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Missed Opportunity: Education Reform Could’ve Been Winning Issue

So where was the issue of education reform during the presidential campaign? Republicans didn’t even visit the cities that owe their education salvation to this leadership. While strong reformers who are Republicans continue to run and win elections in states, Republicans at the national level seem not to understand that in supporting educational choice they are supporting a civil right, and that they are the leaders in this support. Republican embrace of individual freedom and liberties over government at the local, state and federal level is an anchor for education reform. And it is repulsive to those who manage and protect the status quo.

Tuesday’s results are not the only wake-up call. Here’s another one: Democrats are working hard to own this issue. Do they deserve the credit? Will they advance the movement? No, but President Obama and his party have vowed to make their party the party of education reform. A recent missive from the Democrats for Education Reform declared Obama “EdReformer in Chief.” He has done little to merit such a title.

We’ve praised Obama’s candor and vocalization of the problems facing American education. We’ve commended the power his Education secretary has wielded to talk about issues that most reformers embrace. But his Administration is conspicuously quiet on the issue of real school choice. And while they talk about ensuring real performance pay for teachers, underneath the talk, the teachers unions are still in charge.

Think about the Democratic Party and this bedrock constituency. Unions once helped those most in need, but today they are keeping those poorest children, those who cannot afford to change zip codes or pay tuition to escape, in failing schools.

President Obama and his majority at the national level continue to oppose attempts to give those students choices. Absent leadership, the nation sits quietly as we

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Suggestions to Obama for Refocusing Education Efforts

The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s leading voice for structural and substantive change in education, congratulates 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:

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

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Races Reformers Are Watching

If you’re wondering what Tuesday’s results might mean for education reform, here is a quick overview of races to look out for (you can access the FULL Election Night Guide here):

The White House — The top ticket is worth watching for education reformers, as candidates have different views on whether federal dollars should follow success or be awarded based on promises to pursue various initiatives.

Senate — These elections could bring about FOUR extremely pro-education reform candidates to the U.S Senate.

Governors — There are several gubernatorial candidates in the race this year who if elected would further enhance the pro-reform landscape. Perhaps most importantly, all these gubernatorial candidates are likely to stand up to teachers unions. READ MORE

Election Night Guide for Education Reform Watchers

by Jeanne Allen
Huffington Post
November 5, 2012

Of the many surprises this election season, one surely was the number of times the issue of “education” came up in President Obama and Governor Romney’s third debate – a debate ostensibly about foreign policy.

It shouldn’t be such a shocker, though. Education issues are vital to our nation’s future and competitiveness. And when it comes to education, lot could hinge on Tuesday’s election outcome. It’s not just in the race for the White House, though there are differences between the candidates on K-12 education issues. The outcome of a number of Senate and gubernatorial races could also mean a sea change in education policy in the coming years.

So, education policy-watchers, if you’re wondering what Tuesday’s results might mean for education reform, here are some races to look out for:

The White House: The Obama Administration and its Education Secretary Arne Duncan deserve significant credit for reminding the nation of our serious problems with K-12 education, and for working energetically to spread the word and seek change. They have not stuck their heads in the sand, by any stretch of the imagination. But states and districts have learned they can earn federal dollars just by promising to pursue various initiatives. Results? Not so important. We believe we would see more results in a Romney Administration. Governor Romney has promised, in essence, to let a thousand flowers bloom. Rather than Washington dictating how money is spent, federal dollars will follow success. For ed reformers, therefore, the top of the ticket is worth watching.

Senate: We could see four extremely pro-education reform candidates elected to the U.S Senate. They are:

  • Former Governor Tommy Thompson (R-Wisc.) the very first Governor to sign a voucher program into existence;
  • U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the author of Arizona’s pioneering charter

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Once, I Went to a Foreign Policy Debate … and an Education Fight Broke Out

by Jeanne Allen
October 23, 2012

Some were confused that the presidential candidates in last night’s debate, ostensibly about foreign policy, pivoted so often to the education and the economy. I was surprised, too, but I didn’t share the view that these subjects were “off topic.” Both candidates recognize that for the U.S. to remain competitive abroad and safe at home, we must have a solid domestic foundation, including a robust education system that produces citizens who can compete in the global economy, and who are qualified to protect us.

Prior to the debate, I suggested there were two critical education reform questions that needed to be addressed – national security and competitiveness. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did the candidates address both, but that they went further, discussing the skills gap, teachers, and how education is a driver of economic success.

Some highlights:

• Governor Romney discussed the need to put parents, teachers, and kids first, and asserted that the teachers unions to get behind this principle.

• President Obama talked about the need for more math and science teachers, since American students lag many other developed nations in those subjects. He made the point that our success in these areas will determine whether we have the highly skilled workforce necessary for new business creation, and to make the U.S. attractive to investment.

• Romney talked about the lack of jobs for kids coming out of college and that we can’t fix the economy without fixing that.

