Obama II: What He's Going To Focus On (Vs. What He Should)
Inauguration is fast approaching, and so folks are starting to get around to thinking about what Team Obama should and will do on education during a second term (as well as how to get Inauguration tickets and whether it's worth flying in). There's no shortage of ideas in addition to hot-button topics like school safety and immigration:
One contingent of folks think that the focus should be on promoting universal preschool, which is one of the most noncontroversial ideas out there (for now at least). I have no real objection to that priority, though I'd also love to see something on universal full-day kindergarten, which is surprisingly unusual and has the added convenience of being part of the K-12 system. Preschools aren't fully linked to the K12 system in most districts, and are funded through HHS and USDE in Washington. Seriously: universal full-day Kindergarten, NOW.
Another contingent -- among them Michelle Rhee -- think that the big push should be to refocus NCLB and its funding streams on innovation and effectiveness rather than accountability and student demographics, which are its current guiding lights. Think a one-time infusion of $3.4 billion brought on a lot of changes nationally? Imagine what $15-20 billion PER YEAR could do. Or at least so the thinking goes. (Personally I think they should just sign schools schools into a Hunger Games-like video game and fund them according to how many points/kills they rack up.)
The best idea, really -- mine -- is for Team Obama to focus some serious attention and funding on mixed-income, mixed ability schools and neighborhoods. Name Petrilli and Kahlenberg and -- I don't know -- Linda Darling-Hammond to co-head a Transitional/Diversity/Gentrification Initiative, provide some funding and support for communities going through gentrification so that the new and old communities don't tear each other apart, and do something that folks outside the ghetto (education and real-world) will care about. Incentivize charters to serve mixed-income, mixed-ability groups of students while you're at it.