DNCC Releases Draft 2016 Platform Language Supporting Progressive Education Reform

Washington, DC – Today, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) released its draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, which outlines a progressive, pro-student, pro-public education vision for our Party and our country and embraces more resources and reform in our schools. The DNC and the DNCC led one of the most inclusive platform processes in Party history, soliciting input from policy experts, local leaders, grassroots activists, and everyday Americans of all backgrounds.

DFER President Shavar Jeffries praised the Platform Drafting Committee’s work, saying:

“We are thrilled that our Party has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to progressive education policies that help ensure every student, regardless of their zip code or their background, receives the world-class public education they deserve.

“Through this Platform, our Party reaffirms its support for high-quality public school choice – including traditional neighborhood schools and public charter schools – for every family, especially for our children in underserved communities; for a great teacher in every classroom that’s well-trained, supported and ready to inspire and develop our children on day one; for the resources we need to provide a fair shot for every child to achieve at high levels; and for creating a path to an affordable, quality higher education experience accessible for every family.

“Our next president will inherit the historic gains achieved by the Obama administration’s dual investment in substantial resources and common-sense reform in our schools, and it’s critical that our Party and our 45th president, Hillary Clinton, are ready to carry the torch of continued Democratic education reform come January 20th. This Platform draft is a critical step in that direction.

“I want to thank Chairman Cummings for his stewardship of this process and look forward to the full Platform Committee ratifying this language in Orlando next week. I also want to acknowledge the many DFER champions across the country – from our elected officials, to students, parents, activists, and educators –who shared their stories to ensure that our Party remains the party that fights for our students and their educational futures. Your voices were clearly heard.”

Below are a few key excerpts from the Platform draft:

You can find DFER’s official testimony as submitted to the DNCC online, here.


Contact:, 202-540-8471


Washington, DC – Today, Democrats for Education Reform’s (DFER) Acting Executive Director, Lea Crusey, released the following statement:

“Today on Roosevelt Island, Hillary Clinton came out swinging as she formally kicked off her presidential campaign and reaffirmed her commitment to fighting for a better future for American families. She made a clear and compelling argument for why she is the champion that Americans are looking for.

“The education community has long known Hillary Clinton to be a champion for America’s children. She has a distinguished track record of spearheading progressive reforms to improve education in our country. From her early days in public service and through to her time as Secretary of State, she has repeated a clarion call: our students deserve better; we can and must do better for them.

“As a Democrat, a woman, a new mother, a former teacher, and a life-long advocate for public education – I am eagerly watching this presidential campaign. Education advocates around the country hope Hillary continues to be the bold leader we’ve known her to be, and that she continues to fight to ensure that every child, no matter her or his background, receives a quality education from pre-school through college.”


By Charles Barone, DFER Policy Director



RCEd Commentary

In America’s longstanding fight to expand job opportunities and improve social equality, the largest socioeconomic influencer is often grossly forgotten: education. And the country’s most powerful labor group can be the one to change that, if it resolves the conflicting interests between union members whose children attend public schools and teachers unions that often work against the interests of those same children.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO – the nation’s largest labor federation — delivered a widely-publicized address last Tuesday aimed at communicating organized labor’s priorities to the 2016 Presidential field. Trumka stressed that “the problems of income inequality and stagnant wages are so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st Century.”

Economic statistics squarely support Trumka’s claims. Fair wages for all workers are crucial. Salary increases for those in the low-to-middle income range are inarguably long overdue.

Education, however, was something about which Trumka could and should have had something more to say than his short statement about the need for public investment — both because of the inextricable link between access to high-quality education and future job security and financial stability, and because the vast majority of union households send their children to public schools.

Teachers unions across the country, including the American Federation of Teachers, an AFL-CIO member and second largest teachers union in the country, are working to undermine or halt teacher evaluation policies. In contrast, a poll we conducted earlier this year found that a majority of both union and non-union household members support clear benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of teachers and school administrators.

Teachers unions have consistently opposed efforts that would reform teacher tenure rules. And yet our polling found that 74 percent of union households support the idea that we “need major reforms to teacher tenure system because layoffs should be determined by effectiveness, not seniority.”

And, similar to numbers among voters across political ideologies and demographics, 57 percent of union households have a favorable view of charter schools that provide parents with an opportunity to choose to send their child to a different public school if their own local school is failing.

Trumka’s speech was mainly aimed at Democrats and, of course, right now that pretty much means Hillary Clinton, the only declared Democratic presidential candidate and the overwhelming favorite of primary voters. Those covering the Trumka speech noted that Clinton has reached out over the past months to many labor unions and is perhaps closer to AFT President Randi Weingarten than to any other labor leader.

