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SOTU 2012: Let's Not Make To Much Of This

image from www.chicagonow.com
What to make of the education elements of the President's speech last night?  Not that much, to be honest.  For all the media attention the event generates it's just a speech -- one given during an election year; a week, a month, a year from now, the real-world impact of Obama's remarks will be minimal.  (Obama can call for states to raise the mandatory attendance age to 18 but he doesn't have a magic wand to make it happen anytime soon.) In terms of political theater, however, the event was rich and textured.  One of the valiant Chester Upland teachers who's working without pay was sitting with the First Lady.  Classroom teachers, the President has not forgotten you.  (Also sitting with the First Lady was a recently-homeless Siemens Science contest winner and a rising TFA corps member from Colorado.)  The President asserted the oft-made [but misleading, I think] claim that the Race To The Top competition resulted in changes in nearly every state's education laws for very little money.  (The spreadsheet showing the state changes illustrates the minimal, preliminary nature of many of the states' legislative changes made in hopes of winning the federal funding.  NPR's Claudio Sanchez notes that even those who won the money are struggling to make good on their promises.)  The President called for an end to teacher-bashing, which seems like a decent and politically smart thing to do, at the same time he bragged about moving responsibility for education back to the states (via NCLB waivers), which I see as a politically smart move that's problematic at a substantive level.  (I'm not alone in worrying about the NCLB waiver process -- several civil rights, disability, and minority groups are opposed to the accountability rollbacks in state waiver plans.)  I'll stop there -- what did you think, or did you not bother?

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A correction: Chester-Upland teachers voted to work without pay but never actually did. Earlier this month a federal judge ordered PA to provide 2-week emergency funding and PA followed by agreeing to fund through the end of the year.

My own personal desire was that education funding had had more play in the SOTU since it's a central issue facing state legislatures around the country. A compelling voice on why education needs to be funded adequately is needed now more than ever.


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