Education in a Biden Presidency in a Deeply Divided Nation: What Can We Expect?

On November 2nd, the day before Election Day pollsters and talking heads were predicting a blue wave, a Biden presidency, a Democratic Senate and House and a long list of “progressive” initiatives.

Five days later the networks are predicting a thin, an incredibly thin Biden victory, although it might be weeks until states certify election results. Ask I peck away on Saturday at noon CNN and MSNBC are calling Pennsylvania putting Biden over the top.

Horns blowing, dancing in the streets, Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States.

President Trump has been tweeting all day charging fraud and filing law suits.

On December 14th electors will cast virtual ballots and on January 6th the Congress will open the ballots and certify the election of the next president.

The Constitution states the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections …. shall be proscribed in each State by the Legislature thereof …” it is highly unlikely that courts would intervene.

The Congressional Research Service, in The Electoral College: A Presidential Election Timeline (Read here) describes the process going forward: the casting of ballots by electors and the counting of the elector ballots by the Congress.

The two Georgia senatorial seats will be decided in runoff elections on January 5 (Read about both races here). If the Democrats win both seats the Senate will be 50-50, giving Vice President Harris the tie-breaking vote; however, it is more probable that the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate.

The blue wave is a ripple; predictions of sweeping progressive changes have ebbed.

Can we expect four years of contentious gridlock?  I think not.

Republican leadership will continue to be loyal to Trump until the results are final, then, time to move along.

President-elect Biden and Majority leader McConnell have worked across the aisle for three decades. McConnell skillfully danced between President Trump, Republican Senators divided between Trump acolytes and “traditional” Republicans and Democrats.

Presidents carefully read Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”

In my view a Biden presidency, McConnell, a majority leader facing a divided Republican membership, and chastened Democrats who saw democratic voters rejecting “progressive” program planks will result in more bipartisanship. The nation, across party lines, wants a functioning government.

The race for the Republican 2024 nomination has already begun, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, Senators Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney and who knows …. all trying to retain Trump voters and attract the vast uncommitted center of voters.

What can we expect in education in a Biden presidency?

Chalkbeat speculates, “Eight Big Consequences 2020 Elections Could Have for Schools

The primary responsibility for education lies with states.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people;” education is “reserved to the States.”

The federal involvement in education is relatively new, beginning with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

… specifically authorized the federal government to equalize educational opportunities of all children by directing federal education dollars to the most disadvantaged children living in poverty. … the ESEA relied on state government to administer funding in order to avoid the criticism of federal control. This resulted in the expansion of state departments of education, and a greater role for the states in making education policy

President Carter moved education to the cabinet level in 1979 (Read about the history of the creation of the Department of Education here)

The reauthorization of ESEA, No Child Left Behind (2001) added assessments,

Under the NCLB, in addition to previous requirements for standards and assessments in reading and mathematics at three grade levels, all states participating in Title I-A were required to implement standards-based assessments for students in each of grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics

One of the biggest complaints about NCLB was the test-and-punish nature of the law — the high-stakes consequences attached to student standardized test scores. The law unintentionally incentivized a focus on test prep and the narrowing of the curriculum in some schools, as well as the over-testing of students in some places.

In 2015 the reauthorization of ESEA, the Every Child Succeeds Act decoupled high-stakes decisions and statewide testing. “Adequate yearly progress” was eliminated, along with the sanctions — including possible school closure – and the federal role in teacher evaluation, states no longer have to include standardized assessment scores in them; although annual grades 3-8 testing was retained.

Trump and De Vos spent four years funneling dollars to charter schools, voucher plans, disassembling Obama programs and attacking the concept of public education, all without the approval of Congress. 

The first decision impacting education: who will Biden nominate as Secretary of Education?

Politico muses about cabinet choices here.

Do you select a high profile national figure, an urban superintendent, a state commissioner or a current or former elected?

Obama selected a close friend, Arne Duncan, who served for seven years, and, in my judgment was a disaster.  Race to the Top, competitive grants to states that encouraged evaluating teachers by test scores, charter schools, test and punish, school closings, and on and on.

I believe the Secretary of Education nomination will require Weingarten scrutiny.

Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers played a crucial role in the election; Town Halls, phone banks, forums, rallies, a Biden campaign event almost every day across the nation; plus, Randi has a long time relationship with the President-elect.

Who are the candidates? (Only speculation – no inside info)

Twelve years ago Obama should have selected Linda Darling- Hammond  or Pedro Noguera, both highly regarded scholars.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia served as President of the National Teachers Association (NEA) from 2014 – 2020, the largest teacher union; a superb public speaker, and deeply engaged in both policy and politics.

There are current and former state commissioners: David Steiner was the state commissioner in New York State and is currently the Executive Director of the John Hopkins Center for Education Policy with deep scholarly credentials.

Betty Rosa is currently the interim New York Stare Commissioner of Education, formerly the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, beginning her career in New York City as a teacher and moving up the ladder to principal and superintendent with considerable political acumen.

Mary Cathryn Ricker is the state commissioner in Minnesota, beginning as a teacher, a union president and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers Ricker has been totally engaged with teachers and education policy on the state and national level for a decade.

Other candidates are superintendents of urban school districts,

Alberto Carvalho has been the superintendent of the Miami-Dade School district for a dozen years, has won many honors, and almost became the New York City chancellor, after accepting the job he backed out on the way to the airport.

Janice Jackson is the Chief Executive Office (aka, superintendent) of the Chicago Public Schools  (CPS), one of the few urban districts that has shown test score progress, although with some criticism. Chicago is a mayoral control city with a militant teacher union and Jackson has worked effectively in the at times contentious climate.

The list of past secretaries of education is a forgettable list, you both speak for the president and need the political skills to work with Congress, with teacher unions, with the wide range of advocacy organizations and defend against the social media assaults.

The Secretary can postpone required state tests for Spring 2021, cannot permanently eliminate the tests. The Secretary through “Dear Colleague” letters can exert authority over states.

The power and authority of the Secretary depends on the length of the presidential leash.

Do you have a favorite?

3 responses to “Education in a Biden Presidency in a Deeply Divided Nation: What Can We Expect?

  1. Paula Washington

    I do have a favorite: Lily Eskelsen-Garcia. And she’s available, having stepped down as president of the NEA. Linda Darling-Hammond would also be an excellent choice.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Who’s Whispering in Biden’s Ear? (And who is he listening too …?) | Ed In The Apple

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