• Obama said that if we don’t have the best education system in the world, we will lose our competitive edge over other countries. He argued that Romney’s budget would cut education

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Experts’ views about Obama and Romney on Education

by Howard Blume
Los Angels Times
October 12, 2012

The following are edited excerpts from telephone interviews and email exchanges with leading education analysts, writers and researchers regarding the policies and positions of the presidential candidates.

Michelle Rhee

Chief executive, StudentsFirst; former chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Both support expanding educational options for families. President Obama did this, for example, by encouraging states to get rid of unnecessary caps on public charter schools through Race to the Top . At the same time, Gov. Romney supports dramatically expanding choices parents can make about where to send their kids to school. But he doesn’t tie that increased flexibility to strong rules ensuring any school — private or public — that takes the public funds will be held accountable for student learning.

Jonathan Kozol

Author whose books about education include “Death at an Early Age” (1967) and “Savage Inequalities” (1991). His new book is “Fire in the Ashes.”

As we saw in Wisconsin, there is a constituency out there that would like to do away with public-sector unions. The teachers are the loudest of those unions. Romney could not do away with teachers unions, but I think he will do his very best to move us in that direction.

President Obama simply wants to challenge the teachers unions to be more flexible in their demands but obviously recognizes they have a useful role in our society.

I regret the President’s apparent willingness to continue relying on standardized exams in evaluating teachers because I think it’s a simplistic way of judging what happens in the classroom and excludes so many aspects of a good education that are not reduceable to numbers.

The President recognizes that a demoralized teaching force is not going to bring passionate determination to the education of children — no matter how you measure them, castigate them or

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Fact check: On education, gains difficult to demonstrate

by Howard Blume
Los Angeles Times
October 3, 2012

On education, President Obama correctly noted that his ideas for reform have been drawn from ideas championed by Democrats and Republicans, an overlap that also has drawn criticism in some quarters from allies of the president such as teacher unions.

Obama also said that his education reforms were “starting to show gains.” Such gains would be difficult to demonstrate. There are rising test scores in many states, but it’s difficult to link these to federal programs. The president has indeed favored aggressive reforms in education, but most of them are still in process as far as results.

Education historian Diane Ravitch, watching the debate, said in an email that the school-reform grants under Obama’s “Race to the Top” program have “thus far improved nothing.” (Ravitch is a disappointed Obama supporter who is strongly against Romney.) The Obama administration also has successfully pushed nearly all states to adopt year-by-year learning standards called the “common core.” The goal has been to raise academic standards and promote improved curricula nationwide, but little related to this effort has taken effect yet.

Mitt Romney spoke of education as part of his economic plan. The specifics he mentioned included simplifying the structure of the federal Department of Education. He complained that 47 training programs are housed in eight different agencies. For better or worse, job-training programs are, in fact, housed in multiple federal agencies.

He also spoke of sending education dollars “back to states,” which analysts from both parties have interpreted as a signal that he would reduce the budget and scope of the Department of Education.

Obama, in contrast, has sent education dollars from the federal government to the states via grants and direct aid, under the economic stimulus program, to save programs and jobs. Such programs have increased the federal deficit.

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Candidate Views At Education Nation

“Romney, Obama Clash Over Education”
by Laura Meckler
Wall Street Journal
September 25, 2012

The presidential candidates offered clashing views on education, with Republican Mitt Romney delivering some of his harshest judgments on teacher unions and President Barack Obama defending them.

Mr. Obama attacked Mr. Romney for wanting to cut education spending, while Mr. Romney said it’s wrong to saddle young people with more federal debt. The conflicting views came in separate interviews for NBC’s Education Nation summit, which covered a range of education topics.

“The teachers union has a responsibility to care for the interests of the teachers. And the head of the national teachers’ union said at one point, ‘We don’t care about kids. We care about the teachers.’ That’s their right,” Mr. Romney said.

He was referring to a 2009 speech by the National Education Association’s former general counsel, Bob Chanin, who was making a different point. He wasn’t suggesting that the union doesn’t care about children, but arguing that the NEA is an effective advocate for its point of view “not because we care about children” but because of the union’s political power.

Mr. Obama, in his interview taped over the weekend, said, “I think Gov. Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher bashing.”

“When I meet teachers all across the country, they are so devoted, so dedicated to their kids,” he said.

The Obama administration has taken some heat from unions by pushing for more charter schools and seeking to tie compensation to student achievement. Mr. Obama described that as trying to “break through this left-right, conservative-liberal gridlock.”

Mr. Obama said that education reform isn’t enough, though, and must be accompanied by adequate public spending. On the campaign trail, he often mentions education as one of the areas where the nation should spend more

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Where do Romney, Obama stand on education?

FOX News
September 11, 2012

CER President Jeanne Allen says any president that doesn’t make education a central issue deserves a “C”.

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