congressman Miller could have listened to those who do the work rather than the conservative advocacy organizations that dominate testimony in Washington, D.C.
One alternative is to use teachers unions- the NEA and the AFT to force open the discussion. This week’s national convention of the NEA should produce some major press.
It was no small feat for teacher based opposition to stall the re-authorization of the NCLB last year. Originally it was assumed that NCLB would easily be re-authorized. But with intense participation pressure was brought to bear. Now, the re-authorization will be considered in by a new Congress and a new President.
Our opponents are a series of right wing groups, funded by conservative foundations such as the Olin Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. They create advocacy groups and “research” groups, such as the Fordham Center to foster a conservative- no new taxes- view of schools. They sponsor conferences and testimony to hold on to the current failing NCLB focus on testing and standards. These organizations use marketing methods, including particularly the “framing” of the issue strategy of focusing on accountability and testing.
The public needs to invest in urban schools, provide equal educational opportunities in these schools, and recruit a well prepared teaching force that begins to reflect the student populations in these schools. We must insist on equal opportunity to learn, no compromise. When we do these things, we will begin to protect the Freedom to Learn for our children and our grandchildren, and to build a more just and democratic society. We participate in rebuilding the schools by insisting that our government, our legislatures adequately fund the schools.
Democrats must challenge those social forces acting to preserve the present inequalities and injustices in our society. Schools are sites for the struggle for or against more democracy in our society. In schools, teachers and parents can participate in creating a more democratic society. Where do you think Mr. Miller stands? If you have reports from attending the Miller town hall meetings, please send them to me.