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By Anthony Cody.

For the past seven months, I have been holding my breath hoping that Bernie Sanders would follow the logic of his passionate defense of working people and willingness to confront hedge funders and financiers, and apply this thinking to K12 education policy. As we know, many of the most ardent backers of the privatization of schools are these same wealthy individuals.

Last May, I wrote this column, suggesting ways that Sanders could win support from education activists like myself. Last night, Sanders made a clear statement of support for public schools, shared on Diane Ravitch’s blog. He said:

I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education. I really do. (see video here, statement at 1:48:32)

This morning I posted a longer transcript of remarks Sanders made at a gathering of the Massachusetts Teachers Association last October. He makes it clear that he supports the teaching profession, and our unions. It is also notable that when Sanders was in Chicago recently he made a point of stating that he did not need support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has closed fifty schools and waged war on the teachers union.

I think it is time for education advocates to get behind the Sanders candidacy. I think support would be stronger were he to lay out policies along the lines I suggested, but I think there are several powerful reasons to support him. Here they are:

For years, we have argued that when attempting to improve educational outcomes for students, we cannot ignore the effects of poverty. We have called on leaders to directly address poverty – and Sanders has by far the strongest policies in this area, including a plan to increase the minimum wage across the country.poverty

Sanders has taken a stand in support of public schools, and against their privatization. Hillary Clinton, it should be noted, made critical comments about charter schools a month ago – which provoked an outcry from wealthy supporters. Soon after, her campaign backpedaled, and a week or two later she said she “would close any schools that are below average.” Sanders is not relying on this sort of wealthy supporter for his campaign, and is not likely to come under the same sort of pressure.

Our students have suffered greatly as a result of the immense concentration of wealth, the crooked speculation by Wall Street and the banking system. Sanders is far more likely than any other candidate to take concrete steps to break up the “too big to fail” banks and reverse this concentration of wealth. That will serve our students well.

Sanders has taken the Black Lives Matter movement seriously, and has released a strong set of policies addressing issues of systemic violence, including the unacceptable level of incarceration, which affects the parents of far too many of our students. He also opposes the privatization of prisons.

Our students’ future hangs in the balance due to unchecked climate change. Sanders has taken the strongest stance of any candidate on these issues, with an unwavering position on the Keystone pipeline.

Our youth are the ones sent off to fight wars that destroy lives and squander resources. Sanders is the least hawkish of the candidates.

One of the biggest reasons people have been on the fence regarding Sanders has been concerns that he could not prevail in the general election – that someone who calls himself a democratic socialist would be so far outside the mainstream that he would be unelectable. However, in recent weeks, I have begun to feel quite the opposite. When I listen to the leading Republican candidates, I hear Donald Trump, the epitome of a billionaire bully. Sanders would be, in my view, better than any other candidate in calling him out – as he did recently when he pointed out that Trump had argued that in the US “wages are too high.”

The news media has subjected the Sanders campaign to a virtual blackout. I watched in amazement the other night as a reporter asked a Sanders if he would quit the race if he lost in New Hampshire — where he is actually leading in the polls! According to a recent estimate, “liberal” network MSNBC has given Trump 95% greater coverage than Sanders. The Sanders campaign will need grassroots support to overcome this — and it is time we gave it to him.

Our students and schools have suffered as the concentration of wealth has accelerated over the past decade. President Obama has not confronted or curtailed this trend, and, sadly, there is little to indicate that Hillary Clinton will either. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has rejected support from super-PACS and spurned Wall Street. His education platform could be stronger, but he is not captive to the wealthy donors that have controlled both parties for years. Our students need a president who confronts the scourge of poverty, and I believe Bernie Sanders is the best for that task.

What do you think? Is it time for supporters of public education to get behind Bernie Sanders? Are you “feeling the Bern”?

Featured photo by Alex Garland.  Used with permission, all rights reserved.

Author

Anthony Cody
Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.

Comments

  1. Gary Obermeyer, Learning Options    

    “Is it time for supporters of public education to get behind Bernie Sanders?” It’s already happening, in spite of (or maybe because of) the endorsements from the national teacher unions.

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg    

    Anthony, I think Sanders is clearly the best candidate for supporting and helping to improve public education. It’s great that he openly criticized the phony “public” charters as part of the privatization problem and spoke well of public schools. While I always feel it’s important to remind ourselves that there is a lot that could be done to make schools more effective components in an overall effort towards democratization, social justice, and meaningful individual pursuit of the promise this country has ostensibly held out to all citizens for centuries, it’s become very tricky to talk about school improvement without being lumped in with the education deformers. I believe Sanders is someone who understands the difference between meaningful reform and greed-motivated deform. He has my complete support. I hope he has the support of your other readers.

