Democrats Have Grown a Backbone – Why Aren’t They Using It?

democrats-spot-a-backboneby Joe Beebe (President) 

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BU College Democrats at large.

There is an old political joke that used to frequently get thrown around: “I don’t belong to an organized political party, I’m a Democratic.” For much of the last 50 years, the Democratic Party of the United States became associated with an ability to lose against all odds. Even our own Commonwealth did not escape this curse: just take a look at the Presidential elections of Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry, or the Senate campaign of Martha Coakley. Our entire nation moved farther and farther right in this period. Even the successful administration of Bill Clinton predicated itself on the concepts of “New Democrats” and “Third Way” policies, steering away from the legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. In fact, Clinton’s tenure partially ushered in an era of deregulation that helped lead to the 2008 Fiscal Crisis. Admittedly, the crisis is complicated and multifaceted, but I am willing to bet that President Clinton repealing Roosevelt’s Glass-Steagall Act did not help.

However, in the last few years, something seems to be changing within the Democratic party. Moxie. Chutzpah. A backbone. You can feel it in the air. Take the Government Shutdown for instance. Not only did the Democrats refuse to cave to the GOP’s threats, but they stayed united, they stayed organized, and they accomplished their goals. Surprise: it worked. The media chalked up the crisis as a complete victory for the Democrats, and the DCCC’s fundraising has skyrocketed. The buck stopped at Senator Harry Reid, and it worked. Democrats are showing some long-overdue spine.

So why aren’t they doing anything with it? Our progress has been incremental at best. The Affordable Care Act is a landmark piece of legislation, and an incredible achievement. But what about immigration? Education? Income inequality? Where are the liberals standing up to Drone strikes?  Student loans, gun control, unemployment. We hear all about it during the campaigns. Say what you want about the shutdown and the Tea Party, but they sure as hell know how to keep a campaign promise.

How about just in Massachusetts: why is the campaign to raise minimum wage just happening now? The minimum wage in MA has fallen 25% since 1968. That’s with a Democratic legislature-not exactly the Bay State liberals’ finest hour.

Democrats have their backbone, now they need to use it. There’s too much at stake not to.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Governor Deval Patrick, during the 2012 Democratic National Convention:

“If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.”

Advertisements

Opposition and Support for Charter Schools

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BU College Democrats at large. 

Support by Alex Blankman (First-Year Rep)

Let me begin with a few staggering statistics: According to the National Assessment of Education Progress Reading Test, 67% of all American fourth graders scored “below proficient” in reading and the United States ranked 25th in math performance out of 30 countries. The institutions that are producing these results are not fairing any better than our students. 1 in every 10 public schools is considered a dropout factory, which means that 60% of its students do not graduate in four years.

There is little doubt that our public school system is broken. It is one of the greatest crises faces our country today. This lack of quality education is impeding the US from competing globally and it facilitates the cycle of poverty in America. The US educational system is in need of a radical change, not minor adjustments. This kind of extreme transformation has been difficult to achieve in our existing school system because of a puzzling bureaucracy.

In response to the inaction of the government to improve education, educational experts devised an alternate solution. They created the first charter school, which receive less public funding than the average public school and in turn has more flexibility. Since the first charter school was created in 1991, there is an immense amount of data supporting the success of these new kinds of schools.

To begin, the groups governing the charter schools have realized that children, especially those in low-income areas, need more time in the classroom. Therefore, they elongated the school day and school year. As a result, charter school students receive on average an extra 79 days of class time. This has led to higher academic performance on proficiency tests. For example, Harlem Success Academy, a New York City Charter School, boats that none of its students are below national standards in math or reading and almost 50% of its class are performing higher than grade level.

Another advantage of a charter school is its understanding that no two students are the same. It is difficult to force a child into a preset system that does not allow for an inch of flexibility. Therefore, a charter school can provide a much more personal environment. The motto of a charter school is that even if a child is born into difficult circumstances, he is still capable of being successful in school. He just needs to right help and tools to realize his potential. It is for this reason that if a young student is consistently late for school, a teacher from a charter school may provide wake-up calls each morning to ensure the student’s attendance. The flexibility of charter schools provides a much more individualized experience.

The greatest aspect of the charter school system is that is provides low-income families with a choice in regard to their child’s education. Selecting one’s education was normally a concept that was reserved for the elite. The wealthy are able to either pay for a private school education or move to a neighborhood with a strong school distract. Unfortunately, this is not an option for many families in America. Charter schools give parents a way to avoid sending their child into a locally zoned school that has proven to be a failure. Instead they can select the highest quality education and what will be best for their child.

