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Nine Million Bucks To Block NCLB

"The National Education Association (NEA), the largest US teachers' union, succeeded in blocking reauthorization of President George W Bush's 2001 "No Child Left Behind" law governing the running and judging of schools nationwide...The NEA spent $9.2 million, a 464% increase [from 2006 to 2007]." (news story here).

McCain's Memorable High School Teacher

Here's a McCain ad that's spinning around on the Internets.  It focuses on John McCain's high school teacher: 

Democratic Candidates Catch Up To Dean On NCLB

This Washington Post column from last weekend credits Howard Dean for influencing both the campaign tactics and the positions of the Democratic candidates -- including on NCLB:

"The legislation's merits are still hotly debated, but its politics are not: Experts say the law has flopped with parents, teachers, students and most others involved with education, who often describe its testing regime as unworkable," according to the piece (The Dems, Now Dancing to His Tune).  "In 2003, Dean was among the first Democrats to start hammering No Child Left Behind for its testing system, but that criticism is everywhere now. Clinton lambastes it almost daily on the campaign trail; her husband, himself back on the stump, has called attacking No Child Left Behind the easiest way for a politician to get applause."

I'm not sure I'd credit Dean alone for helping the candidates figure this out, but it's useful to remember that, five years ago, few if any Dems -- including Clinton and Obama -- were bashing NCLB. 

School District Shows Preference To Obama, Some Say

"Just two weeks ago, South Bend Schools denied Sen. Hillary Clinton's request to use the school's gym for her campaign stop," according to this Indiana news story (School board members defend decision to deny Clinton, allow Obama).  "Less than two weeks after telling the Clinton campaign "no," the South Bend Community School Corporation is preparing to welcome her opponent to Washington High School."

Classroom-Based Obama Fundraising Video

In case you're curious, I think that this is the Obama video that violated school rules in New York City when it was used as part of a campaign contributions pitch:

As you'll see, the content of the video isn't at issue, just the appropriateness of using scenes taped from inside a city school for campaign purposes:

Obama Runs Afoul of School Regs with Short Fundraiser Film Gothamist
Obama video breaks City school rules NY Daily News

How A "Poverty" Czar Could Help School Reform

Senator Clinton is reportedly going to call  for the creation of a new, cabinet-level position to focus on poverty (Clinton to call for 'poverty czar'). 

It's unlikely to ever happen and would be no simple task logistically (remember Homeland Security).  But, logistics and likelihood aside, there's some potential merit to the idea.  Organizationally, lots of Ag and HHS and HUD programs could be better coordinated if they were under one roof.  And, it would give folks who are more focused on ending poverty and racial segregation something to do other than constantly reminding school reformers that education can't do it all alone.  (Which it can't -- we know that -- but still.)

Previous posts:  PovRacers Vs. SchoolRefs, PovRacers Vs. SchoolRefs Revisited

Slate Update: Responses So Far

  There have been lots ofinteresting responses to my article on Obama -- not all of them complimentary, you won't be surprised to hear:

2006_11_scantron Over at TAPPED, the American Prospect blog, Dana Goldstein notes that whatever he did or didn't do long ago, Obama is already standing up to teachers unions on charters during this campaign (Obama On Local Control).

Political Animal's Kevin Drum notes:  "This is only a tidbit, not an indictment....But it's still an interesting tidbit." (Leadership, plus 49 comments so far).

Over at Slate's reader response section, called The Fray, there are 27 responses, most of them eviscerating my argument or dismissing the piece for being unlikely to make a difference in the political race (here).   Plus some making fun of everyone else's Obama-mania. 

Linking the Chicago incident to a more recent on on immigration, EdWeek's Michele McNeil says that "This might be a pattern with Obama" in her post, Is Obama a Wimp on Education?

Last but not least, there are about a dozen responses from education folks in Chicago, many of them focused on whether Obama has ever "stood up" to the black community, whatever that means:  here.

