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Posted at 2:26 PM ET, 07/ 2/2010

Favorite quote of the week (by Obey)

By Valerie Strauss

"I didn’t come here to be Arne Duncan’s congressman. Who do people think put the money into these programs in the first place? I did ... Welcome to Washington and welcome to hard choices.”

That’s what House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey said about U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a House Rules Committee meeting where legislators were discussing a measure that Obey sponsored -- and attached to a war-funding measure -- that includes $10 billion in aid to state governments to prevent the layoffs of thousands of teachers.

The House passed the legislation. But the White House has threatened to veto it because Obey proposes to fund some of that money by taking away millions of dollars from President Obama’s main education initiatives, including $500 million from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top.

Race to the Top is a competition in which states apply for federal money by agreeing to carry through specific school reforms that Duncan likes.

The competition has a lot of critics, who argue that the championed reforms -- for example, increasing the number of charter schools and linking teacher pay to standardized test scores -- have no basis in research. And researchers have said that the 500-point system created to decide the “best” state proposals for education reform is based on false precision.

The Obey-sponsored measure also includes $5 billion for Pell grants for needy college students. The $10 billion is intended to save more than 100,000 education jobs at a time when state and local governments are facing major budget challenges, my colleague Nick Anderson reported in this story.

That a Democratic lawmaker has chosen to pick a fight with a Democratic president and Education Department about this raises a lot of interesting issues. Is this the first real challenge by Congress to Duncan's education policies?

Tell me what you think is going on.


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By Valerie Strauss  | July 2, 2010; 2:26 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, Race to the Top  | Tags:  cuts to race to the top, david obey, education jobs at risk, edujobs bill, house passes war bill, house rules committee, obey duncan, race to the top, race to the top and duncan, saving education jobs  
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One least one democrat is standing up to Arne Duncan's unproven reforms.

Would you go to a dentist who was using experimental methods that other dentists said were not successful? Yet democrats are supporting education "reforms" that education experts say won't improve education.

Posted by: aby1 | July 2, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

sounds like someone got to Obey. Good

Posted by: efavorite | July 2, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps David Obey has been pondering the writings of Thomas Jefferson. He probably also smells the rat of tyranny in Duncan's coat pocket.

"Race to the Top is a competition in which states apply for federal money by agreeing to carry through specific school reforms that Duncan likes." A more precise interpretation: "Race to the Top" is akin to an extortion plot by Duncan and Company by which taxpayer funds have been extracted from the American citizens, repackaged at great expense, and then offered back to some of the citizens whose state officials cast reason aside by shamelessly embracing unfounded education reform and are reduced to formally begging Duncan and Company for the return of some of the same taxpayer funds for education, the needs of which are being heavily expoilted by Duncan and Company so that some annointed psuedoeducrats, testing titans, etc. profit madly while the citizens have their collective analytical skills go down the drain, save those who have access to wonderful private education.

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 2, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Duncan is equal parts crony and hack, having no real proven success in education administration. Its a mystery to me why Obama picked him, maybe its yet another subconscious intention to follow more of Bush's poor policies into the ground.

Best of luck to Obey & fighting the good fight.

Posted by: goldengraham | July 2, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

This was all covered in yesterday's story:
Obama's education program faces $500M cut despite veto threat

I do not like Race To The Top, but this is not about the merits or demerits of Race To The Top.

The member of Congress is simply trying to pass a bill for needed spending and it would be easier if some of the money that has been allocated and not used was part of this bill. The old see it only will cost you 9.99 instead of 15.99.

November comes after September and there are a lot of schools that will have to deal with school cuts unless Congress acts. Here in New Jersey the notices of the cuts have been sent out about who has lost their job. The cuts have been significant.

What is news is the threat of a veto. Usually Presidents do not threat a veto of a bill proposed by a member of their party.

Democrats in Congress can not get the needed passage of bills because of Republicans and now the new idea that they may have to face a veto from the President of their own party.

Apparently this President has no rapport with the members of his party in Congress.

Everyday I really question whether a Democrat or a Republican won the Presidential election in 2008.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 2, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Obey is from Wisconsin. Wisconsin like many other states in the US have been hit hard by the recession and the financial crisis.(Investing in supposedly highly rated bonds that turned out to be crooked)

I don't think it is about Race to the Top. I think this is about laying off so many teachers that many classrooms have 40 students or more. (third world style)

Posted by: celestun100 | July 2, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

It's true that Obama's star is rapidly fading as he has turned out to be not so hopey-changey after all. Many on the left who worked hard and anted up to elect him are, not to put too fine a point on it, disgusted. The threat to veto the bill with the Obey amendment was the last straw for me. So maybe congresspeople are reading the handwriting on the wall.

