Biden Swiftly Disappoints Educators and Students

Months before he became president, many pointed out that harmful neoliberal policies would continue unabated in K-12 education under a Joe Biden administration. Indeed, there is a long record of both democrats and republicans supporting harmful education policies like high-stakes standardized testing, charter schools, performance-based pay schemes, NCLB, ESSA, and more.

But U.S. presidential elections always have a way of successfully enforcing amnesia and intensifying false hope in the context of a discredited political set-up that has long failed to affirm the interests of people. To be fair though, there has emerged in recent years a level of social consciousness that did in fact enable more people than usual to take a more measured conscious approach toward presidential candidates and political realities. More people are increasingly adopting a “we’ll believe it when we see it” attitude because they have come to learn, often the hard way, that politicians are usually unaccountable, break promises regularly, rarely respond to endless begging by the polity, and typically don’t do “the right thing.” It is hard to ignore cumulative experience.

It is no accident that Biden, who has previously claimed he is opposed to high-stakes standardized tests, chose a major promoter of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing like the neoliberal Ian Rosenblum to make the recent antisocial announcement that punitive high-stakes standardized tests produced by large for-profit corporations would continue in the U.S. and that no reasonable waiver requests from states would be honored.

Rosenblum is acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, a former education assistant to Cuomo (who is currently being investigated for nursing home deaths and for bullying legislators), and also closely allied with John King, a staunch promoter of segregated charter schools. King was also former Commissioner of Education in New York State and former U.S. Secretary of Education. Such individuals have consistently enacted policies and arrangements that violate public education and the public interest. They are widely-disliked by many. Interestingly, while he probably would have gone along with this retrogressive decision, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, was left out of the loop regarding the move to impose high-stakes standardized testing on students and teachers who have been traumatized by the “COVID Pandemic” for an entire year.

It is more imperative than ever to reject the aims, outlook, and agenda of the rich and their political representatives. Progress can be made when people develop their own aims and agendas and rely on their own strength to independently organize themselves and others to open the path of progress to society. Each day brings new fresh depressing evidence of how exclusionary and marginalizing existing outdated governance arrangements are and how being reduced to begging politicians in a humiliating way to do the most basic simple things is simply not working or dignified. “Representative democracy” has not stopped problems from going from bad to worse. A new independent way is needed, free of the influence of the rich and their representatives at many levels of government.

One strategy that has experienced some success in recent years is the test opt-out movement. This is when large numbers of students refuse to take government-mandated corporate tests. This has experienced considerable success in many states in recent years and compelled governments to change course. Those living in New York State can exercise their right to refuse to allow their children to participate in the grades 3-8 state assessments by completing and submitting a Test Opt Out letter, available in English and Spanish, at: NYS Allies for Public Education.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.