But if candidate Clinton truly wants to speak to the interests of “everyday voters,” especially union members, our polls and others suggest that she would be well advised to balance the AFT agenda with the concerns of other unions’ voters. Trumka and others could play a crucial role here as arbiters of that balancing act.

All of this is completely consistent with the broader AFL-CIO agenda. Higher benchmarks for teacher performance are one of the best arguments for higher teacher pay. Interventions in schools that are falling short of preparing students for college and careers are a necessary component in ensuring the U.S. workforce can prosper in a 21st Century global economy.

If Republicans want to make this a fight over collective bargaining, we say: “bring it.” If collective bargaining were the obstacle to better public education, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker would be presiding over the highest-performing education system in the country. The reality is quite the opposite, and we are determined to keep standing up for collective bargaining rights and not allow the Republican Party to use platitudes about education to hide their ulterior efforts to undermine unions as a whole.

What we need is a political coming together led by labor unions who represent both parents and educators to help bridge the conflict between the interests of the few and the shared interests of union families and American workers’ families. Unions have repeatedly served to speak for our communities as a whole — the voice of working families to push for fair wages, fair work days, fair treatment by employers. The AFL-CIO now has the opportunity to speak on behalf of working families who want to make sure that their children have a fair shot at a high-quality education. Trumka and Clinton, together, could be a powerful force in making that dream a reality.

Charles Barone is policy director of Democrats for Education Reform.

Find the full story here at RealClear Education.

By Lea Crusey, DFER Acting Executive Director

When Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the presidency, suddenly homes and offices around the country were filled with a video of ordinary Americans talking about new beginnings. We tend to think of new beginnings as a positive, but one part of the video struck a chord with me — and it grates against everything we should stand for as the education community.

What struck me most about Hillary’s campaign video was the shot of a woman — a mom — packing up her house so that, as she described, she could move to a district with a better school for her child. What that scene intended to evoke was the familiar challenge so many American parents face; can they afford to live where the schools are “good”?

As a new mom myself, I reflected on this, wrestling with how to interpret this in light of candidate — and grandmother-in-chief — Clinton’s message to me as a voter. My job is working to make sure that every kid has a fair shot at a quality education, but unfortunately, right now, too often families are forced to make the decision that the woman in the video was confronted with: settle for mediocre or bad schools, or move. I don’t believe it has to be this way — and I don’t think that Hillary Clinton does, either.  With more than one million children on charter school waiting lists across the country, families are ready to find options for their kids but can’t afford to wait for the lottery to call their number.

That Hillary made her first event focused on education drew my attention — following up on that video announcement, it underscored that she understands that a better future for all and an improved public education system go hand in hand.  We want and need our kids to graduate high school with the life skills they need to succeed. And we believe that a great education is one of the ways we can level the playing field so that a child’s life circumstances don’t determine what they are capable of achieving. How do we do that? By letting our great teachers teach, investing in what works, and creating opportunities to improve our public schools in all corners of this country.

I’m excited to be on this journey with you, Candidate Clinton. I agree, all Americans deserve a fair shot at success. We work hard and yet we are still falling behind, particularly when it comes to our schools that serve high-proportions of students from low-income families but get less of everything we know that matters. We can do better for our children.

Now that I’m a mom, I know that the choices I make for me aren’t just for me; whether it’s what I eat and prepare at home, what learning and growth opportunities I make sure are available for my daughter, or what school option will be best for her when we get to that point, these are decisions for my family and for our collective future. I hope that my choice for president will be one who shares my commitment to my kid and to all kids so that a child’s ZIP Code doesn’t determine whether or not they get a fair shot at life.

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Is there something in the water? Jeb Bush just announced that he’ll give this year’s commencement address at Liberty University. He now joins the long line of Republicans – Ted Cruz, John McCain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, even his own father – in delivering remarks to the Liberty Flames.

Looks like all of our Republican presidential candidates (both past, present, and future) are lacking a little creativity and foresight. Somehow, of the 7,000 total colleges nationwide, only one stands out as a premiere destination for presidential candidates: Liberty University?

Don’t any of them realize that Liberty is one of the worst colleges in the country for poor and minority students?

High Price & High Debt


Deplorable Black Graduation Rates Among VA Colleges


Low Graduation Rates for Minority Students As Compared to Peers



To view the data up close, click here.



DFER National Board of Advisors Chair welcomes Clinton’s announcement that she will seek the presidency and highlights her commitment to improving public education 

Today, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) National Board of Advisors Chair and former Lieutenant Governor of Colorado Barbara O’Brien released the following statement:

“We join Democrats and Americans around the country in celebrating Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she will seek the Presidency. Hillary Clinton has a proven track record of looking out for students—from her days as Arkansas’ First Lady when she spearheaded efforts to reform and improve the state’s public schools through to her efforts as U.S. Secretary of State to stand up for the right of every child to attend school. We are hopeful that she continues that strong record, and carries on President Obama’s legacy of promoting quality teachers and benchmarks that give every student a chance to succeed no matter their background.”



