Before Hillary Clinton gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, organizers fired up the crowd with a video extolling President Barack Obama’s key policies: health care reform that extended coverage to an estimated 20 million more people; the $62 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler that saved about 1.5 million jobs; the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But one major issue was conspicuously missing from the highlight reel of Obama’s achievements: education.
This glaring omission is just one of many signs that Clinton is distancing herself from Obama’s education policies. On her campaign website, Clinton’s K-12 pageavoids any discussion of testing, accountability, or expansion of charters—the main focuses of Obama’s administration. Perhaps most telling, Clinton’s choices of advisers signal her attempt to move Obama’s test-driven K-12 agenda toward the center.
Clinton’s K-12 working policy group, according to a Democrat close to the campaign, comprises a mix of teachers’ union leaders, proponents of test-driven reforms, and advocates for increased investments in underfunded schools.
The previously unreleased list includes:
- Chris Edley Jr., the president of the Opportunity Institute, a California-based think tank that works mostly on early-childhood and college access initiatives
- Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s biggest teachers’ union
- Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-biggest teachers’ union
- Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and onetime adviser to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan
- Catherine Brown, the former vice president of policy at Teach for America and current vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress
- Richard Riley, the secretary of education under Bill Clinton who’s known for his views that don’t neatly fit into the pro-reform or pro-teachers’ union wings of the Democratic Party. Riley supported testing and accountability but also pushed with equal fervor for smaller classes and more funding for schools.
The inclusion of teachers’ union leaders—who were not advising Obama’s campaigns and are among some of the most powerful opponents of his education policies—marks an especially sharp break from his administration. By contrast, many of Obama’s advisers—and later staffers at the Department of Education—viewed teachers’ unions as obstacles to school improvement and had close ties to the Gates Foundation, which championed many federal policies that encouraged both numbers-driven teacher evaluations and charter schools.
But while Clinton’s K-12 advisers may suggest a more teacher-friendly approach to policy, they don’t exactly indicate that…