Monday, August 15, 2011

How Rick Perry Can Split the Education Vote

Is it possible for Rick Perry to split the education vote?  Yes.

Yesterday in her blog The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post, Valerie Straus brought up an interesting issue for those who watch education issues: What is President Obama going to do about Rick Perry's anti-NCLB stance? And, I would add this question: How are activist teachers who resent EdSec Duncan's tone-deafness to education professionals going to respond to Perry?

Texas' Gov. Perry has been very busy over the last several years opposing the pro-NCLB stance of Duncan and the Education Dept.  Here is Straus' rundown:
Perry, who won election to his third term as Texas governor last year, trashed the administration’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top, and rejected the administration-backed Common Core State Standards effort (which all but six states, including Texas, have agreed to adopt). Perry also fought with the Obama administration over more than $800 million in federal funds that U.S. officials said could go to Texas if the money was spent on education; the Texas governor said he couldn't accept any conditions on use of the money.

In a Jan. 13, 2010 letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Perry wrote, “I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national curriculum standards and tests.... We believe that education policy, curriculum and standards should be determined in Texas, not in Washington D.C.”
For those of us who have been active in the Save-Our-Schools movement even in the slightest bit, it is easy to pick out quite a bit of Perry's stand on the EdSec's policies that would easily resonate within our ranks.  Most especially, teachers in those districts that have already started buying into the Race-To-The-Top demands that teachers be retained, promoted, or fired based heavily on test scores, would easily identify Perry as a type of ally.  That has certainly been the case in Texas:
Standing with Perry during a press conference on that same day was Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, and Jeri Stone , executive director of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, both union leaders who backed Perry’s decision on Race to the Top.
For those who have essentially given up on Obama/Duncan ever truly advocating for teachers and authentic teaching, Perry's stance creates a dilemma.  Are they going to continue to support Obama in the next election, sit it out, giving Perry or anyone else a stronger shot at Obama, or simply go over to Perry and hope that he is not as strange on other issues as he now appears.

Being in the next state from that former republic to our South, I can say that if we buy Perry's education stance, we are not only buying that; but, all of what Perry is about.  We would do well to remember that his biggest supporters are also the biggest, loudest, and meanest critics of public education.  Those teachers who are politically involved might be tempted to support Perry out of our own deep pain about the state of things in education; but, we should carefully weigh the whole package of Perry before making that leap.


  1. It would take more than these sound bytes for me to support Rick Perry. Yet, I don't mind if he makes these arguments on education to a public that would otherwise remain deaf to progressive perspectives.

    Perry arrives at conclusions similar to my own on NCLB and RTTT after following an ideology and reasoning path very different form my own.

    From where I stand, that's okay. As we build a pro-public education movement, we will need to include voices from all ends of the political spectrum.

  2. I have long worried that a Midwestern Republican could defeat President Obama, partially because rank-in-file teachers are so angry at the scapegoating and they would ignore pleas by union leaders to swallow our anger and stick with Obama. It never occured to me that a Perry candidancy could do that too. Your great post scares me. Let's hope it scares Obama.

  3. Thanks for these responses John and Elise. I agree that the pressure is good for the debate, Elise. Right on target. And, John, that mid-westerner might rise up with attractive ed policies yet.