Obama Channels Bill Cosby In Harrisburg, PA

The sound's not great and the camera-work is a little shaky, but here's a clip from a recent town hall that includes a question from a career teacher to Obama about engaging students in getting an education:

Obama first talks about changing educators' attitudes towards kids being able to learn, the importance of parent and family literacy programs that starts even before preschool, parental responsibility, etc.  Check it out if it's been a while since you've seen or heard him talk about schools.  Absolutely nothing about NCLB, you might be surprised to learn. 

"Pretty Soon All You'll Need To Graduate Is A Pencil"

People keep sending me that Tom Chapin video about standardized testing, which is OK, but this video -- a new bit from George Carlin -- is angrier (and funnier, I think) -- making fun of empty political slogans, educators who dumb down tests to make their schools look better, and the money moguls who run politics and the press.  Watch out, though, he's pretty intense and I think there might be some swear words in there: "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

George Carlin: education and the owners of America

Controversial Obama Fundraiser Tied To Teacher Pension Fund

28il515 EdWeek's Mark Walsh has the education angle on the Rezko corruption trial in Illinois.  Rezko, an Obama supporter whose full role has only recently come to light, is on trial for, among other things, conspiring with someone on the Illinois teacher retirement pension board to direct contracts to friends.  Pictured is one of the pension board members who has already pleaded guilty.

Obama's Real Education Funding Priorities

Want to know what education programs Obama really cares about?  Check out his education earmark requests -- priorities that he gives to Senate leaders hoping they'll get funded.  You usually never see these things, but Obama released his today under pressure from Clinton and McCain and the press. 

There's a $1M request for the Urban Teaching and Leadership Center at UIC. Two point five mil for ISU's Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline Programs and Partnerships Program.  Another two mil for the Reading Initiative. (What, no love for math and science?)  Some money for Christo Rey.  Nothing for AUSL -- but this is from FY06 so maybe there's something more recent. 

Click below.  Via Lynn Sweet.   Continue Reading Obama Education Funding Requests »

Cross-posted from the D299 blog.

Nobama Left Behind

"Neither Obama nor Clinton has injected education into the race in a deeper way than occasionally criticizing No Child Left Behind and promising to overhaul it. Supporting new ideas in white papers doesn't necessarily equal a commitment to pushing them through Congress."

Link: TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect.

Where's The Press On Obama's "These Kids" Anecdote?

The press is having a field day looking into Hillary Clinton's "red phone" 3 am ad -- first finding out that the little girl (now teenager) who is pictured in the ad is an Obama supporter, and now pointing out that some of Clinton's "experience" wasn't all that substantive (“Red Phone Moments” In Bosnia). 

This makes me wonder whether anyone's bothered to investigate Obama claims -- in particular the speech he gives about going to Dodge Elementary School in Chicago and hearing from a teacher that some teachers talk about the mostly-minority, mostly-poor students as "these kids."

Has anyone found the teacher and talked to her?  Did this really happen the way Obama tells it?  Does she feel comfortable being an Obama show pony?

Kindergarten Cop For EdSec?

The LA Times posts about how that Governor Arnold might be a good cabinet member for a McCain administration (Can Arnold aid McCain?):  "John Mercurio at the National Journal mused recently on what John McCain might gain by making an early play for Arnold Schwarzenegger as a member of his Cabinet. In a word, California....Imagine the "Terminator" as secretary of Homeland Security. Or the "Kindergarten Cop" in charge of Education."  Seems doubtful, but I thought I'd pass it on.

Spitzer En Route To EDINO8 Event When Called For "Special" Company

2324564734_777081e56fWas Spitzer en route to an EDINO8 event when he called for "special" company that eventually got him in such hot water?  No, not at all.  He did appear at a recent EDINO8 event in New York, however.  Check it out. 

Obama Envoy Visits Reformistan To Reassure On Change Agenda

Barackeducation I read Josh Pasternak Patashnik's new article about Barack Obama's school reform credentials ( Reform School) with mixed feelings, not just because I'm working on my own Obama piece about his work in Chicago on education but also because I'm not sure Patashnik's analysis is altogether compelling. 