  3. Sharon    

    Yesterday 1/6, MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a long live interview with Bernie Sanders and his wife. A portion of the interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBTo3xeiGMQ

    Both hosts made it abundantly clear that they were impressed with Sanders and their praise continued on to this morning’s show. You should have heard it. They even commented on the media blackout. Hopefully things are starting to shift.

  4. Laura Boytz    

    Anthony,

    I think it’s perhaps time, not necessarily to endorse Sanders, but for public education advocates like NPE and all of the groups you are connected with (BATS, opt out movements, Seattle educators, the Chicago hunger strikers, activist or progressive caucuses or locals within the teachers’ unions, maybe even some of the more influential edu-bloggers (I vote for you and Peter Greene to start!)) to reach out in an organized way to the Sanders campaign — for a dialogue — perhaps one of those conference calls people talk about? I think Sanders’ principles allow him to be open to understanding how national DOE policies have hurt public education for the past two decades and for taking clearer positions, not only against charter chains and union busting, but also against standardized tests as a measurement of school and teacher effectiveness, state takeovers that disempower the neediest communities, etc etc. His record and principles and donor lists all suggest that he is much more likely to take and follow through on good K-12 positions than Hillary, but he hasn’t really done this strongly yet. But that statement “the overall issue is how we treat children in America” is a good place to start. Maybe a conference call or other organized outreach like I’m suggesting can get him to speak out against the billionaires’ influence on K-12 education. I vote for the Black Lives Matter approach right now — push for dialogue and more statements on the issues, don’t endorse unless and until you see the real commitment and understanding you seek. Just my two cents, as a totally non-influential observer (who has decided, as an individual, to vote for Sanders for some of the reasons you list here).

  5. Susan Lee Schwartz    

    Oh Anthony. Good for YOU! Great post!

    As you know by now, I too had hoped Bernie would put th same passion and energy into a stump speech about education, and how public education is the CRUX of income equality.

    I have a few thoughts about this. First, I am involved as a founding member, so I see the enormous organization at grassroots. It is astounding! I think the over-riding aim has been to raise money.

    Second, I think that neither Bernie or Jeff Weaver, or anyone advising and handling him is AWARE of the speed at which local control is being given to the corrupt legislatures and state governments.

    Third, although Bernie is aware of the plutocracy, he is NOT CLEAR on the actual PLAN, the tactic of this HIDDEN CONSPIRACY to ensure that Americans in the education workplace have NO recourse to JUSTICE, and have lost their civil rights.

    I have posted this many times, in many places since I wrote it in 2004, and lived it in1998.
    http://www.perdaily.com/2011/01/lausd-et-al-a-national-scandal-of-enormous-proportions-by-susan-lee-schwartz-part-1.html

    SIXTEEN years ago, and teachers still have no way to stand up to administration and say, “Now hold on here, what you said aBOUT ME is a lie.”
    How else did this happen to the largest school district in America, if there was a legal advocate to stand up for teachers.

    I have all the evidence of how the union failed me, the complicity of the site rep and the Manhattan Bureau rep, ( who ‘disappeared’ ( I.e. was sent to Albany until he could retire with pension). Randi has seen it, too FYI. I met with the UFT attorney, years ago, and gave I’m everything… but that is another story!

    Dan Rather, who also knew my story at the time, was incredulous. “Unbelievable,” was the word he used when he heard what had happened to me, a teacher whom he knew was exceptional. (that is another story.)

    But THAT IS THE CRUCIAL POINT… it IS unbelievable that here in America, a principal has such power. ( and he had never heard Lorna Stremcha’s story anther battle at that time, or he would have seen the process. http://www.amazon.com/Bravery-Bullies-Blowhards-Lessons-Classroom/dp/0991309936/ref=cm_sw_em_r_dptop_dn1Avb040EW4Q_tt

    THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ!!!!!

    Because there is not shred of accountability for school administrators, we see the same abusive tactics in LA, whites THE SECOND LARGES SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THE NATION…$$$$ for privateers when it fails, as it must, when they can charge 8000 teachers with incompetence and WORSE and FIRE EVERY SINGLE ONE!

    http://citywatchla.com/8box-left/6666-lausd-and-utla-complicity-kills-collective-bargaining-and-civil-rights-for-la-s-teachers
    http://www.perdaily.com/2014/03/lausd-and-utla-collude-to-end-collective-bargaining-and-civil-rights-for-teachers-part-2.html

    One last thing… I am PRO-UNON. Without unions we would be shot dead and left for the buzzards.
    I want to see the unions purged of the sycophants who looked the other way, and allowed the grievance process, described in the book which sits on my desk next to tie keyboard, to be subverted.

