Friday, October 5, 2012

Presidential Debates and Education

In a nutshell: both presidential contenders want more sticks and fewer carrots. Both want more testing and less thinking for students, more privatization,  and more work and weaker unions for teachers.

Obama wants more Race to the Top (RttT), which he has mischaracterized as a grassroots initiative since states write their own grants, with their own reform proposals. However, the Obama administration has made it abundantly clear that states will not receive a penny unless they adopt the Common Core Standards (CCS), continue using high stakes exams for students and make their scores on these exams a major part of teacher evaluations, and significantly increase charter schools.

Considering that virtually every state has had budget deficits over the past three to four years, while cities have seen continuing depressed housing markets and lower property tax revenues, school districts and state departments of education are all desperate for any handouts they can get. Under these circumstances, RttT is really a stick in carrot’s clothing. The federal government has flatly refused to bail the states out of their fiscal crises while, at the same time, exacerbating them by reducing its own contributions to many programs the states and feds had previously funded jointly. A second Obama presidency is unlikely to change any of this.

Obama claimed that his “reforms” have already resulted in academic gains. However, there is no way to prove that his “reforms” had anything to do with the slight increases in test scores seen in some states. Many were already showing improvements in test scores before he took office. Most are still seeing high numbers of schools failing to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress targets under NCLB. According to the Los Angeles Times, Diane Ravitch said that Obama’s RttT has “thus far improved nothing.”

So how would a Romney presidency differ from an Obama one on education?

For teachers and students there would be little change, except probably even less revenue to keep the schools from sinking further. Romney wants to “simplify” the structure of the Department of Education, which likely means shrinking it, as well as its budget. While the feds contribute only a modicum of support for schools, even this would likely dwindle under Romney.

Romney has also criticized Obama’s stimulus plan, but not because it was too little or too weak, which it was. In fact, Obama’s stimulus plan did provide one-time only money to states that helped reduce the number of teachers that had to be laid off. Yet even with the stimulus, California still had to lay off thousands of teachers and many of those it could keep had to be jettisoned once the stimulus funding ran out.

What Romney didn’t like was that some of the token amount of income tax he actually paid to the feds was spent to pay those selfish, lazy teachers to educate the impoverished inner city rabble instead of subsidizing his business investments. Under a Romney presidency, there is virtually no chance of another stimulus, and certainly not one that would fund teacher salaries.

No comments:

Post a Comment