In essence, we're being told that Obama is reform-minded underneath it all and stands a strong chance to implement a reformist education agenda ("the best hope for real reform in decades").  About the first, there's no argument.  About the second -- whether Obama will be able to make change -- I'm not so sure.  No, check that.  I'm pretty doubtful.

Read on for a couple more grafs on this.

CORRECTION:  Sorry to have gotten Josh's name wrong -- twice. 

Continue reading "Obama Envoy Visits Reformistan To Reassure On Change Agenda" »

Hillary: The "ChangeMaker"

Mentos_box_w_cherryFormer president Bill Clinton described his wife as the "changemaker" in a weekend campaign appearance (Bill Clinton calls wife “changemaker”).  Just what would she change?  Well, NCLB for starters. "The idea behind No Child Left Behind is good, but the system doesn t work.  Hillary wants to  have the federal government pay more of the cost in recruiting and training teachers. Hillary says let s find 20  schools  in America where they re achieving standards now; let s figure out what they re doing right and pay to put that in every school in America.”

Whitney Tilson Wishes This Happened To Linda Darling-Hammond

One of Barack Obama's top advisors resigned this week for having called Hillary Clinton a "monster" in a conversation with a reporter.  But it wasn't education advisor Linda Darling-Hammond.  Better luck next time, LDH-hating Whitney Tilson.

OR:  Obama Advisor Forced To Resign For Calling Ed Schools "Monstrously" Good

Waffling On Vouchers Costs Obama Ohio

Obama_3 Did Obama's back and forth about vouchers cost him the Buckeye State?  There's absolutely no real evidence of that.  But that won't stop me from making it up.  Otherwise there's really no big education angle at all to Clinton's big comeback in Texas and Ohio last night.  And that would be sad. 

Made-up scenario:  Obama initially refuses to close the door on vouchers, but then makes a last minute attempt to paint himself as a big opponent as opposed to a curious critic.  Ohio teachers and other labor folks smell something fishy and stick with or switch back to Clinton (thanks in large part to unreported "push" polling on the part of the NEA), keeping the state in her hands. 

Need more?  For recent details on the Obama voucher thing in Ohio that aren't made up, go here: Obama's "Outspoken" Opposition to Vouchers (Campaign K12). 

Obama Ducks NCLB Questions, Channels Bill Cosby

MSBC's First Read reports that Obama has been ducking NCLB or education related questions in favor of bashing Clinton on NAFTA (Inside the Clinton camp).  Yet another indication of just how low education is on the political totem pole.  Or maybe he's just resisting the urge to blurt out how much he loves vouchers.  (Joke!)

Meanwhile in Texas, Obama went all Bill Cosby on his audience, says Joanne Jacobs (Parents, do your job). “Turn off the TV set. Put the video game away. Buy a little desk. Or put that child at the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework. If they don’t know how to do it, give ‘em help. If you don’t know how to do it, call the teacher.”

Questions For Obama

There are some tough if predictable questions for Barack Obama in the National Review Online today (Barack Obama), including "Please provide specific examples of your leadership, either in the Senate or Illinois legislature, on the following issues: The War on Terror, taxes, immigration, health care, energy, and education." and "What specifically would you change [on education and other issues], beyond shifting nomenclature and tinkering around the edges?"  I guess you could ask the same of Hillary, too. 

Bloomberg Slams Candidates On Accountability

Having announced he won't run for president, NYC Mayor Bloomberg still has some things to say, including this:  "Watching the 2008 presidential campaign, you sometimes get the feeling that the candidates — smart, all of them — must know better....They must know that we can’t fix our schools without holding teachers, principals and parents accountable for results." (I’m Not Running for President).

"No Bold Solutions" On Education From Younger Obama?

Ap_obama_il_senate_080225_ms The piece I've been working on about Obama's productive but mixed record on education issues in Illinois has not yet made it into print, alas, but in the meantime check out this bit from Nightline about the Illinois senator's record over all, including a smidgen of criticism on education: "There were no bold solutions, no effort to stand up to the Chicago public schools or the unions. There really wasn't, and there were opportunities to do so." ("Supporters Say Obama's Record Shows a Bold Leader). 

