The L.A. teachers union may officially support Bernie Sanders for president next week.
Back in September, the United Teachers of Los Angeles board of directors began a process to endorse Bernie Sanders for president, and on November 14th there will be a formal vote by the union’s House of Representatives. UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl is campaigning hard for Sanders, and considering the honcho’s heft, it would not be surprising at all if Sanders garners the important backing of the 33,000 strong union – the second largest teacher union local in the country.
In a pitch to his flock, Caputo-Pearl maintains that Trump supports privatizing schools and is “attacking the communities of our students.” Caputo-Pearl also lambasts Bill Clinton for his charter advocacy during his presidency. Not even Barack Obama can escape the union boss’ wrath for his pro-charter stance and push for standardized testing. Caputo-Pearl dismissed Joe Biden as an Obama clone, and accused Elizabeth Warren of having “45 policy plans, but none on public education.” For him, Bernie is a man with a real plan! After all, Sanders stood with the union during the 2019 strike, wants a “massive infusion of (education) funding and a moratorium on charters,” and is an ardent supporter of Medicare for All.
Fact is that Sanders, the senescent socialist from Vermont, would be a disaster for taxpayers across the USA. His Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education hits all the typical teacher union talking points with a bulls-eye. Akin to Elizabeth Warren’s plan, he would add $74 billion a year to current federal education spending totals, more than doubling its current outlay of $71 billion a year. Sanders claims that over the past decade, “states all over America have made savage cuts to education.” But, as Just Facts James Agresti points out, our spending is very near an all-time high. Additionally, Sanders would work with states “to set a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000.”
Sanders is particularly tough on charter schools, claiming, “The damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth must be stopped and reversed.” He trashes billionaires and hedge fund executives who support charter schools, which Sanders insists “are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.” He wants charters to have the same oversight as public schools. (Memo to Bernie: On the NAEP scores that were just released, in Los Angeles just 20 percent of 4th grade students were rated “proficient” in both reading and math. And only 18 percent of 8th graders were proficient in reading and 16 percent in math. And you want to throw more money at failing districts like L.A. I guess accountability just ain’t what it used to be.)
Needless to say, Jacobin, a magazine that offers “socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture” is in the tank for Sanders. In a slobbering piece, Kenzo Shibata explains, “Why America’s Teachers’ Unions Must Endorse Bernie Sanders.” He describes Sanders’ plan as “comprehensive and forward-thinking.”
At the same time Sanders is cozying up to the teachers unions and socialist comrades, he is alienating other key constituencies. In one of the more tortured bits of data he uses, he claims that “17 percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority.” I have no idea if that’s true, but if it is, it’s only because minority parents are more affected by failing traditional public schools. As such, his proposed charter moratorium would anger the 58 percent of black Democratic voters who view charters favorably.
Even some on the far left realize the damage Sanders’ education plan would do. Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute and Emily Langhorne, associate director of PPI’s Reinventing America’s Schools Project, wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News that lambastes Sanders for his enmity toward charters. They write, “Although charter sectors vary in quality significantly from state to state, in places with strong charter laws and well-regulated sectors (like New York), charter schools produce significantly better outcomes for low-income urban children than traditional public schools educating demographically similar students. That’s why tens of thousands of minority families are on charter school wait lists nationwide.”
Sanders’ authoritarian instincts have never been more evident, which not surprisingly earns him kudos from American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who calls his plan “inspiring.”
I have another description for Sanders’ plan, however. To put it simply, it perfectly represents the initials of the man who formulated it.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.