• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • The Obama Education Revolution

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan

    During his otherwise ordinary remarks yesterday at the National Press Club, education secretary Arne Duncan said something quite extraordinary.

    It came as he was announcing the 19 finalists for the second round of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant competition:

    We arrived in Washington at a time when America was deeply divided over the proper federal role in educational policy.… We are a very long way from the classroom in Washington, and if we have learned one thing from [No Child Left Behind], it’s that one-size-fits-all remedies generally don’t work.

    That’s a remarkable statement coming from an administration now orchestrating one of the biggest federal overreaches into education policy in nearly half a century. Consider, too, that it’s coming from an administration whose solution to raising academic achievement is to establish the most imposing one-size-fits-all policy imaginable.

    The requirement that states move toward adopting national standards and tests by August 2 in order to qualify for a Race to the Top grant is a huge federal overreach into states’ educational-decision making authority. Standards-setting is the domain of states and local school districts. The administration’s push for national standards infringes on this long-held understanding of federalism.

    Strangely, Duncan argued that states are adopting national standards “without a federal dollar.” Yet Race to the Top, created out of the so-called “stimulus” bill, was certainly made up of federal dollars — $4.35 billion, in fact. Moreover, the Department of Education ’s “blueprint” to reauthorize No Child Left Behind suggests that the $14.5 billion Title I program, which provides federal funding to low-income school districts, could be tied to the adoption of national standards.

    Secretary Duncan also stated that Race to the Top has unleashed an “avalanche” of reform. Race to the Top has certainly motivated some states to make modest reforms to long-stagnant education systems. New York, in hopes of winning a grant, raised its cap on charter schools to double the number permitted to operate. Colorado reformed its tenure laws and now judges teacher effectiveness on more frequent evaluations based in part on student performance.

    The Obama administration may have started an avalanche, but in the end, the opportunity for meaningful education reform may get buried. RTTT has started a new slide of federal control into local schools, ignoring the guardrail of normal legislative procedure and using the Education Department’s gargantuan allocation of “stimulus” dollars to impose national standards on states. Already we have seen a clear indication that these standards won’t be immune to the demands of the teachers’ unions, who, because the administration requires union “buy-in” on states’ plans, have set the high-water mark for reform in Race to the Top.

    Duncan’s remarks yesterday were centered on the notion that the Obama administration is leading a “quiet revolution” in education. But the requirement for states to garner union support to be eligible for a Race to the Top grant has blunted the potential for meaningful reform. The move toward national education standards and tests will certainly do more to empower bureaucrats in Washington than parents. Sadly, that’s anything but revolutionary.

    Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to The Obama Education Revolution

    1. Pingback: The Obama Education Revolution | The Foundry: Conservative Policy … : PlanetTalk.net - Learn the truth , no more lies

    2. Billie says:

      I am very interested to know why looking up the gpa of my child's school, gave listings of all children categorized by skin color, culture, and ethnicity? Certainly telling me there is a big education gap! Asians at the top and Mexicans, well, barely graduate. My point is if there was equal education why aren't children listed as CHILDREN in public schools and not by specification? Singling children out like this only leads to potential resentment. This is America. No tax dollars should be funded to single out by race, creed or culture, of a living soul in any area of America's government. That's the peoples freedom at their expense, to do. NOT THE GOVERNMENT'S JOB TO DO!

    3. Billie says:

      I am very interested to know why looking up the GPA of my child's school, gave listings of all children categorized by skin color, culture, and ethnicity? Certainly telling me there is a big education gap! Asians at the top and Mexicans, well, barely graduate. My point is if there was equal education why aren't children listed as CHILDREN in public schools and not by specification? Singling children out like this only leads to potential resentment. This is America. No tax dollars should be funded to single out by race, creed or culture, of a living soul in any area of America's government. That's the peoples freedom at their expense, to do. NOT THE GOVERNMENT'S JOB TO DO! THE GOVERNMENT IS TO SEE US EQUAL AND LEAVE US ALONE!

    4. Pingback: The Obama Education Revolution | The Foundry: Conservative Policy … « President Barack Obama

    5. Zach says:

      Billie-

      ESEA (NCLB) requires that school data be broken down into the various subgroups you described so that the disparities between them are evident and can be addressed. Many believe that a government's responsibility is in fact to recognize that the population they serve is diverse and has different needs.

      As far as the rest of the article goes, the national standards were a product of a state-led effort. While they have been supported by the federal government through Race to the Top and have been advocated by the administration's reauthorization blueprint, they are not mandated, only incentivized. To call it "federal intrusion" would be hyperbolic, as well as insulting to the states and organizations who were part of the hard work that went into creating those standards.

      While the emphasis on testing is not great, as was mentioned, at least some reform is springing up. NCLB had the same emphasis on testing; at least now we're at least getting some reform. When Congress finally gets around to reauthorization, there is a good chance that whatever testing that is included will be different than what districts have come to know.

      And while I understand the animosity towards unions, who can be haven for poor and ineffective teachers, to ignore them when it comes to education reform would be short-sighted. Educators must be part of the reform process, for the obvious reason that classroom practices fall on their shoulders. Teacher "buy-in" is essential to reform, and the unions are the only place where we're going to get that on a large scale.

    6. Billie says:

      Thank you for a thorough explanation, Zach. It isn't right in this country. In order for equality to exist, and we are treated equally, we have to be seen equally. In order to be seen equally. the government can't rule, recognize or legislate according to race, creed or culture. This discrimination is a direct violation of the constitution, again.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×