Will Obama Continue His Education Policies? or, Will “Bottom Up” Pressures Change State and Washington Agendas?

As November 6th approached I became a Nate Silver junkie – his NY Times “fivethirtyeight”  blog was riveting – a baseball sabermetrician Silver is not a pollster – he is a careful analyst of the polls. He created tools to parse the complexities of the polls and make targeted predictions – with astonishing accuracy. (watch interview with Silver here)

In spite of my frustration with the president’s education policies I was appalled by the policies espoused by his opponent and frightened by the tea party vampires hovering in the shadows. I was glued to the screen, ecstatic when the networks declared Obama victorious and waited until the victory-concession speeches at one am.

As the campaign evolved education never gained traction as a campaign issue, in fact, it slid off the scene. Nada, nothing.

Locally the Michelle Rhee/Joel Klein crowds, in spite of their enormous infusion of dollars, were losers. Bridgeport voters turned down mayoral control, Indiana voters threw out a commissioner who was a loud, ambitious supporter of the Rhee agenda, and the voters selected a career educator. In Colorado voters rejected a slate of deformers and Utah rejected three ballot initiatives supported by tech companies.

Arne Duncan is still the prez’s basketball buddy and Arne continues to support an intrusive educational role in the fifty states. While his comments are “softer” and more “teacher friendly” the core policies are unchanged (see video here)

Whether the Congress decides to fund the continuation of these policies is a core decision. Forty-six states are part of one of two partnerships of states that are driving the avalanche of testing which is driving classroom instruction.

New York State is in the PARCC consortium which is creating the new generation of testing. (See Grade 10 sample ELA question here)

The new generation of Common Core State Standard (CCSS) exams will begin to be embedded into state and regents exams this spring and the full phase-in is scheduled for the 2014-15 testing cycle.

Will Congress continue to fund the PARCC assessments? Will Congress re-authorize ESEA or allow the waiver process to create a de facto, although not de jure reauthorization?

Will the pressures on state budgets, that are enormous and growing, impact the implementation of Washington-driven initiatives?

The “fiscal cliff ” negotiations are the “elephant in the room,” there clearly will be funding reductions, how these cuts impact education and funding to the states is to be decided.

At the November 5th New York State Board of Regents meeting a bleak picture was described. Over the next three years education dollars will decrease, and at an accelerating rate. Teacher layoffs, reductions of school services, reduction of course offerings and the potential bankruptcy of perhaps 200 small school districts.

A number of regent members asked Commissioner King how the state can continue to impose mandates, i.e., the principal-teacher evaluation system and the implementation of the Common Core in this climate, education dollars are diminishing and federal Race to the Top dollars will end. King punted…

At his September 25th Education Nation interview with Savannah Guthrie the president did not back off one iota – Common Core, testing, charter schools, teacher evaluation, the policies were unchanged, positive comments about teachers and unions, a velvet glove replaced a gauntlet.

Former Speaker of House, Tip O’Neill, always reminded us that “all politics are local.” From Bridgeport to Indiana to Colorado to Utah the “little guys,” the voters, pushed back against well-funded outsiders wanting to impose the Rhee-Klein-Gates-Broad playbook. In Washington dollars will be scarce and the scarcity of dollars in states and localities are even more severe.

The parent-teacher-principal opposition to expensive endless testing is impacting local legislators. As charter school openings move from urban centers to smaller cities the opposition grows. Tip O’Neill’s axiom is a message to electeds – to push policies that are unpopular among the citizens who pull levers in voting booths, excuse me, who bubble in ballots, lead to defeats at the polls.

Andrew Cuomo, clearly a candidate to replace the president in 2016 appointed a 25-member Commission on Educational Reform. The Commission will be issuing an interim report in December. Will the report simply endorse the current Washington-driven policies or will Cuomo begin to move in a different direction?

The Republicans failed to listen to another political axiom, “It’s all about demography:” women, Blacks, Latinos and the under 30’s won the election for the Democrats. In New York City, in which the mayor is vigorously pursuing a school closing, testing, teacher evaluation agenda, the public, by overwhelming percentages reject the policies. While Bloomberg, entering his last year, appears immune to the public, other electeds and candidates are well aware of the voice of the people.

The president will continue to push his education agenda, albeit without the vigor of his first term. If changes come they will come from below, from a suspicious Congress and state and local legislators who are responding not to the elites but to the voters who will, or will not return them to office.

One response to “Will Obama Continue His Education Policies? or, Will “Bottom Up” Pressures Change State and Washington Agendas?

  1. Foil Jacqueline

    As always, we must continue to lobby where we can make our voices heard.
    Once again, this column is well thought out and deals with issues we must continue to be alert about.
    I’m still beaming a bit. Hawaii has sent 3 women to Congress. 2 are Asian, the other is a mix of several ethnicities and a coast guard reservist who went to Afghanistan. The first woman Senator from Hawaii is Japanese-American, Maizie Hirono, who had been in the House. The other Asian has been in the House & was re-elected, Colleen Hanabusa and the 3rd who represents my district in the House is Tulsi Gabbard, mixed ethnicities & a veteran!! Of course, we were overwhelmingly for Obama, who was born here, despite what Donald Trump says. A republican Governor, Linda Lingle, validated his birth here in HI in 2008!!


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