If rank-and-file Democrats find out what the party's platform says on education, they might be upset.
The official Democratic Party platform calls for "honor[ing] all the professionals who work in public schools, [including] teachers," but a new poll suggests Democrats feel otherwise.
According to the annual Education Next poll to be published in full next week, Democrats say as many as 15 percent of teachers are "unsatisfactory." That's according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Paul Peterson, a senior editor at Education Next, and Martin West, Education Next's editor in chief. "The results demonstrate how out of touch the Democratic Party has become on education," Peterson and West write. "It doesn't seem like rank-and-file Democrats are ready to honor all teachers and simply trust them" [emphasis in original].
Rank-and-file Democrats also disagree with the party platform on standardized testing. Part of the platform reads, "We will end the test-and-punish version of accountability that does no more than reveal the many opportunity gaps facing students from low-income communities." But of the Democrats who took a position on testing in the Education Next poll, 80 percent said they support the federal requirement that "all students be tested in math and reading each year." Furthermore, 57 percent said they support basing part of teacher salaries "on how much their students learn."
Also on standardized tests, the platform says, "We support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school." But the Education Next poll says that 71 percent of Democrats opposed "letting parents decide whether to have their children take state math and reading tests."
Another gap exists on school discipline policies. The platform says the Democratic Party "will end the school-to-prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect African-Americans and Latinos." But West and Peterson note that 61 percent of Democrats oppose federal policies that "prevent schools from expelling and suspending black and Hispanic students at higher rates than other students." In theory, they might favor those policies at the state and local level.
Peterson and West suggest that teachers' unions might be responsible for some of the divide between the party's platform and rank-and-file Democrats. "Teachers unions have for years battled testing, accountability and merit pay. They push parental 'opt out' as a backdoor way to kill testing," Peterson and West write.
That could mean trouble, even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. "If the views of rank-and-file Democrats don't count, and party leaders care little about the political center, it's hard to see how Mrs. Clinton could turn victory into a governing majority."
Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.