Proposed Democratic platform “matters for the next generation,” say public education advocates

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By Amanda Litvinov

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Some would have you believe that party platforms are irrelevant—just non-binding message documents that everyone forgets about shortly after the last of the confetti drops at the party’s national convention.

Carolyn “CiCi” Culpepper disagrees. “Of course it is important to speak out and agree on these issues,” she said. “And I’m speaking as a mother, as a soldier, and as the wife of a police officer.”

Culpepper retired from Alabama’s Department of Education, where she helped coordinate services for special needs children and adults. She is also a retired veteran who served 33 years between active duty and reserves.

As a member of the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee, Culpepper traveled to Orlando July 8-9, to vote on amendments and advise the Platform Drafting Committee.

Over the course of the meeting as amendments were presented, Culpepper said, “You think about your community, your city, your schools. You see how the pieces fit together and why this matters for the next generation.”

One passed amendment spells out Democrats’ support not just for teachers, but “all the professionals who work in public schools to support students’ education”–a small but significant change long-awaited by public school advocates.

Here are other notable education-related changes that made it into the draft platform:

  • Arguably the most striking change states the Democratic Party’s opposition to high-stakes tests “that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing; the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools; and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers.”
  • Committee members voted to add context to the platform’s commitment to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, “by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT. We will support the use of restorative justice practices that help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment.”
  • The Platform Committee passed amendments that better define the Party’s support for public charter schools that reflect their communities, “and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.” The draft also calls for public charters to share their best practices, in keeping with the original intent of charter schools, while opposing “for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.”
  • The draft platform now makes an explicit commitment to “debt-free college,” and outlines the principles that would make that a reality.

“I’m proud of how progressive this platform really is,” said North Dakota State Representative Ben Hanson, who also served on the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee. As a public employee, Hanson chose to join North Dakota United, a merged public employee union that includes the state’s NEA affiliate.

He was pleased to see the party’s platform incorporate policies that allow hard-working people to earn a stable living, afford higher education, and expect a safe and secure retirement.

It resonates with Hanson, whose state recently cut programs that serve seniors and after-care programs for students with special needs as a result of the state’s $300 million budget shortfall. Schools’ operating budgets have so far been protected from 4-percent across-the-board cuts only because of the state’s education sustainability fund.

“I’m proud to say that so far we’ve sustained a five-day school week in our rural areas; not all states have managed to do that,” said Hanson, who will soon be back in his state capitol for a special session to address the budget crisis.

“No child’s education should be compromised because of poor systems that don’t work,”

 

Reader Comments

  1. Please vote for Democrats who will support education and teachers. No elected officials are perfect or perfectly honest, but we can count on Clinton to work for fair changes in education.

    1. National level politics is not just education. In fact, everyone (meaning legal citizen registered voters) needs to support any party candidate who will get federal interference out of local education issues. But do not for one second think education is the end all of a party platform: illegal immigration, protection of second amendment rights and economic growth not at tax payer expense top the list. Less government, more good jobs, less illegal aliens and the other issues will be taken care of.

    2. National level politics is not just education. In fact, everyone (meaning legal citizen registered voters) needs to support any party candidate who will get federal interference out of local education issues. But do not for one second think education is the end all of a party platform: illegal immigration, protection of second amendment rights and economic growth not at tax payer expense top the list. Less government, more good jobs, less illegal aliens and the other issues will be taken care of. Not sure if this was posted or not.

  2. “Debt free college” going forward sounds good for future families, but it doesn’t help or address those families like my own who have enormous student debt now and possibly for the rest of our lives.

    I followed the President’s suggestion years ago and consolidated to “save money” and ended up not being able to take the Teacher Forgiveness, first, I was told it was because of the dates of the loans, and later I was told when a person consolidates the loans, the loans are considered paid off, even though the family or person still has a lifetime to pay (Navient) back. (I work, and have worked, in the same Title 1 School for over 20 years.) One son’s college kept telling us he wouldn’t go over $450/month payments. That was not true. He pays well over $1,000 per month. We kept calling at the time to ask, knowing the figures didn’t add up, and he eventually went the last year at another (cheaper) school to finish up. Another son, went to a state college locally and has been paying about $400 per month. The consolidated loan I mentioned earlier is under $300/ month and I’ve been paying on that since 1993, later adding in the Masters and Parent Plus Loan monies in the consolidation. I think I’ll be 67 when that is paid off. We think my son will be in his mid fifties when his is paid off. I think my second son will be paid off when he is in his late thirties.

    This is the first time I have ever written anything personal like this. We are worker bees, not whiners, but I would like to see, at the very least, all families presently paying on student loans have their loans’ percentage rates go to zero percent and loans going beyond ten years be absolved, with no negative credit ramifications. I can tell you the big lenders have already made their money off this family. If these two things would happen, this country would see an economic boost from the middle class like no other in history.

    1. Why did you take loans you could not afford? You have a moral obligation to repay loans you signed up for. Who do you think ought to pay the loans you incurred? Maybe the messed up government with Obama et al should raise taxes so future generations can have ‘free’ college.

    2. I can understand what your family has to deal with regarding student loans. It is a shame that we have placed our students in ‘life time debt’ shame on us. Other countries have free college education. The students from those countries then come to the USA and are able to live here debt free. We need to take care of home first. Stop being deceptive when giving out these loans. You sell the loans to others and change the game plan. Shame on us.

      1. To Mrs. H, Thank you for your reply and understanding. We tried to do everything good parents would do and there was no truth in lending in that time period. I understand now there is a (government) truth in lending requirement, but back then it was ridiculous to figure out basic information. Thanks, again.

  3. Or if you actually understand her inability to tell the truth, you will know that Hillabeast really thinks: What does it matter at this point? She does not care about Americans she helped to let die and you think she gives a flying hoot about schools and education. Put down the weed and try to grasp reality.

  4. As a retired high school math teacher I have to speak to rules of behavior I don’t understand how minorities are targeted no dicipline results in no teaching or learning

  5. Charter schools don’t have the resources that disabilities, ESL, students that come from more socio-economic background, etc. need. There is a chance that charter schools will keep that students to meet the numbers but will not serve their needs.

    1. Which is exactly why charters are wrong. They don’t play by the same rules, they shouldn’t exist.
      Change the game.

  6. I don’t understand why tax dollars are paid to educate students in charter schools. Are they not part of the “private” school definition? Guess they don’t fall under the parochial school category where parents and fundraisers pay to educate the children without tax dollars. Just what makes a company-owned school eligible for tax dollar support? Need to be educated on this.

    1. I do not understand why tax dollars go to charter schools and use money that should be used to strengthen public schools by providing smaller classes and more teachers. This is especially true in elementary schools where learning the basics, the important tools for all later learning, are absolutely necessary.

  7. Committee members need to vote on the need to address the fact that charter schools are not providing the public education system with innovative changes that they were designed to introduce, but are in fact becoming a means to syphon money from our public systems that are charged with the task of educating all children.

    1. Charter Schools are not just siphoning off money. They are siphoning off high performing students so that their test scores look good! Hopefully the ideas in the Democratic platform will become a reality (if we push for them to.). Especially around high stakes testing! Why are public funds supporting charters at all? I am witnessing schools in my district go through enormous changes as Charters siphon off the high scoring students and use the regular public schools as a dumping grounds for Special Ed., English Language Learners and kids with behavior challenges. Another word kids who struggle most in school. What a nightmare!

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