Sunday, October 25, 2009

David Brooks Gives Props to Obama and Arne Duncan's Education Reforms

In March, I wrote about David Brooks's early enthusiasm for President Obama's education reform efforts (the post is here). Brooks revisited the issue on Friday, in a piece titled "The Quiet Revolution" (here).

Based on conversations with Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, and others, Brooks remains optimistic about the Obama Administration's progress thus far. He says that the Administration has had particular success in convincing some teachers unions to get on board with performance pay. Also, he reports that a number of states (including California, Illinois and Tennessee) have passed new legislation that they hope will qualify their states for some of the $4.3 billion in "Race to the Top" funding. The new state laws include provisions to facilitate the opening of more charter schools.

This is great news, and in light of Obama's lack of progress on many other issues I am happy to hear that the early reports on Arne Duncan and the Department of Education are positive.

336. Brooks mentions that there will be pushback in the months/years to come ("over the next months, there will be more efforts to water down reform. Some groups are offering to get behind health care reform in exchange for gutting education reform"). Who are the most influential education/teachers union leaders on the national level currently? Does Duncan have good relationships with them? Is he focused more on working with the national leaders or is he really emphasizing the state-level reforms?

In a July 12 opinion piece for the Washington Post (here), Kitty J. Boitnott -- who is the president of the Virginia Education Association -- argued against additional state-level funding for charter schools in Virginia.

Boitnott stated that Virginia's local school boards already establish a wide variety 0f innovative schools with special focuses (engineering, international studies, communication, etc.), so in her view new charter legislation would be superfluous. I did not find Boitnott's arguments at all convincing, and her piece strikes me as the kind of reflexively-anti-charter position that unions often adopt.

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