TIME Hillary Clinton

How Liberals Hope to Nudge Hillary Clinton to the Left

Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.

Liberals have two recurring nightmares about the 2016 elections.

In the first, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected a Republican who has spent the past year and a half promising to dismantle Obamacare, undo the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air regulations and cut corporate taxes.

In the second, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected Hillary Clinton, who has spent the past year and a half promising them absolutely nothing and courting independents and moderates.

The second scenario is obviously preferable to most liberals, but it’s still worrying. They’d much prefer to elect a Hillary Clinton who has made specific, concrete campaign pledges to them — especially since political science research shows that, contrary to popular belief, politicians tend to keep their promises.

But without a competitive Democratic primary, how can liberals push Clinton in their direction? For now, there’s no clear roadmap, but liberal activists have five general ideas.

1. Pray that Elizabeth Warren runs.

Liberal outfits such as Progressive Democrats of America and Democracy.com have launched small-scale grassroots campaigns urging Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ready for Bernie) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (Draft O’Malley) to join the race. But the big money is on Massachusetts Senator and liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren. MoveOn.org gave $1 million to launch “Run Warren Run,” and Howard Dean’s old shop, Democracy for America, dumped an additional $250,000 into the effort. The Boston Globe ran a special package last week declaring that “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren” in 2016.

While Sanders and O’Malley seem likely to follow through with a run, neither has the clout at this point to mount a serious challenge. Both are polling in the double digits behind Clinton. That makes drafting Warren, despite the fact that she has said repeatedly that she is not running, priority No. 1. “We want to get Elizabeth Warren into the race. She is someone progressives innately trust,” said Neil Sroka of Democrats for America. When he was pressed for a contingency plan, he said, “We’re extremely focused on trying to get her in, building the infrastructure she would need to run, and extending the amount of time she has to change her mind.” Wesley Clark, another one-time progressive fave, didn’t enter the 2004 race until September 2003, Sroka added, hopefully. (Of course, he didn’t win.)

2. If that fails, keep Warren’s ideas in the news.

If Warren isn’t going to be a candidate, liberals hope she can at least be a player behind the scenes. That way, they might indirectly influence Clinton as she seeks a full-throated endorsement from Warren. To that end, liberals are doing everything possible to ensure that the public conversation—in newspapers’ op-ed pages, and at every political forum, debate, and town hall meeting—centers on Warren’s brand of economic populism. “We view an election as a multi-billion dollar conversation with voters,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The more that conversation is about progressive issues, the better.”

Making that happen will involve enlisting progressive leaders both in the all-important early caucus and primary states and nationally. On Tuesday, the PCCC launched a new campaign, Ready for Boldness, along with a signed letter from 200 leaders from Iowa and New Hampshire designed to urge presidential candidates to “campaign on big, bold, economic populist ideas.” Signers included Iowa’s longtime Sen. Tom Harkin, union presidents and state legislators. “We want to show [Clinton] that it she embraces big bold progressive ideas, she won’t be alone,” Green said.

3) Stay on message.

Creating a united front around a handful of broadly popular progressive policies will be as important as ensuring that the message isn’t diluted by squabbles over fault line issues, like free trade and education reform, progressive leaders say. The PCCC’s letter Tuesday, for example, centered on helping students graduate college debt-free, expanding Social Security benefits, reforming Wall Street, enacting campaign finance reform, creating clean-energy jobs and boosting worker pay.

“There’s a real attempt by the beginning of next year to establish a clear platform that gets embraced by everyone,” said Robert Borosage, executive director of the Campaign for America’s Future, which will host a big-tent progressive conference, Populism 2015, at the end of April along with National People’s Action, USAction and Alliance for a Just Society.

“The idea is to avoid the populist bait and switch where they campaign like a populist but govern center-right,” said Maya Rockeymoore, the president and CEO of the progressive Global Policy Solutions. Progressives have to get candidates to make public commitments to enact specific agenda items, she added. “It’s not enough to say all the right things.”