    I bet Bernie actually believes that all the unions protect teachers, OR perhaps, he is too cautious, and is afraid to open this can or worms and cause Randi and company to have a tantrum. He does not want the teachers unions to come after him. He is not stupid… he has been re-elected more than once, and is a Senator… he cannot be naive!
    Me might be scared, however, to offend them. BUT TRUTH IS THE ONLY WAY.

    THEY LET IT HAPPEN AND NOW THEY MUST STEP UP AND MAKE IT RIGHT, and the teachers must elect new union leaders who represent them!

    It is my opinion that by protecting the unions, and covering up their part in the debacle, this present war on teachers is the result. !

    The story needs to come out… of the GOTCHA SQUAD IN NYC
    http://nycrubberroomreporter.blogspot.com/2009/03/gotcha-squad-and-new-york-city-rubber.html

    People and teachers here, need to read, incredible sad stories of fabulous dedicated, brilliant teachers found at the site that Karen Horwitz created when she LOST in court
    www. endteacherabuse.org.
    http://www.endteacherabuse.org/Stremcha.html

    Take Dan Geery,,, First learn who he is>
    http://www.opednews.com/author/author1198.html
    Then read how they GOT him!
    http://endteacherabuse.org/Geery.html

    and I know that you know Francesco Portelos who is still fighting back in NYC
    Here is what happened to him
    http://www.endteacherabuse.org/Portelos.html

    and more here
    http://protectportelos.org/does-workplace-bullying-continues-my-33-hrs-behind-bars/

    I want a teacher revolution, too. Teacher’s organizations need to work together, because alone a teacher cannot fight. The cost is enormous as Lorna found out, when she stood up to fight because the principal who set her up to be sexually assaulted, never faced a penalty,

    http://blog.ebosswatch.com/2013/05/one-womans-legal-fight-against-workplace-bullying/
    http://nycrubberroomreporter.blogspot.com/2013/10/lorna-stremcha-and-her-rubber-room.html

  6. Dale Lidicker    

    Feel the Bern… Nice post, Anthony. If the grass roots succeeded in Jeffco to recall an ultraconservative school board majority that was bent on privatization and voted in a pro-public education board, we have the capability to generalize this kind of action on a national level. It will require a lot of work, organization, and informing the public, though. I hope that we are up to the task. I hope that we do not expect that others will do the work. I hope that we look in a mirror and realize that the person we are staring at has to get off their butt and simply do the work.

  7. Debbie Gleason    

    I am really glad that I was told about this post. I just wrote this: An Open Letter To Senator Bernie Sanders http://fumblingaboutinthedark.blogspot.com/2016/01/an-open-letter-to-senator-bernie-sanders.html I am not just posting this as an ego thing, but because i truly feel that Bernie Sanders is missing a tremendous opportunity to galvanize support around a position that is very different from Hillary Clinton’s business as usual approach. It’s great that he talked to teachers, but the general public needs to know.

    1. Susan Lee Schwartz    

      Seriously… I wrote many open letters to Bernie, with whom I graduated in 1959. I gave them to his friend, sent them to his wife and his brother, his senate office and his press.

      I explained what teachers need to hear, at last, from a leader, regarding the end of income equality, that comes , as night follows day, when public education disappears.

      I never heard from him. The publisher at Oped,where I write, Rob Kall, said he would get it to him, but I have not heard. Jo Marley of BATS has tried to get his attention about the destruction ongoing as legislatures take over the schools, and teachers are replaced, o mandated to teach in was THAT KIDS DON’T LEARN!

      I tried to tell Bernie that the conversation has to be turned from testing and teaching, to WLLL, what learning looks like.. and what must be in place to facilitate it.

      I hope he wakes up and offers a much energy and passion and time, talking about the disaster that has befallen public schools, as he does talking about BankFailure.

      The failure of the schools will end income equality even as it makes our real democracy into a fantasy that once existed.

      1. Debbie Gleason    

        I suspect that he has been badly advised in this area. My concern is that he will not say enough to differentiate himself from other candidates in this regard, although I am guessing there could be a huge difference he could express. Given how Obama approached public education and how it seems that Secretary Clinton is poised to follow in his footsteps, all the more reason why Senator Sanders should speak up now. As I say, before it’s too late.

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