"Bitch Is The New Black"

Actress Tina Fey went off on politics this past weekend on Saturday Night Live, taking swipes at Oprah and Obama.  She complained about Hillary Clinton being described as a bitch.  To paraphrase:   "I'm a bitch.  She's a bitch.  You know what?  Bitches  get stuff done... It's not too late, Texas and Ohio.  Bitch is the new black."   Here's the video, and here's a partial transcript. I know you think I hate Obama and this has absolutely nothing to do with education.  But really, I just think this is funny. 

Obama, Vouchers, And Where His Kids Go

Some folks -- usually voucher supporters -- think where candidates' kids go is relevant.  Others -- usually voucher opponents -- think it's irrelevant, or even a low blow.  Here the New York Sun (Obama and Vouchers) slams the Obama campaign for it's vouchers clarification last week, as well as for Obama (and Clinton) sending their children to private schools.  It doesn't seem like a low blow to me, though I think Chelsea attended public school for at least part of the time. 

Orating Our Way To Better Schools?

All this talk about Obama's impressive speaking ability -- his use of words, his lines (some borrowed), his oration -- makes me think about -- you guessed it -- school reform.   

ObamaspencerplattgettyAnd my initial thought, at least, is that we need more actions and less words.  There have been some powerful speakers in education, and some powerful words, but my sense is that action, strategy, and political muscle have played a larger role and are what we need now. 

It's the Clinton argument, you might call it, not the Obama one. 
But is that right?   Perhaps this is just my bias  -- why, as I told my mom the other day, "listening to Obama too much makes me itchy."  I'm moved, but like you I've heard a lot of empty talk about kids and education, so I'm deeply suspicious. 

Can words, no matter how brilliant, increase funding for education, or open the door to bringing in new ideas? Have they?  Or does it take more than that to make real changes?  Read on for more thoughts about oratory and action in the world of schools.  Or, skip all that and tell me what you think.

Continue reading "Orating Our Way To Better Schools?" »

Obama Rips NCLB - For Lack Of Foreign Language Instruction

From last night's debate:

Images"One of the failures of No Child Left Behind, a law that I think a lot of local and state officials have been troubled by, is that it is so narrowly focused on standardized tests that it has pushed out a lot of important learning that needs to take place. (APPLAUSE) And foreign languages is one of those areas that I think has been neglected. I want to put more resources into it."

Obama "Clarifies" On Vouchers

Oops.  I guess Obama didn't all say what we heard him say in Milwaukee:

2008_2_obama_wins“Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers, and expressed his longstanding skepticism in that interview,” says the statement. “Throughout his career, he has voted against voucher proposals and voiced concern for siphoning off resources from our public schools. The misleading reports that have been circulated about Senator Obama’s position took excerpts of an interview out of context.”

That, or he realized that his comments were going to endanger his (currently slim) chances of an NEA endorsement, end up in a Clinton speech, or come up on the Sunday talk shows. 

Via the Core Knowledge Blog.   

DFER: Obama To Vouchers:  Drop Dead
MM: Obama's Damage Control on Vouchers

Clinton "Jihad" Against Vouchers

Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for pointing out the crazy comment from Senator Clinton that closes Elizabeth Green's Obama recent voucher story (Obama Open to Private School Vouchers): 

"Asked the same voucher question by the Milwaukee paper, Senator Clinton had a strong response, saying she opposes vouchers because they hurt public schools and could also open up the possibility of using taxpayer dollars to finance dangerous schools including training grounds for "jihad."

Here's Green's source:  Clinton covers range of subjects.  However, this view from Clinton may not be new,  Above is a clip of Clinton talking about religious discrimination and vouchers that says much the same thing.  I think it's from last summer.   Here's a reference going back to 2006.

