Education

Emails Suggest Hillary Is In Deep With Teachers Unions

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Several leaked emails included in the massive WikiLeaks dump of John Podesta’s inbox suggests Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is firmly in the camp of teachers unions, to the detriment of education reform efforts.

The emails date to May 2015, shortly after Clinton launched her presidential campaign. Clinton policy adviser Ann O’Leary reached out to Podesta, telling him that several members of the education reform movement wanted to have a meeting with Clinton in the near future. The reformers included Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and venture capitalist Brook Byers. In the the words of O’Leary, the reformer were “both $$ and substance folks.”

O’Leary said Clinton’s buys schedule made a meetup unlikely, but she suggested that Podesta could meet them in her stead.

Podesta was open to such a meeting, but admitted that it probably wouldn’t do much good.

“Probably worth the time. Not sure we can reassure them,” Podesta said.

It’s unclear what Podesta meant about “reassuring” the reformers, but his remarks get to the heart of an ongoing conflict with the Democratic Party over how to handle the issues of K-12 education. On one side are aggressive reformers, many of them business elite, who believe strategies like charter schooling, teacher accountability measures, and big data can help improve failing schools around the country. On the other side are teachers unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency, which accuse reformers of undermining educators and promoting a corporate takeover of education. (RELATED: Dems’ Latest Platform Is A Huge Win For Teachers Unions)

For most of his presidency, Barack Obama’s administration has taken a pro-reform stance, but Clinton has given several indications that her administration will be different. Notably, Clinton has sharply criticized charter schools on the campaign trail, pleasing teachers who view them as an effort to destroy traditional public schools. In return, teachers have enthusiastically backed Clinton. The American Federation of Teachers stunned political observers by endorsing her all the way back in July 2015, while the National Education Association followed in the fall.

Podesta’s brief email shows that reformers are worried about Clinton’s tilt, but more importantly, it suggests those fears are justified, because if Clinton was firmly pro-reform she likely would have had an easy time providing “reassurance.”

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