Senate shock could affect schools
Like many of you, I was too wrapped up in the drama of what the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts might do to the health care bill to think about its possible impact on education. But a bit of reflection suggests that this could be an important part of a national reversal of federal spending and influence in other areas, including schools.
Of course I am too slow to come up with such an insight myself. I stole the idea from Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, who posted today his view that this might represent "a widespread backlash to big government."
I like big government for some things, not for others. I think the No Child Left Behind act's emphasis on raising achievment for low-income students has become tightly wired into American school culture, and will survive whatever happens next. It might be interesting to see if the states and school districts can produce better results with fresher ideas if the feds aren't in their faces all the time.
Here is what Petrilli said on Fordham's Flypaper blog:
"Before yesterday it seemed conceivable, even likely, that the federal role in education would continue to grow indefinitely. With states desperate for cash, the feds capable of borrowing it from China, and the apparent success of the Race to the Top in pushing a broad reform agenda, a new era of federal dominance in education seemed to be upon us. It appeared quite possible that within a few years the federal share of education spending could go up to 20 or even 30 percent, and lots of strings would come along with it.
"All of that might still happen; the states are going to remain broke for the foreseeable future, and the public isn’t keen on seeing class sizes rise or their favorite teachers laid off. But if Brown’s election represents a widespread backlash to big government, and in particular big, costly federal government, then this expanded federal role in education could be washed away along with universal health care. This anti-big-government revolt also makes it all the trickier for the national standards effort to thread the needle politically.
"Here’s my prediction: the Obama Administration will go out of its way, with its ESEA reauthorization proposal, to show that it is returning significant authority to states and local districts, to get out front of this wave. (Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.)"
We are apparently going to see many new governors elected this year. In my experience, they generally set the pace for school improvement in the country, at least on the policy level. They are never going to affect what happens in our schools as much as our most creative teachers, but it will be interesting to see if the big shift Petrilli suggests occurs.
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| January 20, 2010; 3:01 PM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: Brown victory and education, Mike Petrilli, Scott Brown victory, backlash against federal intervention in schools
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