Now I'm no legal expert, but this outcome seems pretty unlikely.  Clinton sounds like she's just really upset that Constitutional arguments against vouchers have been undermined and wants us to know of the evils of not separating church and state.  Or she's just reminding folks that Obama went to a madrassa as a child (joke!).

Obama And Vouchers Nothing New

Longtime readers of this blog won't be surprised at Barack Obama's willingness to talk about vouchers more openly than others.  He's said all this before (From 2006:  Vouchers & Obama In The 2008 Primaries, from 2005:  Open Minded On Education, from 2004:  Obama and Vouchers).  And indeed I've pointed out that more and more Dems have gone over to the voucher side, whether it's about DC schools or Katrina victims.  On substantive grounds, the pure antivoucher position is a tough one to maintain.  Especially given the existence of vouchers for higher ed (ie, Pell grants). 

What's different here is that Obama's in a close race for the Dem. nomination, and that his comments follow on similarly unorthodox remarks on charters.  This is the opposite of pandering to the teachers unions and labor.  He's saying he's above all that, and can say what he wants and is right.  Which is either true, or incredibly hubristic.  Right now, he's still winning union endorsements [SEIU].  But if his candidacy falls apart, and labor plays a part in that, we'll all look back to this and wonder if it was part of the reason. 

Pointy Headed Pundits Can't Make Local Control Go Away

Schoolfunding I've already posted a couple of times about Matt Miller's fun but ridiculous article about getting rid of local school boards, but Matt Yglesias has his own thoughts and -- even better -- a handy dandy map of funding variations within states and across the country (The Trouble With Local Control). He's also got a million readers and lots of fun comments to check out.

"Miller's article isn't even primarily about money. Instead, it's about the fact that these general institutional issue persists throughout our educational system -- things are wildly different from district to district, and especially from state to state. That's the American tradition of local control at work. But while this is very much our tradition, it's not a very good one."

Yglesias' best point is his last one -- that Iowa and New Hampshire are fierce local control states, and early in the political primary season.  Who's gonna go against that if they want to win national office?  If only Miller had called Yglesias before he wrote the piece.  I propose a ban on "neat" policy notions that include no viable path towards adoption.

No Clinton Cabinet For Weingarten

UFT President Randi Weingarten's name came up pretty quickly a few months ago when we first started speculating about who would be the next education secretary.  Now it turns out that it wasn't such a wild guess.  From the NY Sun today (Path Clear for Weingarten In Washington):

Ms. Weingarten ruled out another possibility, that she would seek a position in a presidential cabinet were her favored candidate, Senator Clinton, to win the election.

She said she was deeply offended by the idea that she would only endorse Mrs. Clinton for the presidency in hopes of winning a cabinet seat, and she said she telephoned Mrs. Clinton to assure her that was not her intention when the speculation first arose.

Notice that she may not have ruled out being asked to be in the Clinton cabinet.  She just wanted to make sure that it doesn't look like she's angling for it.  But in doing so she makes it awkward and now public.  And since McElroy is out so early and we may not know who the Dem. nominee is much less if a Dem. wins the White House, it seems much less likely that she can keep that option open.

The Times has the AFT story but not the Clinton angle: 
Teachers’ Union President to Step Down; New Yorker Is Seen as Successor

Chicago Debates Obama's Education Record

53402416 Education Notes does a good job of connecting some of the back and forth that's been going on in Chicago about Obama's education record (Smearing Obama).  As you'll read, the most intense criticism has come from George Schmidt, a former Chicago teacher and CTU official who feels like Obama stood by while Mayor Daley and others crushed local schools underfoot.  I've posted a fair amount about Obama's education record, more which I'm trying to unearth, though I haven't come out for or against him.  Still, that's come across as unfair and smeary according to small schools guru Mike Klonsky.


More on Obama and Education in Chicago Class Size Matters
"We wanted him to take up the LSC cause more vigorously than he did, and he disappointed us from time to time, but never on anything major."

Clinton, Obama, NCLB and the state of the Union Mike Klonsky
Frankly, I can't see any real difference between Clinton's and Obama's positions on NCLB.

