NY Times ran a front page article on, focused on the tug of war for Hilary Clinton’s soul, supposedly between the teacher unions and the big donors, mostly hedge fund operators, who want to privatize public schools and ramp up high-stakes testing, weaken teacher tenure and base their evaluations on student test scores. Value-added test based teacher evaluation has proved to be highly unreliable, and many expert groups, including the American Statistical Association and the National Academy of Sciences, have concluded that it could have damaging impact on morale and the quality of education.
In the article, the hedgefunders make it clear that they will threaten to withhold their contributions if Hillary does not adopt their positions:
“This is an issue that’s important to a lot of Democratic donors,” said John Petry, a hedge fund manager who was a founder of the Harlem Success Academy, a New York charter school. “Donors want to hear where she stands.”
We also pointed out that DFER’s founder, hedge fund operator Whitney Tilson, admitted that the only reason he put “Democrats” in the organization’s title and focused on convincing Democrats to adopt their pro-privatization agenda was that GOP leaders were already in agreement with most of their positions. The following is an excerpt from a film made by Tilson called “A Right Denied”:
In addition, by characterizing the struggle on education policy as being a conflict primarily between the teacher unions and big donors, the reporter misses the boat. Indeed, the only mention of parents in the piece implies that they are allied with the DFER privateers: “Reform proponents include donors, but also a cross section of parents and business advocates.”
Hopefully NY Times readers and especially Hillary will smart enough to reject this claim, if they merely looked at Governor Cuomo’s plunging popularity. Cuomo’s poll numbers are dropping like a stone, largely because his positions on education are in thrall to his big donors in the DFER/hedgefund crowd. He has pushed hard on test-based teacher evaluation and other favorite talking points of the corporate reform contingent.
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Cuomo’s approval ratings on education are at a tepid 28% - while 63% of voters reject his views on school reform. 65% of voters reject the notion that teacher tenure should be based on student test scores; 71% reject the idea that teacher pay should be based on scores, and 55% trust the teacher unions on education, compared to 28% who trust Cuomo.
And the overwhelming rejection of Cuomo's views is shared among rural, suburban, urban voters, Republicans and Democrats alike.
Interestingly, instead of citing any of the many polls that show voters overwhelmingly reject the corporate reform/hedgefund education agenda, the NY Times article uncritically links to a leaked “memo” from Joe Williams of DFER, to “Board members and Major Donors,” citing polling results that supposedly show that “voters agree with our policies.”
Let’s hope for more accurate and less biased education reporting from the mainstream media in the future. The tug of war on education is not primarily between liberal reformers and the teachers union – but between the 1% and nearly everyone else.