4) Use Congress as a sounding board.

The PCCC and other organizations have been working with progressives in the House and Senate to propose bills on solid liberal issues, like expanding social security, reining in Wall Street financial firms and creating clean energy jobs. But timing is everything. While such bills aren’t likely to pass the Republican-dominated Congress any time soon, they can still make their way into nightly news broadcasts and shape the national conversation that way. “We’re organizing in Congress to propose bills that could become presidential issues” on the campaign trail, Green said.

5) Play the long game.

National People’s Action Campaign, among others, plan to focus on recruiting and supporting progressive candidates in municipal, county and state-level elections. The idea is not only to put progressive policies in place on the local level, but also to help shape the national political landscape from the bottom up, explained George Goehl of the National People’s Action Campaign.

“If you could get thousands of people down ballot running on a similar platform and create a bottom-up swell—that would be something that both parties would have to react to,” he said. Such a groundswell could shape the Democratic Party in the same way that the Tea Party has shaped the Republican Party. “They could help energize people across the board and create a clear line in the sand: Are you a progressive populist in this moment in time, or are you not?” he added.

While Goehl said he also supports the other prongs of the progressives’ national plan—”Getting Elizabeth Warren into the race would be great,” he said—he advised his fellow populists to hedge their bets.

“Hail Mary’s happen,” he said. “But only every so often. There has to be a plan.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

Round 1: Hillary Clinton vs. Liberal Ideas

Hillary Clinton Holds Press Conference Over Email Controversy
Yana Paskova—Getty Images Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media after keynoting a Women's Empowerment Event at the United Nations on March 10, 2015 in New York City.

Hillary Clinton does not face a serious primary challenger for the Democratic nomination in 2016, but that isn’t stopping some liberals from putting together the trappings for one.

The handful of Democrats who have expressed interest in challenging Clinton — Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — are all polling double digits behind her and raising minimal funds. None have the kind of name recognition that could seriously threaten her inevitable march to the nomination.

But that’s not stopping some on the left from trying their hand at the classic primary squeeze play of raising issues in the primary in an effort to persuade her to adopt them.

Over the weekend, during his first foray into the early caucus state of Iowa, O’Malley called for tougher sanctions on Wall Street and “too-big-to-fail” banks, and for reinstating Glass-Steagall, a law that separated commercial and investment banking which was repealed in 1999. He also called for strongly supporting the long-embattled Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010 response to the financial crisis.

“Today, most Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on disassembling the Dodd-Frank Act,” O’Malley’s PAC, O’Say Can You See, wrote in a press release Monday, along with a link to a petition. “And too many Democrats have been complicit in the backslide toward less regulation.”

O’Malley’s populist swing came the same weekend that the Boston Globe featured a splashy package begging Massachusetts Senator and liberal hero Elizabeth Warren to run for president. “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren’s Voice in the 2016 presidential race,” the editorial board urged. (The idea is not totally out of left field, as it were. Though Warren has said repeatedly that she is not running for president, she has been somewhat cagey about it. She studiously uses the present tense — “I am not running for president” — and has yet to endorse a Clinton candidacy.)

This week, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee also re-upped its ongoing effort to motivate liberals to challenge Clinton’s famously Wall Street-friendly economic positions. Liberals should join New Hampshire and Iowa leaders in urging candidates to “campaign on big, bold, economic populist ideas,” the PCCC urged. “The more momentum we get, the more Hillary Clinton and others will take notice.”

So what’s all this clamoring, calling-to-arms actually add up to?

Liberal optimists argue that it’s the only thing that will help scooch Clinton to the left at a time when she’s already planning her general election strategy. They believe that Clinton will adopt some of their positions in order to win the full-throated endorsement of key liberals such as Warren who she’ll need to rally the base in 2016.

Liberal pessimisists say it’s all for naught. Without a face to put on these ideas — or even a name on a ballot — the left won’t have enough clout to persuade Clinton to change course. Even if she doesn’t adopt any of their ideas, Clinton could still rally the liberal base in the general election because she’d be the first female president, by adopting other liberal planks or by running against the right Republican.

