Hillary’s choice for Education Secretary could be ‘anti-public’

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A recent survey of educators across the nation reveals that, when elected, Hillary Clinton may follow in the footsteps of President Obama concerning her choice of Secretary of Education in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

Obama’s choices of Arne Duncan followed by John King were the most anti-public education appointments in the history of the Democratic party. Now it appears, based on the recent survey, that Clinton may continue the anti-public education tradition during her administration with yet another education secretary who will espouse the downward spiral of public education that has occurred for the past eight years.

In essence, the critics say is that Hillary Clinton’s presidency could be like  Barack Obama’s third term! The fact that Hillary Clinton has two anti-public education advocates on her campaign staff in John Podesta and Ann O’Leary –advisors who apparently have her ear — does not bode well for a public school advocate such as Diane Ravitch to be her choice for Education Secretary.

The selection of an anti-public education secretary of education in 2016 would also constitute another slap in the face to the two largest teacher organizations in the country, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), both of whom had given their early endorsement to Hillary Clinton’s presidency early in the campaign.

Hence, it would appear that, yet again, the two largest teacher organizations in the nation may have wasted their presidential endorsement as had been the case with their endorsement of Barack Obama for the presidency. The question, however, for Hillary Clinton prior to the November election is can she afford to alienate the two largest teacher organizations in the nation along with the votes of the many teachers and parents who support public education?

We have witnessed in Connecticut what may be the turning point in the funding of education as well as in closing the education gap in Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling of how Connecticut supports its poorest schools as well as claiming that the state’s method for distributing education aid is “irrational and unconstitutional.”

Can Hillary Clinton afford to be on the wrong side of this issue in which the future of public education hangs in the balance? It doesn’t take a genius to see that the writing is on the wall that the inequity in funding urban and suburban schools can no longer continue to exist and Hillary, if elected, may witness a tsunami transformation in the funding of public education.

That is why the appointment of the new secretary of education may be one of Hillary’s most crucial cabinet appointments in early 2017 as she cannot afford to appoint another Arne Duncan or John King without major repercussions and possibly negative consequences to her leadership as the new president.

What is needed is someone who is a true advocate of public education such as Diane Ravich who had served as under secretary of education during the George Bush administration and someone who possesses the leadership qualities to sail through the rough waters ahead when the funding inequities may well be the primary focus of public education in the nation.

Hillary Clinton, as president of the United States, needs to demonstrate through her appointment of education secretary that public schools still remain the crown jewels of America and we need the leadership from Washington that will continue to recognize that the nation’s future depends on the quality of all its public schools in both urban as well as suburban school districts.

What is also needed in Washington, D.C. is new leadership emanating from the newly appointed secretary of education which recognizes that the charter school industry does not exist to “improve or fix” public schools but rather its ultimate goal is to privatize public education.

Hence, it is far past time when Washington D.C. recognizes that charter schools are ideologically driven by people who place the desire for greed and money above the common good. In essence, charter schools are really private schools paid for with taxpayer money.

One has to wonder how Hillary Clinton can, in her role as a presidential candidate, espouse her support for the black and Hispanic community when she has yet to commit to the improvement of public schools in urban school districts throughout the nation.

In Connecticut, for example, you have affluent school districts such as Westport with among the highest per pupil expenditure in the state of Connecticut just a short distance from Bridgeport Public Schools, which is among the lowest per pupil expenditures in the state. Whether this deplorable inequity in school funding is considered a worthy political goal of Hillary Clinton when she becomes president has yet to be determined.

Since Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the AFT, then she should also needs to pay attention to what Randi Weingarten is espousing when she states, “Let’s all hope that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will recognize the damage done by the Bush-Obama education agenda and push for a federal policy that helps children, educators, and public schools.”

It is becoming quite obvious that middle of the road is no longer an option for Hillary Clinton on public education.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D. is a former educator from Fairfield.

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