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The Center for Education Reform Congratulates President Obama on His Reelection Encourages President to Refocus Education Efforts

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
November 7, 2012

The leadership of The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s leading voice for structural and substantive change in education, today congratulated President Obama on his reelection. We praised the President in his first term for reminding the nation of our serious problems with K-12 education, and for working energetically to spread the word and seek change. We were concerned the Administration was too beholden to the national teachers unions, and that this support was an impediment to meaningful reforms that could lead to better schools and more educational choices.

We offer the following suggestions for the President in his second term:

1) Work Across All Education Sectors: We hope in a second term that the Obama Administration will listen to a range of voices and ideas from cities and communities, and not just the voices of national special interest groups. It is important to stop conflating “teachers unions” with “teachers.” In his first term, the Obama Administration talked a lot about “collaborating” and “getting along” with unions. We hope President Obama will follow the lead of many leading Democrats. For example, when Eva Moskowitz of Success Charter Network was a New York City Councilwoman, she pressed unions to explain why their contracts were protecting mediocrity instead of boosting high performing teachers.

2 ) Encourage Choice and Charters: In a second term, we urge the President and his Administration to do whatever they can to encourage more education choices, so that children in failing schools have quality alternatives. President Obama’s administration should direct federal incentives to encourage the formation of more charter schools. And since laws at the state level often stymie new charters, we urge him to provide leadership, encouraging states to draft laws that lead to more robust growth of charter schools.

3) Refocus Federal Policy: While the role of the federal government is minimal, it carries a big stick, can provide influence with its bully pulpit and can deter or encourage local efforts. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is one such stick. While imperfect, it provides an example of how federal funds can influence local behavior. Before NCLB was enacted, officials masked data showing schools failing despite billions of dollars in funding. The legislation was a response to state and local leaders abdicating their responsibility. But in implementing the law, states encouraged test obsession over what the legislation intended: quality teaching and monitoring of results. Rather than continuing to give waivers, as the Obama Administration did in the first term, the President should focus on reforming NCLB to ensure more flexibility in approach, so that Washington, while not the arbiter of best practice, ensures adherence to high standards and accountability for precious tax dollars spent.

We offer our experience and counsel to the President and to support him in efforts to increase choice and accountability in American education. The Center has worked through three administrations and many different Congresses since our founding in 1993. We have succeeded in advancing education reform across the aisles and while we may not always be in perfect agreement with policymakers, we always put the interests of children first. We would look forward to doing so again during President Obama’s second term.