TIME 2016 Election

Scott Walker: Bold in Office, Meek on the Trail

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Delivers Keynote At The American Action Forum
Bloomberg/Getty Images Scott Walker governor of Wisconsin speaks during a panel discussion at the American Action Forum in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 30, 2015.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made headlines this week after his aide, Liz Mair, resigned on Wednesday and publicly apologized for tweeting some off-the-cuff comments about the early caucus state of Iowa.

You can agree or disagree with what Mair had to say—conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg called them “Disgusting and repulsive. Also, pretty much accurate”—but the real dust-up here has nothing to do with Mair at all.

The real issue is the disconnect between who Walker says he is—“bold,” “courageous,” and “unintimidated”—and the rather meek way he handled this mini-scandal and his campaign more generally.

If Walker is indeed bold and courageous, willing to “take on the unions,” stand up to 100,000 protesters, and endure death threats “to do what’s right,” as he argues in his speeches on the early campaign trail, pundits on both sides of the aisle are asking, why didn’t he stand up for his own staffer? Why is he being intimidated by the minor vagaries of an early presidential race?

“If Walker is the guy I hope he is,” writes Goldberg, a self-described Walker booster, “He won’t just have to take on his enemies, he’ll have to take on his friends, too … Isn’t that the point of the anti-establishment movement on the right?”

Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin explain it this way: Walker-the-governor is very, very different than Walker-the-candidate.

Walker-the-governor is bold. As governor, he has consistently pushed through far-reaching policies and then stood his ground in the face of all kinds of threats.

But Walker-the-candidate is nothing of the sort.

As a candidate, Walker has a history of being blandly genial and preternaturally vague. When he’s asked policy questions, he gives squishy, milquetoast answers, and seems willing to go to great lengths to avoid saying anything that could get him in trouble later:

Should the U.S. do more to combat ISIS? “That’s certainly something I will answer … in the future.”

Who should be Chairman of the Federal Reserve? “I’ll punt on that.”

Is President Obama a Christian? “I don’t know.”

Should the U.S. arm Ukrainian rebels? “I have an opinion on that … but I just don’t think you talk about foreign policy when you’re on foreign soil.”

What’s Walker’s position on the idea of evolution? “That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.”

Does Obama love America? “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.”

While Walker’s supporters argue that some of those questions were unfair—and some were, admittedly, downright trolling—his colleagues in Wisconsin say that Walker has a habit of describing his policy goals as broad, ideological soundbites that sound good to moderates and conservatives, but he doesn’t tell voters what he actually plans to do.

John Torinus, a Republican commentator in Wisconsin and a former supporter of Walker, lamented recently in a column entitled, “Do Wisconsin Campaigns Mean Anything Anymore?” that Walker’s was a “government by surprise.” Torinus described Walker’s “style of governance” as “throwing out broad-brush policy shifts without a lot of input beforehand.”

Jennifer Shilling, the Wisconsin senate minority leader told TIME that Walker operates in a series of “sneak attacks.” “There is this mentality that what is said doesn’t have consequences,” she said. “It’s, ‘Say whatever you need to say—we can do whatever we want once we’re in.’”

A few examples?

Right-to-work legislation. Since 2011, Walker has said on dozens of occassions that he did “not support” making Wisconsin a so-called right-to-work state. “I have no interest in pursuing right-to-work legislation in this state,” he said at the state Republican annual convention in 2012. “It’s not going to get to my desk … private sector unions have overwhelmingly come to the table to be my partner in economic development.” During the 2014 campaign, he those same lines, telling interviewers at TIME, the New York Times and in his debate with his Democratic opponent that he would “not support” right-to-work legislation.

But then, just a month into his second term, Walker announced that he would sign a right-to-work bill if the legislature passed it. On March 9, he made good on his offer. Making Wisconsin a right-to-work state “sends a powerful message across the country and across the world,” he said in celebration.