But I don't think politics really plays a role here. More like economic reality. The legislators who supported RttT as part of ARRA probably thought the economy would be ticking up by now, but it's not. So shifting some money out of Duncan's "moonshot" to keep teachers in the classroom is just a common sense response. And Duncan still has a huge pot of playmoney to fund his cracked schemes! He's been yakking all along about setting a high bar, so with a little less money, he shouldn't gripe about having to set the bar a tad higher. It's not like the first round of applications were studded with pearls of wisdom.

Posted by: dz159 | July 2, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Obey's integrity should also be a reminder of why we need checks and balances, Arne Duncan is no Rhee or Klein, but he was a superintendent of a big city school system. A superintendent in Chicago (or D.C., NYC, or Detroit, or whatever) would have to be a saint to not occassionally want his opponents emasculated. In Chicago, how often did his staff report to him what they were doing imperfectly, as opposed to blaming the usual suspects? Then he surrounds himself at DOE with "reformers" who believe that disruptive innovation will conquer if we just have a hurricane to wipe away the "status quo."

"To a man with a hammer ..." And to a man with a multi-billion dollar toolbox of hammers and no checks and balances ...

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 3, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Congressman Obey apparently does not wish to be credited with assisting the Obama Administration's race to the bottom. Letting go thousands of teachers, or even threatening to do so, paralyses planning in our schools, which are k-12. A thirteen-year system requires a lot more thinking than the Department of Education or Congress has ever shown it can do.

Posted by: sailhardy | July 3, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

It's about time someone has the balls to stand up to this flawed policy. Too bad Obama refused to listen to Diane Ravitch and others who are pushing back. If Obama vetoes it, perhaps those that still don't believe that our President's Blueprint is out to abolish public education and teachers unions might start waking up and fight back, too.

Posted by: Care1 | July 3, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting the impression that Dems in congress are beginning to distance themselves from Obama and a very unqualified Arne Duncan.

Linda Darling Hammond would have been a much wiser and appropriate choice for Education Secretary than born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Duncan. Either Obama gets rid of Arne or I'm voting against the both of them in 2012.

Posted by: lacy4 | July 3, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

As a long-time teacher educator and researcher, I have been studying education for 3 decades and NCLB since it happened.

Because our leaders don't realize that test-driven, factory schooling IS the problem, they keep doubling down on a bad bet. I teach motivation, child development, curriculum, assessment, and teaching methods, and in every area, NCLB and RttT do roughly the opposite of what works best in the long run. We need leaders with a deep systems understanding of education--who understand why turning education into test prep creates learning, motivation, and behavioral problems. We need leaders who understand that there is a misguided notion of science (and a lot of politics) behind so-called "scientifically-based" teaching methods. It's no surprise it doesn't work.

We need education leaders who understand why Finland avoids teaching to the test, why China is moving away from test-driven schooling, why chasing test scores hurts the U.S., and why children learn better when they learn just to learn than when they learn for a test. We need education leaders who know education well enough so they understand why decades of research show merit pay doesn't work in complex professions like teaching--not leaders who have no idea that extrinsic rewards and competition backfire in all sorts of destructive ways.

I know the CEOs and politicians mean well, but they have absolutely no idea how education works.

So, it's time for everyone to stand up and oppose these destructive and wasteful policies.

Posted by: kwheatley | July 7, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's see...

1. The current Great Recession is due to excessive leverage via derivatives and the associated greedy self-interest of market fundamentalism. Hey, how 'bout a liar loan?. [Artifacts of economic theory]

2. Duncan promotes RTTT as a form of leverage: RTTT as derivative. [Competition for scarce resources--another econ artifact.]

3. Duncan fashions a "race-to-the-top" which stabs educators multiple times.

i. The first jab is the caustic repositioning of our economic "race to the bottom" as education faire. The "race-to-the-top" honestly needs to be redirected to economic theory and business schools, it's origin.

ii. Duncan uses public education as sacrificial lamb, shielding the errors of capitalism gone bad.

iii. RTTT also cuts into educators by pretending to weed-out the "free-riders" of economic theory through failed notions of value-added. Chief economist of the Dept. of Labor, Jesse Rothstein, reported this failure last year.

4. As Frank, Uchitelle, and Greenhouse illustrate, private sector management strategies result in downsizing, outsourcing, early retirement, and offshoring: employment reduction.

5. Duncan's reductions require professionals to deprofessionalize and humans to dehumanize. He encourages the perversity related to greedy self-interest. Such direction puts children at risk of harm.

6. Duncan reminds me of James Watt--nature or nurture?

Posted by: mrcbrlw | July 7, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

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