Obama In High School: "The Audacity Of Hoop"

Obamahoops This is purportedly a picture of Barack (then Barry) Obama as a high school basketball player in Hawaii.

It's also, I would add, a decent representation of the his current demographic -- young, male, wealthy (he went to a fancy public school).   Oh, and white.   

In the related post, the sports blog Deadspin tries to figure out which candidate would be better for college sports, and in particular basketball (The Audacity Of Hoop).

Now all we need are pictures of him and the other candidates going to school, graduating, doing their homework. 

Obama's Education Law Still Roils Chicago Schools

There's precious little from Barack Obama's resume or his positions to look at and evaluate.  But that won't stop me from trying.  Last week, I posted about the Chicago teacher training organization Obama supports, which has over the last three years turned into a school management organization used to help close and reopen schools.  Ebca623b6677c25857ca418b77b34f3eaa0This week, it's Obama's 1999 work on compromise legislation that still governs -- for better or worse -- how Chicago principals are hired and fired.

Under the 1999 law that Obama helped broker in Springfield, local school councils that govern Chicago schools can let a principal go pretty much regardless of their performance.  Obama advocated for this wider leeway for the local councils, which then-superintendent Paul Vallas had argued was giving the local councils -- elected groups of parents and teachers and community members -- too much authority.

The law remains extremely controversial nearly 10 years later.  Last year, a principal that Mayor Daley called a "superstar" was dismissed from a Southwest Side high school she had run for several years.  Last week, a promising young principal at a North Side elementary school was "nonrenewed" despite strong evaluations in the past.  Critics see these instances as evidence that local control should have its limits.  Proponents see this as an example of Chicago's unique and long-running local control effort doing its work.

It's a complex, messy issue that so far this year hasn't hit the mainstream news. 
Riled Up At Ravenswood - New Principal Ousted District 299 

Michelle Obama On Neighborhood Schools

Invoking the good old days of the neighborhood school is nothing new, but this is the first time I'd heard Michelle Obama talk about it at UCLA -- thanks to my mom, who saw it live yesterday and told me about it this morning.

Skip ahead.  Obama starts talking at about the 32:00 mark, and talks about neighborhood schools at about 36:00:

"There was nothing miraculous about my life.  I went to the neighborhood schools around the corner.  When you look at me, I don't want you to see the next First Lady.  I want you to see what an investment in public education looks like."

Of course, Obama went to a neighborhood school but she now sends her children to a private one -- an issue that many educators struggle with. 

She also goes on to say that NCLB is "sucking the life out of our teachers, our children are being tested to death, and college is becoming a dream."

Clinton Slams NCLB -- And Ted Kennedy

Bill_clinton_kennedy_arnie_sachs_2 On Thursday, former President Bill Clinton slammed Obama endorser Ted Kennedy for...messing up on NCLB.  At an Arkansas high school event, Clinton slammed the law and its authors for its lack of uniform rigor among other things.

Michele McNeil at EdWeek thinks this was retribution for the Kennedy endorsement (here).  Big Swifty has been all over this (Swift & Change Able), pointing out that teachers were involved in creating NCLB, just not the dominant voice.  And he slams Clinton for taking teachers' sides on education issues too often, and having his own standards and accountability role to play.

Last but not least, education expert Phyllis McClure writes in to say that Clinton is "making up a tall tale" about NCLB. She points out that Clinton's education law, IASA, did many of the same things as NCLB just without any real consequences, which opens Clinton up to accusations of political cowardice.  "Few states disaggregated data and the Clinton Department of Education and the House Democrats refused to require Disaggregation, fearing that the Republicans would charge them with “race norming.”

All I can add is that you can watch the video here, that Clinton's wife HRC voted for NCLB and has only recently become a NCLB-basher, and that it really does seem sometimes that the Clintons will stoop pretty low to get her elected.

In The End, Everything Goes Back To High School

From Slate, a mashup of Hillary clips and one of the campaign scenes from Election:

"We were struck by how well one of Reese Witherspoon's monologues from the film Election fits the narrative of Campaign 2008."

