DFER’s National President Shavar Jeffries recently sat down with CNBC to discuss the intersection of politics and education in the 2016 race:
Education reform ‘good politics, good policy,’ School choice advocate says
Javier E. David, CNBC
Education reform, a traditionally contentious policy issues in America, is one that has gotten short shrift in the current race for the White House.
A 2016 campaign largely defined by economic anxiety, immigration and fears of terrorism has devoted little illumination to the state of public education, which by many indications could use the attention. Just this week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress issued a dismal report that showed most U.S. high school seniors aren’t prepared for college or a career.
This lamentable state of affairs is one that animates the schools choice movement, and charter school advocates such as Shavar Jeffries. The Newark native, Columbia-trained civil rights lawyer and a self-described progressive is one of a small and rare cadre of Democrats tilting against party orthodoxy by pushing to develop charter schools. These are free public schools that are run independently, set their own performance goals and methods, but do so without union-organized teachers and administrators.
In a recent interview with CNBC, Jeffries expressed frustration over the “muted” political conversation about deteriorating primary and secondary education quality. He argued increasing school choice was crucial to solving the seemingly intractable income gap problem, particularly among black and Latino students trapped in failing public schools.
“It’s not just a winning policy issue, it’s a winning political issue,” said Jeffries, who lost a campaign for mayor of Newark in 2014 and who now heads the charter advocacy organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), an advocacy group that lobbies other Democrats for educational reform.