Abortion. Last October, when he was running for reelection–and the polls were tight in his famously blue state—Walker cut an ad in which he stared directly into the camera and promised to support a law that would leave “the final decision” about abortion “to a woman and her doctor.”

But then, four months later, Walker announced that he would sign a law banning abortions of any kind after 20 weeks.

Limiting collective bargaining. Walker’s signature law, Act 10, which passed in early 2011 and gutted collective bargaining for almost all public sector unions, catalyzed a massive, nationwide reaction on the left. At some point, 100,000 protesters convened on the Wisconsin statehouse for months on end. One reason for the outrage? No one—including Wisconsin state legislators—had any idea whatsoever that Walker had Act 10 up his sleeve. During his 2010 campaign, He never said he planned to go after collective bargaining. He never so much as hinted at it—not in his campaign material, not in his stump speeches, and not during the debates or in conservations with top allies in the state legislature.

But then, less than a month into his term, in February 2011, he, in his words, “dropped the bomb.”

Walker’s political campaign staff point out that he never lied. Walker never said he wouldn’t sign right-to-work, and he has always been a pro-life, fiscal conservative.

TIME technology

Why 2016 Republicans Oppose Net Neutrality

Republican voters overwhelmingly like net neutrality. The likely GOP candidates for president do not.

According to a raft of recent national polls, Republican voters approve of government action to ensure that Internet service providers treat all web content the same. A November 2014 University of Delaware survey, for example, found that 85% of Republicans (and 81% of Democrats) were opposed to allowing ISPs to charge web companies a fee to deliver their content to customers more quickly—an arrangement they call “Internet fast lanes.”

Yet five likely Republican presidential contenders have come out against net neutrality in no uncertain terms. Last fall, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz referred to the Federal Communications Commision’s proposed net neutrality rules as “Obamacare for the Internet,” while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has called them a “direct attack on the freedom of information.” Last weekend, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential race in 2016, said the FCC’s plan to ensure net neutrality was “one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

So what gives? There are basically three explanations, and which one you prefer depends a lot on how you view the messy business of politics.

1) It’s All About Obama. Some people think the reason is simply partisan polarization. President Obama championed net neutrality and nudged the FCC to take action, therefore Republican politicians are going to oppose it. That’s just politics, especially in a presidential campaign season.

This issue is particularly vulnerable to political grandstanding because it’s so confusing. Pollsters have found that Republican voters often say they don’t like “net neutrality,” but they say they like it when the issue is explained instead. According to one poll by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance and Vox Populi, 83% of “very conservative” voters thought the government should take action to ensure that cable companies aren’t allowed to “monopolize the Internet” by charging some companies more to access customers.

But taking that position as a presidential candidate means wasting a lot of time out on the hustings explaining the issue and opening yourself up to easy attacks from your rivals.

2) It’s All About Campaign Donations. Some people think the reason is all about the money. Cable and telecom companies, after all, oppose net neutrality and pour tens of millions of dollars every year on politicians’ campaign coffers, PACs and philanthropic projects and spend tens of millions more on lobbyists and letters and advertisements on the subject. To name one example, Comcast spent more on lobbying members of Congress in 2012 than any other company in the entire country, except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber.

But those contributions go pretty equally to Republicans and Democrats, and there’s a counterbalance from tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Netflix that are spending gobs of money, sometimes on the same politicians.

3) It’s the Means, Not the Ends. Some people think this is just about how the fight for net neutrality went down. The way the FCC’s new rules came out in the end was not most people’s first choice. Not Obama’s. Not Hillary Clinton’s. Not even Netflix CFO David Wells, whose company was instrumental in lobbying the FCC.

That’s because the FCC’s new rules give the federal government much more power over the broadband industry than it really needs to effectively ensure net neutrality. For example, under these rules, the government could theoretically regulate how much Comcast or Verizon can charge you for an Internet connection. The FCC has promised not to use those those powers, but the idea that it could gives many Republicans the willies.