Obama Education Plan Linked To School Closings & Teacher Firings

No one's looked very hard at the Obama teacher residency proposal, though there's going to be a big announcement in Chicago tomorrow that might finally get some media attention. 

The issue here is one of association.  The model for the Obama plan, run by a Chicago outfit called AUSL, has morphed into a school turnaround effort as much as anything else.  Specifically, AUSL has over the past couple of years been "given" a handful of distressed Chicago public schools -- an extremely controversial and uncertain turnaround strategy -- and folded into Mayor Daley's much-loathed "Renaissance 2010" plan (see CNN video here).

I wonder how Obama's supporters will like finding out that their guy is, in essence, supporting a school reform model that involves closing schools, firing teachers, and handing them over to an outside organization.  Four more schools are being closed and handed over to AUSL at the end of this year. See  two articles from the Chicago Tribune here: Brave new world for Chicago schools, Chicago Public Schools to fire hundreds at 8  under-performing schools.

Republican Candidates Have Education Folks, Too

There are some new names being added the last couple of days to the Campaign 08 page of "who's who" in education -- click the link and check out the names in italics to see what's been added.  See anything missing, just edit the page and make it right. 

Chealsea Clinton Loves Teachers, Hates Exams, Too

31chelsea600 Just like her mom, Chelsea Clinton manages to pander to teachers (you're so great!) and bash     tests during a recent campaign appearance:

"I think it’s great that you’re a teacher, I think it’s great that all the students are here, particularly after your exam. I think I might have wanted to run right out the door after my high school exams."

Yay, teachers!  Boo, exams!

They Dig, You Decide

EducationI read somewhere about this site, called Vote Gopher, which attempts to track candidates' position on key issues all in one place.  Its motto:  "We dig, you decide." 

Don't be fooled by the kiddie look of the page, however.  There are summaries, comparisons, video and quotes for each of the candidates on the education page.  If anyone knows a better place for a great one-stop voter guide, let us know.

Advance Work > Policy Work

Perry778620 Don't let anyone tell you that policy folks are particularly important in political campaigns.  For better or worse, they're not. 

The people with the ideas come in a distant third behind communications people and  so-called "advance" people, campaign rock stars and grunts who plan and organize public events to within an inch of their lives. 

Here's an inside look from a former Clinton advance guy:  Rules of the Road.

On The HotSeat: Pro-Charter PACster Joe Williams

He runs a PAC for pro-charter Democrats.  He used to be a journalist. He's written a book.   Everyone says what a nice guy he is -- except for those who hate him.

Camping_trip_070vAs head of Democrats For Education Reform, Joe Williams (pictured) has been ramping things up since last June and estimates that DFER events have generated "a couple hundred thousand dollars worth" at various fundraising events. In addition to supporting pro-charter candidates like George Miller, Eliot Spitzer, and NY state senator Malcolm Smith, DFER has also given directly to the DCCC and Rep. James Clyburn's BridgePAC.

On the HotSeat, Williams explains what he's learned moving from journalism to politics, gives his account for how charters became Republican, contrasts DFER and EDINO8, complains about having to pay for everyone's drinks, and wishes he'd learned more math in school. He also reveals the nasty consequences if his pick for president doesn't end up winning.

See below for the full interview. 

Previous posts: Hype Alert, Educating Elected Officials Through Their Pocketbooks, An "Emily's List" For Education?, DFER Happy Hour.

Continue reading "On The HotSeat: Pro-Charter PACster Joe Williams" »

Was The NEA Right To Wait?

Hillary Clinton's "surprise" win in New Hampshire is a good reminder that one of the many outfits trying out how to influence -- and win the support of -- the eventual nominee are the unions.  The AFT endorsed Clinton last year, so they're excited she's still in it.  NEA locals are all over the place, and Clinton seems like an even more obvious choice for the NEA than for the AFT, which would have seemed to have been an Obama possibility.  Read about the labor dynamics here: Obama Win Shakes Up Labor. Not that union endorsements are necessarily all that important anymore.  Otherwise Obama wouldn't have won Iowa, right?

