November 15 2012

What’s Ahead for Federal Education Policy?

Vicki E. Alger

 

With the election dust settling, commentators are taking stock of what it means for education reform.

Andrew Rotherham, writing in his Time School of Thought column, says the presidential election “sidestepped” education reform as an issue. Meanwhile, state ballot results were about as clear mud. Charter schools were expanded in Georgia and allowed for the first time in Washington State; however, unions successfully blocked paycheck protection and a variety of teacher quality reforms. This is an interesting development since U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with his boss’ blessing, has supported charter schools and teacher reforms. (Some observers wonder whether the president will abandon those issues—along with his education secretary—during his second term.)

Rotherham thinks the three issues to watch are: Common Core national standards for students, tougher quality standards for teachers, charter schools, initiatives like Maryland’s Dream Act granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, and—of course—education spending.

A general consensus is that Obama was re-elected largely with the support of the unions, including teachers unions who publicly disagreed with his administration’s education policies. But his signature Rave to the Top program is largely now Race to the Waiver. Meanwhile, all those “stimulus” funds for more teaching jobs is long gone. So the president’s policy message on the campaign trail is that he’ll work on adding more teachers to the ranks—a great boon for teachers unions, especially if the president scuttles an emphasis on common-sense teacher quality practices.

That all sounds great for some adults, but there’s a conspicuous silence about how students would benefit. Then again, children can’t vote—but their parents can. And that’s why they should be empowered over where their children go to school and not Washington pols.

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