Continuing our charter school system does not mean that we should neglect improving our public school. The US government should keep striving to offer an equal education for all. However, this will not be a quick or easy process. So, it crucial to maintain the charter school system to help thousands of students who would otherwise receive the worst education America has to offer.

schoolchoice

Opposition by Greg Phipps (Communications Director)

Charter schools: moving toward European-style segregation? For me, America’s socialized public education system has always been a source of national pride. In the Land of Inequality, it’s the one institution we have that is truly equal, that facilitates opportunity and gives students a chance at realizing the American Dream. . We reject the European model, which relegates underachievers to vocational school and thus bars them from post-secondary education. Indeed, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that makes high school graduation a priority for all of our students and, in doing so, gives every graduate the chance to go to college and further his or her educational development.

The rise of charter schools fundamentally threatens this model. Charter schools attract the highest-performing students, recruit the best teachers, and dominate the political sphere. Remaining public schools are thus cast to the back burner, with lower-quality students and teachers and fewer resources to work with. Supporters of charter schools point to their higher educational outcomes when compared to traditional public education. I would call this a chicken-or-egg problem: schools with higher-quality students and teachers will necessarily outperform schools with lower-quality students and teachers. The diminished quality of public schools resulting from this fact dampens their reputation, driving good students who aren’t offered admission to charter schools toward private education. This creates a cycle of negative feedbacks that further deteriorate traditional public education.

In Boston, charter schools have the potential to exacerbate pre-existing educational disparities. Boston

has more than twenty public high schools, and Bostonians complete an application process to attend their desired school. This system creates inequality between the various high schools. Some Boston high schools, like Boston Latin, are very good; while others, like English High School, are very bad. This means that, within the district, underperforming students are only offered admission to underperforming schools, creating a cycle of underachievement. Add charter schools to the mix, and this cycle is likely to get even worse, as failing schools see a reduction in funding and teacher quality.

These two cycles – of negative feedbacks and  underachievement – dramatically undermine the egalitarian principles of American public education. They create a system that is inherently unequal and more closely resembles the European model. High-performing students, segregated into well-funded charter schools with high-quality teachers, certainly benefit from improved prospects at attending a prestigious four-year university. Yet low-performing students are segregated into the remaining public schools, deemed “failing” due to their poor test scores and underachieving teachers.  What happens to these students? Can we reasonably say that they have an equal shot of attending a four-year university? That they will have equal access to opportunity and social mobility? The answer is no.

While charter schools are all the rage, I see them as detrimental. Call me idealistic, but I think every public school should have equal levels of funding and a comparable quality of teachers and students. Charter schools are the antithesis to this ideal.

Reject segregation. Reject charter schools.

A Peak into the Government Shutdown

By Camila Camborda (First Year Representative)

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BU College Democrats at large.

enhanced-buzz-25400-1380636798-10

photo credit: New York Daily Newspaper

Failing to reach a budget agreement by midnight, the United States Government is officially in a partial shut-down. Following an uncertain weekend, the House once again passed a continuing resolution postponing the Affordable Care Act for a year, which the Senate promptly rejected when it reconvened. Late last night the Senate then passed a Continuing Resolution back to the house, minus the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions at which point it appeared that a conference would take place between Representatives and Senators. The conference did not take place however. It was rejected by Senate Majority Leader Reid who said that a conference would not be held when a “gun was held to their head.”

That was yesterday. Today the nation awoke to the reality of a shutdown, which ramifications we are just beginning to understand. While President Obama signed a last-minute bill last night guaranteeing military pay, federal employees considered “non-essential” will face furloughs. National Parks and Monuments will close, the CDC will no longer continue research and the NIH will no longer accept new patients. As college students we face reductions and cancellations of federal funds that grant us work-study jobs.

Both parties are responding to the shut-down as expected, blaming each other for the crisis. Democrats continue to insist on a clean budget that will continue government operations before negotiating possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, which rolled out today as planned, continuing resolution or not. On the other side of the aisle, ideas have floated about a piece meal approach, passing bills to fund individual services, such as Park Services and Veterans Affairs, in an effort to once again defund the ACA.

An interesting reaction from the right is being portrayed. Fox News, a leading right-wing network has chosen to call the shut-down a “slim-down”, implying a positive change to an overly large government. Some right-wing blogs have also pointed to the fact that services such as the TSA and USPS will continue to run, and that what we are facing is “not so bad”. In my opinion these are moves to protect Republicans in congress who will face backlash from constituents, many of whom are employed by the government, and seek to pin the blame on Democrats.

As we continue through this shutdown I think it is important to understand the severity of the situation. Even though essential services that keep the government running bare-bones will still be funded, there are still many Americans who will feel the impact of this. Whether you agree with the ACA or not, shutting down government operations should not be taken so lightly.