Pondering The Candidates' Community Organizer Backgrounds

While we're waiting to hear what the people of New Hampshire have to say, it's a good time to think a little deeper about the two leading Democratic candidates, who share a common interest in community organizing.  Start with this fascinating 1995 look at Barack Obama (What Makes Obama Run?) from the Chicago Reader tells us a lot about Obama's four years as a community organizer in Chicago (1984-88).
Alinsky384 From it, we learn that Obama's work led only to what he describes as "modest successes," and his involvement on education issues was primarily as a board member on two local foundations (Joyce and Woods) and as chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was in Chicago as elsewhere not nearly as transformative as intended or advertised. (Think Gates Foundation.)

Twelve years later, Obama's credibility and involvement on education issues remain a concern among many readers of my Chicago blog, who among other things see his endorsement of charters and other "new" approaches as overly centrist and top down. Click here to see some of their recent comments.

Meanwhile, this 2007 Washington Post article also focuses on Obama's background as a Chicago organizer, pointing out that both he and Clinton were fascinated with famous organizer Saul Alinski (A Common Ideological Touchstone).  Obama took the job offer from Alinski's IAF.  Clinton wrote a paper about the organization, but turned down the job. 

This Obama Speech Contains Nothing About Education

Here's the Obama speech from last night that everyone's so excited about:

No mention of education, and the crowd chanting his name gets the emphasis wrong (it should be "oh-BA-ma" not "oh-ba-MA"), but still...

Obama Win Could Move Clinton Towards The Center On Education

What does Obama's big Iowa win mean for education (besides lots of nervous pro-Clinton educationistas like Rotherham, Brown, and Gordon)?

One possibility is that it will encourage Clinton to emphasize even further her allegiance to traditional liberal Democratic issues such as class size reduction and her opposition NCLB and merit pay.  On education, Clinton is the liberal and Obama is the centrist (for more on this, seeThree Steps To Understanding Obama-Clinton).

HilaryclintonClinton could go the opposite route, however, since she is more naturally a centrist on education and other issues.  Why emphasize something that's apparently not winning all that much support and excitement? It would piss of the unions, but they're grownups and know that in the end they'd rather have her than him. 

My guess is that the Clinton folks won't want or be able to make any quick change of course before New Hampshire, much as some of them have been chafing at her stodgy education positions.  But if things continue to go badly you could see her moving back towards the center on education soon enough.  Not that it's likely to make a substantial difference to the outcome.

Dodd Out Of Race -- And With Him National Standards?

18_chris_dodd_600About a year ago, newly-announced presidential candidate Chris Dodd endorsed national standards at a New America Foundation event.  Now that he's gone from the race, can we please stop talking about them for the rest of the campaign?  Just a thought. 

Three Steps To Understanding Obama-Clinton

The most thought-provoking education politics story of the holiday season wasn't Sam Dillon's pre-Xmas piece in the Times (Democrats Make Bush School Act an Election Issue), though the piece does include some great quotes about how NCLB has come to be so widely hated in Democratic circles and details news you read here first about Ted Kennedy's efforts to close the rifts among Democrats over the law.   

23coverwebFor something even more insightful, I'd point you to Matt Bai's 12/23 Times Magazine article about the Clinton campaign (The Clinton Referendum), which does a better job than most in explaining the confusing way in which Clinton has campaigned to the left of Obama on education issues even though she -- and her husband before her -- are positioned to the right (aka center) of him on pretty much every other issue (Iraq, etc.). 

Of course, Clinton is in reality much more centrist on education issues than she currently looks, in order to win teacher and union support, and Obama isn't so "reform-minded" as some of his supporters would like to think.   Perhaps the best job of parsing Obama's candidacy -- which is not really about his positions but rather about his race, his religion, and age -- comes from Andrew Sullivan's article in The Atlantic (Goodbye to All That).



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.