In Partnership with The 74

Why a rocky first night at the DNC means they’ll play it safe — and avoid education arguments — for the rest of the week

Guest contributor | July 26, 2016



#EDlection2016By Kaitlin Pennington
Yesterday, my Bellwether Education Partners colleague Andy Rotherham wrote on this blog that “as long as the Democrats don’t burn the place down, it’s going to be hard for them to have a worse convention than the GOP just did.”

Well, it came close.

The Democratic National Convention delegates didn’t seem to get the memo on the theme for the night: “United Together.” Amid tensions over leaked emails showing that the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, steered the party in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders during the primaries, Sanders supporters started the night booing at the mention of Clinton’s name.

It all came to an awkward, unexpected head when former Sanders supporter comedian Sarah Silverman called the “Bernie or Bust” attendees “ridiculous” from the stage.

It was smoother sailing from there. Sen. Cory Booker seemed to soothe the crowd with a speech framed on Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” (See our smart piece from last night on Booker’s rich education record). Michelle Obama gave a moving speech echoing a Clinton advertisement about the power of the next president to be a role model for children. It got slightly rocky again at the beginning of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s speech when delegates chanted “We Trusted You!” at Warren, but by the end of her speech, the crowd was nearly silent, seemingly supportive of her message to elect Clinton.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

And when Sanders took the stage endorsing Clinton and the Democratic platform, delegates rallied in support of his message.

Given how the first night of the convention went, policy topics for the next three days are likely to stay on noncontroversial issues that all Democrats can support. Sadly, that means K-12 education is out (not that it was ever in).

Clinton has campaigned on K-12 policy platitudes, and her running-mate choice of Tim Kaine, who also steers clear on the nitty gritty of K-12 policy, put a nail in the coffin of that policy conversation.

The little that was mentioned about K-12 education last night came from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who worked in a favorite talking point of hers around over-testing in our nation’s schools.

If anything is clear from the first night of the convention, it’s that the party needs to continue to work on unity. Therefore, for the remainder of the DNC, education reformers can expect speakers to stick to policy areas that Democrats agree on, including early childhood education access and college affordability.

Now is apparently not the time to rock the boat.


This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

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