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President Barack Obama walks in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn, Aug. 3, 2012.
One big set of question marks for President Barack Obama's second term centers around education. There's not even one single area that remains a question; there are unsettled policy and funding issues at every level, from preschool through college.

Education funding is the major fight Obama needs to pick, and which would be a political winner for him. Sequestration would bring major education funding cuts, some of which would go into effect immediately, but:

"Even Republicans understand that cutting education spending is not something that is popular with voters," said Michael Petrilli, a former Education Department official and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
That doesn't mean Republicans won't fight for some cuts, or to block increased education spending ("we can't afford to invest in our nation's future" is a surprisingly popular refrain among congressional Republicans), but this is a place where Obama is on the right side from the standpoint of both policy and politics, and he should fight here.

Pre-kindergarten and higher education are two other areas of potential strength for Obama. If it's hard to argue for education cuts, it's especially hard to vote to cut the smallest children. And higher education? Those are young voters you're talking about. If Republicans want to have a shot at winning over young voters, raising college loan interest rates is not the way to go.

When it comes to K-12 education, Obama ends up on weaker political ground. The fact is, many of his preferred K-12 policies, like promoting charter schools and standardized testing (all his rhetoric about not wanting teachers to teach to the test notwithstanding), are slightly moderated versions of longtime Republican policies. Republicans will fight him because that's what they do, and many of his allies will fight him, too, because they're opposed to the policies.

Obama can do a lot of good by expanding pre-K education, working on college costs, and fighting for education funding at every level. If he gets drawn into a fight about making teacher evaluations contingent on how students score on tests not designed to evaluate teachers or about charter schools, he's going to find himself fighting Republicans to implement from the federal level the policies they've been pushing at the state and local level for years, while alienating many of his allies. Here's hoping he sticks to the good fight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Obama's bipartisan education plan=Jeb Bush's plan (6+ / 0-)

    Please, someone explain this:

    Arne Duncan & John Podesta are keynote speakers at Jeb Bush's 401c4 conference next week:
    http://dianeravitch.net/...

    And this:
    http://www.salon.com/...

    And this:
    http://www.salon.com/...

    And this:
    http://jonathanpelto.com/...

    Is there any need to include Rahm's naked attempts to destroy the Chicago teacher's union with the help of the DLC & DFER?

    Fake Democrats take progressive votes for granted as they work in tandem with the right wing to privatize public schools. Edu-reform is a trojan horse for exterminating public education. Obama doesn't appear to be interested in changing course but, instead is doubling down on this path of destruction.

  •  now that he's won, he can signal a progressive (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Mostel26

    move away from the center by emphasizing those platform elements that are not corporatist or at least have the imprimatur of the Party such as tacking toward infrastructure/technology and faculty development vis. community colleges which cuts many of the for-profit schools off at the knees

    Obama can do a lot of good by expanding pre-K education, working on college costs, and fighting for education funding at every level. If he gets drawn into a fight about making teacher evaluations contingent on how students score on tests not designed to evaluate teachers or about charter schools, he's going to find himself fighting Republicans to implement from the federal level the policies they've been pushing at the state and local level for years, while alienating many of his allies. Here's hoping he sticks to the good fight.

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:06:50 AM PST

  •  He needs to dump Arne Duncan (9+ / 0-)

    who is radioactive among educators, and he needs to go back to the data in his Race To The Top initiative... which is not supported by any data.

    Duncan believes in using "value-added" testing to evaluate teachers. No education researcher that I'm aware of finds this data to be stable or reliable at the teacher level. Further, this fervor has led to such abominations as states attempting to do standardized testing on kindergarteners for the sole purpose of evaluating their teachers in this faulty way. (The stories would be hilarious if they weren't tragically affecting the kids.)

    If one really believes in value-add, it has more rigor the larger the sample size. If you add up the test scores in all American schools over the last 4 years, has Arne Duncan added value?

    There is much that can be done at the federal level - for example, lost in the press for charter schools and testing was Duncan's interest in making schools into community centers, available long hours to kids and parents alike. We could fully fund special education at the federal level. We can ensure that all schools have the infrastructure needed to implement the computer-assisted testing that is supposed to start in 2014. All of these are consistent with Obama's stated goals.

    The Obama administration admits that the NCLB regulations are burdensome and unnecessary... and yet will only give waivers to states that will agree to a different set of burdensome and unnecessary conditions, conditions not supported by any research. This is stupid.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:54:47 AM PST

    •  One of their conditions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, llywrch, aliasalias

      is the immediate deployment of the Common Core, standards that were developed for nationwide use but that have not been fully implemented or tested in any state.

      Now, if you're Mississippi, it's rational to suggest that the state standards are part of their problem, and that changing them would benefit kids more than it will disrupt them.

      In California, our standards (especially in science and math) are actually rated as more rigorous than the Common Core. And, changing standards necessarily is going to be disruptive to students and student learning, as material that used to be taught in 5th grade is now expected of 4th graders and material that used to be taught in 5th is now taught in 6th and teachers and students have to spend time remediating to bring the kids back to where the new standards want them.

      Even if the Common Core turns out to be All That and a Bag of Chips, the transition is going to take time and resources from school systems that already have shorter days and fewer resources due to state budget constraints. For California's kids, there's no advantage to rushing a transition.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 09:03:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I dont know why we even have a DOE... (0+ / 0-)

    As an advocate for children with disabilities, I can tell you neither Duncan or any of his predecessors care about the needs of these children.   Not once have they ever responded to a letter or an email I have sent in 10 years.

    Frankly, I'm not sure what the purpose of the Dept of Ed. is other than being a huge bumbling bureaucracy.  Time after time, paper pushing employees of the DOE tell me there is nothing they can do when states like NY violate federal education laws.  If true, why do they exist?

    OCR is a joke , at least in NYS.  You know its bad when you are on a conference call with them regarding a family who is being harassed by their school district for advocating for their children and I have to email the OCR lawyers the regulations after the call because they didn't know them.

    If this is how they deal with the children who have the most needs, how can we expect them to get it right for "regular" ed kids?

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