May 26, 2010

"By structuring Race to the Top in the guise of a competition, Obama cleverly gets states on board with his formulas for school reform they would have otherwise resisted."

"Even if a state doesn't get a dollar of federal funding, the competition is making it easier to start new charter schools, subject teachers to private sector-style performance management, and force districts to fix their schools. It also forces states to begin addressing the single biggest threat to their fiscal solvency: the $600 billion in unfunded teachers' pensions and retirement obligations. Best of all, these steps cannot be easily overturned (unless the state wants to lose future federal funding). It also means that Obama isn't accused of imposing unfunded mandates on state and local governments even if, in essence, that's exactly what he is doing."

25 comments:

Scott M said...

While not omniscient, I don't remember the President ever coming out for school choice. I certainly don't remember him coming out in defense of the voucher program in DC itself.

Balfegor said...

They write:

Obama deserves credit for taking a full step toward improving public education. But one step won't get you very far.

But the way they tell it, that sounds like a pretty big step, particularly given that it's coming from a far-left Democrat. Even if this is true:

At the same time, Obama is also weakening Race to the Top with his funding selections. In March, for example, the administration chose Delaware and Tennessee -- which weakened their proposals to gain consensus among teachers' unions -- over states such as Florida, which is now the leading state in school reform thanks to the willingness of its politicians to tussle with NEA and AFT locals.

It's still a huge step to have the left wing of the Democratic party backing real reform, even if it gets watered down a little to appease the unions. Good for Obama.

Balfegor said...

While not omniscient, I don't remember the President ever coming out for school choice. I certainly don't remember him coming out in defense of the voucher program in DC itself.

No, he and his administration screwed over the children on that one. But during the campaign, I recall thinking he was remarkably open to the possibility of education reform, so he must have said something in favour of teacher accountability or school choice or something like that. That early promise, like pretty much every other promise he made in his campaign (both good and bad), looked like it fell by the wayside once he had power, especially after the high-profile thing with the DC students, but if the article is right, he may have been pushing reform sort of under the table.

Beth said...

When he ran, Obama supported charter schools and merit pay. I remember that because at the time I was pleased to see him disturb some traditional positions of the teachers unions. I'm usually pro-union but I've become less so after watching the teachers union here in NOLA be more and more obstructionist to any reforms. I support charters rather than vouchers for private school, and I think that's more and more common among liberal voters.

Scott M said...

@Beth and Balfegor

Ah, that is true and cleans out the cobwebs a bit. However, he was also against Hillary's individual mandate and we see how that worked out. Kind of like closing Gitmo...kind of like transparency in legislation...kind of like...(insert verifiable bullshit promise here)

Trooper York said...

You can't win with the teachers unions. It's like the transport workers union where they take a year off if someone spits on them.

They need to blow it up and replace them all.

Trooper York said...

Hopefully with robots.

former law student said...

Using prize money to stimulate innovation in education and other fields was recommended in a paper published by the Brookings Institution

www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200612kalil.pdf

Joe said...

This whole thing is still obscene. Taking dollars from a state only to give it back is silly and wasteful. Taking dollars from states with good fiscal discipline and who have their school budgets in order and giving them to fucked up states is criminal.

edutcher said...

I'll give the man credit. Anything that takes power away from the teachers' unions is a good thing.

That said, it's difficult, however, to believe that he would double-cross people who did so much to put him where he is. Especially since the teachers' unions are calling for a bailout.

TMink said...

Beth, would you please expand on your support of charter schools over vouchers?

Thanks.

Trey

PatCA said...

I have to say this sounds like an improvement over the present situation. The best solution tho to school problems would be for the feds to stop taxing and spending for schools at all, and to leave schools to local administration.

MadisonMan said...

Joe, I agree. I don't know anyone who thinks the US Dept of Education is useful. Maybe that's along the lines of I don't know anyone who voted for Nixon, but I don't think so.

Dept of Education is a slush fund. Take money from states, pay poltical appointees to do nada, and then send reduced amounts back to states.

Daniel said...

I just want to say (very much not sarcastically) that it's nice to see some of you who usually oppose Obama vocally support him when he does something you think is good. There wasn't much of that on the left during the Bush Administration, and there isn't much on the right now.

Also, the only (young) people who still like teachers unions are private school teachers, who work all day and night and dream of having a little more of a life and a little more money teaching at a public school. And even they know that the unions stand in the way of reform. It's crazy.

Daniel said...

Joe, on your "taking money from states" thing, we are one country here. And don't forget (not that I know your political affiliation or where you live) that the general transfer of money in this country is from blue states to red.

Penny said...

Two thumbs up to Obama for tackling this issue, particularly since teachers' unions and their members support Democrats with their votes and their money.

wild chicken said...

Teacher, smeacher. It's all about the achievement gap, and good luck with that. Some problems are just intractable.

Penny said...

The impressive thing about this program is that it will force schools and unions to work together in order to qualify for the money. Unions really have no interest in making these changes, but they will be “at the table” nonetheless, and totally blamable for not making enough progress to meet the requirements for cash from the federal government. As states get increasingly strapped for money, the loss of this money will get more and more visibility, and the unions will be seen as the culprit. It’s at that point where we can expect taxpayers to rise up in protest, since they will be paying higher taxes to make up for the loss. Bottom up pressure focused on the teachers’ unions will play itself out in the voting booth. We might even expect some Democratic candidates to speak out against the unions. If that happens, it’s safe to say we have moved the discussion further right.

Penny said...

"Some problems are just intractable."

Before reading this excellent article in the NYT's Magazine, it would have been easy to agree, but there is much going on out there that says we are at least heading in the right direction, and making faster progress as a result of Obama's Race to the Top program.

"The Teachers' Unions Last Stand"

Calypso Facto said...

@ Daniel: "And don't forget...that the general transfer of money in this country is from states where lots of people live to Washington DC for buying influence to states where the federal government owns lots of land."

Fixed.

TMink said...

The education problem is a parent problem firt. But then, uneducated people who are government dependent do not see the value of a real education. So their kids grow up to be uneducated people who are government dependent. They do not see the value of a real education, so etc. etc. etc.

Trey

Beth said...

Trey, I want tax dollars to support public schools, not private ones. Charters allow public school parents choices for where to send their kids, and more input on school policy and structure. Vouchers for private schools take that money and turn it over to schools that aren't accountable to the public.

Luke Lea said...

How about a race to the middle?

miller said...

I'd rather see public money used in private school that can educate at half the cost than to be used at charter schools that are under the thumb of the government, but heck, I'd take charter schools over public schools in a New York minute.

Public schools are a failure, and they've proven this consistently and spectacularly over the last 50 years.

"Is - Are Children Learning?" Maybe, but what they are learning is doing nothing to prepare them for a world which is based upon global supply and demand.

former law student said...

Trey, I want tax dollars to support public schools, not private ones... Vouchers for private schools take that money and turn it over to schools that aren't accountable to the public.

Why fetishize the educational delivery system? The goal is to educate the kids, not perpetuate a bureaucracy. Every place I've lived, teachers are hired fresh out of school and retire 30 (or more) years later. (If you survive the first five years, you can coast the rest of your working life.) Public schools are hardly accountable to the public -- when was the last time they changed their way of operating based on public input?

Further, private schools can be accountable to the public just like any other supplier to government. Where I live, every few years the city puts up the garbage collection contract for bids. They pick the best ones based on performance, price, past experience, etc.