Politics is often the art of finding the second-best solution. In this case, the FCC was forced into claiming the broader authority after industry lawsuits threw out earlier attempts to ensure net neutrality through less expansive powers. But that means it’s vulnerable to criticism from Republicans who think it overreached.

TIME Education

Teach for America Passes a Big Test

But the number of new teacher applications are down this year, for the second year in a row

New teachers who sign up with Teach for America (TFA) for two-year classroom stints in some of the nation’s highest-poverty schools are just as effective as other teachers in those same schools, and sometimes more so, a new study finds.

That’s good news for the national nonprofit, which has come under fire in recent years as battles over education reform have become increasingly contentious.

Critics accuse TFA, which is closely aligned with the charter-school movement, of devaluing the teaching profession by pushing its recruits — mostly young, bright-eyed college grads — into classrooms without adequate experience or training. The organization’s supporters, meanwhile, argue that these new recruits fill a vital role in some of the highest-poverty schools, which are often unable to find teachers at all.

The findings released Wednesday conclude that TFA’s first- and second-year elementary school teachers, who average just over a year and a half of teaching experience, were as effective as their counterparts in the same schools, who averaged 13.6 years of teaching experience, as measured by their students’ test scores in reading and math. A small subset of those TFA teachers — ones in pre-K through second-grade classrooms — were found to be slightly more effective in teaching reading than the national average in those grades.

The study, conducted by the research group Mathematica Policy Research, was required as part of a $50 million U.S. Department of Education grant that TFA received in 2010 to help it recruit and place more teachers in the neediest schools. It was designed to measure the quality of the new teachers recruited and trained between 2011 and 2013.

The study looked at 156 lower elementary school teachers — prekindergarten through fifth grade — from 36 schools across 10 states. TFA teachers were compared with non-TFA teachers at the same school, in the same grade level, who covered the same subjects. The study’s authors noted the results reflect similar findings in previous, large-scale random studies, published in 2004 and 2013.

TFA had planned to use the Department of Education grant to increase the size of its teaching team by more than 80% by September 2014, but fell short of that goal, according to the study. By the 2012–13 school year, it had increased its teaching pool by only 25%, from 8,217 to 10,251 teachers nationwide. The number of new applications are down this year, for the second year in a row.

TIME Education

Ghost of Common Core Haunts Conservative Gathering

CPAC Conservatives Republicans Chris Christie
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME New Jersey governor Chris Christie on stage at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

For the politicians speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington this week, it’s usually pretty easy to give the grassroots audience the red meat it craves. Abortion? Against it! Taxes? Lower them! Obama? Don’t like him!

But one hot-button issue was trickier than usual for some of the politicians, especially the governors who are likely to run for president in 2016: Common Core.

With one notable exception, the speakers at CPAC were against the state education standards, saying they hurt local control of education and took the power from parents and teachers.

On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal demanded the immediate repeal of Common Core. That same day, Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon-cum-presidential hopeful, slammed it for eliminating parental choice, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz questioned the conservative credentials of anyone who doesn’t actively attempt to dismantle the program. “If a candidate says they oppose Common Core, fantastic,” said Cruz. “[But] when have they stood up and fought against it?”

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took turns condemning Common Core for being poorly implemented and impinging on state control.

That was all well and good–anti-Common Core lines tend to earn hoots and applause from the grassroots—but whenever the questioning on Common Core probed ever so slightly deeper, everyone seemed to cringe.

That’s because, just three years ago, the majority of Republican politicians—including Govs. Walker, Jindal, Christie and Jeb Bush—not only supported the implementation of Common Core, they outright championed it. In early 2011, 40 states, including nearly all Republican-led ones, voluntarily signed on to the shared standards. In the next two years, five more followed suit.

In 2011, Walker included Common Core in his first state budget, explicitly instructing the state education chief to come up with a Common Core-aligned state test for Wisconsin kids.

In 2012, Jindal told a crowd of business leaders that Common Core “will raise expectations for every child.”