By Maggie Haberman, New York Times

Mrs. Clinton at a school in Waterloo, Iowa, in November 2007 during her 2008 presidential campaign. Credit Eric Thayer for The New York Times

The last time she ran for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton did not have to take a position on the Common Core, Race to the Top or teacher evaluations in tenure decisions.

She won the endorsement of one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions in 2007 after deploring the use of standardized tests and the underfunding of the No Child Left Behind law by President George W. Bush’s administration.

Now, as she prepares for a likely second run at the White House, Mrs. Clinton is re-entering the fray like a Rip Van Winkle for whom the terrain on education standards has shifted markedly, with deep new fissures in the Democratic Party.

Already, she is being pulled in opposite directions on education. The pressure is from not only the teachers who supported her once and are widely expected to back her again, but also from a group of wealthy and influential Democratic financiers who staunchly support many of the same policies — charter schools and changes to teacher tenure and testing — that the teachers’ unions have resisted throughout President Obama’s two terms in office.

And the financiers say they want Mrs. Clinton to declare herself.

“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.”

The growing pressure on education points out a deeper problem that Mrs. Clinton will have to contend with repeatedly, at least until the Iowa caucuses: On a number of divisive domestic issues that flared up during the Obama administration — trade pacts, regulation of Wall Street, tax policy — she will face dueling demands from centrists and the liberal base of the Democratic Party.

Her allies believe that with no strong primary opponent to force her into the open, Mrs. Clinton has plenty of time to maneuver before taking sides. But advocates will be using what leverage they possess to draw her out sooner.

Mr. Petry said there were many other political contests where wealthy Democrats who favor sweeping changes to education — including a more businesslike approach, and tying teacher tenure to performance as measured by student scores — could focus their resources next year instead, including congressional, state and local races.

Some progressives already view Mrs. Clinton as overly cozy with Wall Street. And should she align herself with the elite donors who favor an education overhaul, many of them heavyweights in the investment world, it could inflame the liberal Democratic base.

The outcome is particularly important for advocates of an overhaul, whose movement has faced growing opposition the past few years. Political crosswinds have whipped up from both the right and the left, particularly over the Common Core education standards that more than 40 states have put in place, but also over Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s program to reward school districts that improve, using measurements that union leaders often find controversial. Reform proponents include donors, but also a cross section of parents and business advocates.


Read the full story on The New York Times here.


If you think Washington could not become another Wisconsin, think again. Blue states turn purple. Then they turn red. Our Democrats should be worried about 2016. But first they need to get their heads out of the sand, and get serious about improving our public schools.

At the very time when the voting public in WA ranks education as the number one issue, some Washington Democrats are acting like idiots.

Exhibit A: This anti Common Core resolution passed overwhelmingly on Saturday by the Central Committee of the WA State Democratic Party.

Republican strategists have to be gloating right now. This resolution is an embarrassment, full of inaccuracies and innuendo. It also flies in the face of public opinion.  70 percent of Washingtonians support Common Core, our college and career ready learning standards that are currently being used in schools all across our state.

This is not the time to put people with a tenuous grasp on the facts and limited political acumen in charge of policy positions. The Democratic party looks completely out of touch and we turn off voters.

A November 2014 poll and report by Third Way, a centrist think tank, concludes:

“Democrats have gone from a 25-point lead to single-digit edge on education. They can no longer assume that voters will trust them on education by default. Changing the subject by blaming poverty or a lack of funding won’t cut it. To regain their historic edge on the issue of education, Democratic policymakers and candidates must show they are willing to shake up the status quo in real ways…”

Exhibit B: In last year’s elections, Washington Democrats failed to win any of the contested Senate races and lost four House seats, thereby eviscerating what used to be a sizeable House majority. Three of the four House losers had ties to the Education Committee, which seems to be out touch with what voters want on improving education.

Washington’s Democratic leaders quickly blamed others for the recent electoral losses – an unpopular president, low turnout, allies who did not work hard enough – but where is the self-reflection and for god’s sake where is the adult supervision?

When you stray from your ideals, when you blame others, when you don’t put forth a compelling vision and rally people around it, you turn off voters. And then you lose elections.

Democrats should be leading the education charge, always looking for ways to improve our public schools and help teachers across the state. We need to change methods that are not working and expand the ones that are working so each and every child has access to a great public education.

Staying silent about the things that matter in education is a recipe for more Democratic electoral losses. And that will hurt the other things we care about as Democrats: climate and clean energy, raising the minimum wage, gun safety, choice, marriage equality and more.