As Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill there is myriad of comments about what she should or shouldn’t do, and what she can expect.

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli yesterday offered that she should address the criticisms of her previous testimony by talking about the tension between civil and religious rights, and the value of a pluralistic system of schools that respects both.

Politico this morning says that DeVos can expect more questioning about the Administration’s various views and more concerning the 13 percent cut in the budget. But all we’ve read seem to miss the point.

For anyone interested in outcomes for learners at all levels, the budget should be opportunity to start a new conversation – one that addresses how federal priorities can better enable and advance critical educational opportunities for our students. As we argued when the budget was first proposed, (to lots of hue and cry that we didn’t jump all over the cuts!) federal funding should be a means to an end, not simply a funding stream for previously sanctioned programs that the feds have codified into law to support one interest group or another. How does Title IV help students, and schools with technology? Does the charter grant program work for kids? Is it too bureaucratic or not big enough?

Federal funding should follow the priorities of state level efforts and effective national entities, many of which are carving new paths for personalized learning, for innovations in education technology, for efforts to eradicate zoning by zip code and free up students and families to find the best fit for their child. Those who support the status quo think these notions are heresy. Those who lead such innovations in governance, in teaching and learning know better. Let’s hear them all out. And instead of focusing on budgetary line items, we should be working to redefine Washington’s role in creating paths that lead to education innovation.

Nick Paige and Jeanne Allen


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