In 2013, Christie told a crowd of educators that he was sticking with Common Core regardless of the “knee-jerk reaction that is happening in Washington” among Republicans who will simply disagree with anything President Obama supports. “We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue,” he said boldly.

But as the politics around the issue have shifted, driven largely by a grassroots base of Tea Party conservatives, all of them have tip-toed backwards, either distancing themselves or outright condemning the standards.

All of them, that is, except Jeb Bush.

The former Florida governor has, in the past two years, earned the ire of the conservative base by not only refusing to condemn Common Core, but by continuing to support it. That’s awkward.

Some at CPAC responded to this rift by ignoring it entirely. In a panel about Common Core on Thursday—entitled “Common Core: Rotten To The Core?”—a group of vehemently anti-Common Core educators simply avoided saying Bush’s name. “Entire Common Core panel at CPAC happened without mentioning the words ‘Jeb’ and ‘Bush,'” tweeted Igor Bobic, a politics editor at the Huffington Post.

But others, including Laura Ingraham, who has made no secret of her dislike for the former Florida governor, came at Bush swinging. This morning, the conservative radio host told the crowd that there really wasn’t any difference between Bush and potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, citing the two politicians support for Common Core as among their similarities. “So I’m designing the bumper sticker,” she said. “It could be, Clush 2016: What difference does it make?”

TIME Education

White House Takes The Gloves Off in Education Fight

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with the Amir of Qatar - DC
Olivier Douliery—Pool/Corbis President Barack Obama looks on during a meeting with the Amir of Qatar, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 24, 2015.

After years of bipartisan language urging Congress to seize on “common goals” and “shared interests” to revise a dysfunctional federal education law, the Obama administration appears to be taking the gloves off.

In a conference call with the press this week, the Department of Education slammed the House Republicans’ proposed bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, which is scheduled for a House vote Friday.

The Department of Education called the bill regressive, “bad for children” and said it would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to education spending. It then stopped short—but just barely—of calling the House bill outright racist.

Those fightin’ words come on the heels of yet another pugnacious White House report, released Feb. 13, which described the House Republicans’ proposal as a vehicle for shifting federal dollars “from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts.”

Rep. John Kline, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has parried the administration’s attacks, arguing that the bill does not cut funding at all and that it simply changes the way federal dollars are allocated to low-income districts, which serve mostly black and Latino kids.

But Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told TIME that these issues are “very, very important” to the White House. “It’s very, very hard to reconcile the contents of this bill with the president’s long term goal of making sure every child is successful in school,” she said.

From the Obama Administration’s perspective, there are two primary issues at stake here. The first is how the new education law allocates federal dollars—known as Title I funding—to low-income school districts, which disproportionately serve black and Latino students.

Under the current version of ESEA, known as No Child Left Behind, Title I funding goes to districts with the highest percentages of low-income kids. The idea is that poor kids who attend schools full of mostly middle- and upper-middle-class kids are in a much better position—and therefore less in need of federal help—than poor kids who attend schools with lots of other poor kids. That analysis, a senior Department of Education official told TIME, is based on “decades of research” into how low-income students perform at different schools.

The House Republican proposal, which mirrors language in a recent draft of the Senate version of the bill, would fundamentally change that formula. Instead of funneling federal dollars to the schools with the highest percentages of low-income students, Title I funding would be allocated on a per-student basis. Kline has said that rejiggering that formula allows every low-income child who attends a public school to receive his or her “fair share” of federal assistance.

The Administration argues that would be a disaster. Allocating Title I funding on a per-student basis would lead to huge funding cuts in 100 of the largest school districts in the country, according to a White House report. Philadelphia City School District, which is 55% black, could lose $412 million, according to the DOE. Shelby County schools in Tennessee, which are 81% black, could lose $114 million.

Kline dismissed the White House’s claims, saying that they were “budget gimmicks” and “scare tactics” that entered “the realm of make-believe.”

The second issue at stake is the overall federal education budget. As it is, federal education spending is still at sequestration levels, roughly $800 million below where it was before. The House bill proposes to more or less leave that spending level in place, increasing it by only a smidgen—from $14 to 14.8 billion total—until 2021. It does not cut spending, staffers say, it simply retains a budget slightly higher than the current status quo.

A senior Department of Education official told TIME that while it’s technically true that the House bill does not cut spending, the point is that “it will feel like a cut,” especially in low-income school districts that, under the House bill, might see less Title I funding too. “The House bill cements sequestration level budget caps for an additional six years,” he said, and does not increase, even to keep up with inflation or rising enrollment. “The result is that by 2021, schools will have less money than they had before 2012.”

This week’s battle of words is mostly a dress rehearsal for a much larger fight over the final version of ESEA. Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander expects to bring a Senate version the floor next month, with a vote on a final bill this summer.

The House bill, which is up for a vote on Friday, won’t have an easy path to victory. In addition to scathing criticism from the Obama administration, it is also up against a growing coalition of opponents on the right. This week, conservative mainstays like the Heritage Action and the Club For Growth have been pushing Republican lawmakers to vote against the bill on the grounds that it allows too much federal control over education.

In an effort to quell this conservative mutiny, Republicans adopted an amendment to the bill Thursday night that would allow school districts and states to come up with their own assessment systems—a move that further alienates the Obama Administration.

President Obama announced this week that if the final rewrite of the federal education bill ends up looking like the House version, he will veto it.

Muñoz, who spoke to TIME over the phone on Tuesday, said that the White House will fight hard for a bill that reflects “the president’s idea of what education should be.”

“It’s our job, the federal government, Congress’ job, to make sure every student is successful,” she said, adding that the House Republicans’ bill does not do that. “It’s just manifestly true that when you reduce resource to a place like Detroit and increase resources to a place like Grosse Pointe, you’re undercutting our primary goal of ensuring that every child is successful,” she said.

TIME technology

The Other Reason Cable Companies Are Sad Today

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler arrives at FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington
Yuri Gripas—Reuters Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler arrives at a FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington on Feb. 26, 2015.

The Federal Communication Commission earned a lot of ink today for its historic vote approving the strongest possible new net neutrality rules, a move that the cable and telecom industry has described as disastrous.

But just before that much-publicized vote was another, quieter one—one that has to do with municipal broadband rules. With that vote, the FCC approved two Southern cities’ petition to extend their publicly funded Internet services to nearby areas. The cable and telecom industry isn’t so happy about that move, either.

Like the 3-2 vote on the new net neutrality rules, FCC’s decision on municipal broadband was strongly opposed by industry groups, which have spent millions lobbying for the opposite result, and ended up breaking down on party lines—with three Democrats in favor and two Republicans against.

At first glance, what’s a stake here is relatively minute. The FCC’s decision merely grants Chattanooga, Tennesee, and Wilson, North Carolina, permission to extend their publicly funded broadband service to regions outside their city limits, where private sector Internet service providers don’t provide high-speed coverage.

But advocates and critics say it’s actually much bigger than that.

Organizations in favor of the FCC’s vote say it sets a powerful precedent for other cities that want to offer publicly-funded broadband networks to their citizens, but can’t because of state laws banning local governments from building or owning broadband services.

“[A]llowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come,” wrote Christopher Mitchell, the Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in a press release.

Meanwhile, organizations opposed to the FCC’s vote say it’s an effort to unlawfully expand the agency’s authority, since it attempts to preempt state laws. Lawrence J. Spiwak, the president of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies, says it’s a pointless battle, since the issue has already been litigated at the Supreme Court.

A 2004 case, Nixon v. Missouri Municipal League, held that the FCC “lacks authority to preempt state laws that restrict or prohibit municipal broadband deployment,” Spiwak wrote.

Both of today’s big FCC decisions have been celebrated by public interest advocates and slammed by industry groups. But it’s not the end of line of either decision. Both the new net neutrality rules and the expansion of municipal broadband are expected to be challenged in court before the year is out.

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