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One Last Chance…

by Jeanne Allen
October 19, 2012

Soon the presidential candidates will meet for the last time to debate and with the topic focused on foreign policy, one may be tempted to think education has no place in the discussion. But one would be wrong. There are at least two critical education questions that should be addressed.

QUESTION 1: A recent report from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Chancellor of New York city schools Joel Klein found that “Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.” The task force behind the report argued that too many young people are not qualified for the military because they do not have an adequate level of education. Do you agree with them and how would you address the issue?

QUESTION 2: Condoleezza Rice recently told a gathering of education leaders at Education Nation last month that a child in Korea learns in 3rd grade what our kids learn in 5th grade. We know that U.S. students rank 25th out of 34 on math scores among Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with nearly one-quarter of U.S. students unable solve the easiest level of questions. Does this lack of international competitiveness concern you and what would your Administration do to address it?

In the previous two debates, President Obama and Governor Romney have talked about education in many contexts: economic, achievement, school choice, and the role of the federal government among others. In this final debate, they have one last chance to inform voters about their vision for education in the country.


For more on where Romney and Obama camps stand on critical education issues, head over to our Education and the Presidential Candidates page.

Chicago Teachers Strike Highlights ‘Societal Problem’

by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
September 19, 2012

There is a bright spot to the Chicago Teachers Union strike that ended Tuesday after keeping the city’s kids at home and its public-school teachers picketing the streets: People are actually talking about education.

They are saying things like this: “When you have two-thirds of our children not college- and/or career-ready and we spend more per student than any country in the world, that is a societal problem. What’s going on in Chicago is sort of a leading indicator of things to come.” That’s Florida’s former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush on MSNBC. Bush is an advocate of student assessments who occasionally clashes with teachers unions.

Or this: “The more difficult task is to make sure the right people are getting into the classroom. I think it is the wrong mental model to let anybody in and then make it easier to fire our hiring mistakes.” That’s National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel on C-Span. NEA is not involved in the specifics of the strike, but it is supporting the Chicago union in principle.

Voters care greatly about education. In a Pew Research poll earlier this year, 72 percent of respondents rated education as “very important” to their vote. Yet both presidential candidates have largely ignored the concept in their campaigns. For whatever reason, education isn’t the kind of winner that moves the dial for a candidate in the electorate.

“People typically put education in their top three, or at worst, top six issues. But I believe they don’t know how to vote on education. They are so convinced that schools are local,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that is critical of teachers unions.

Allen says the Obama administration isn’t weighing in on the Chicago dispute because it is afraid

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Presidential Candidates Focus on Education

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
May 23, 2012

This week both presidential candidates turned their attention to education, signaling a new focus on education reform as a campaign issue. Yesterday the Obama Administration announced a new round of Race to the Top (R2TT) grants aimed at schools districts and Mitt Romney is making speeches in New York and Washington, D.C. to outline his education plan. Today, The Center for Education Reform (CER) applauded the emergence of structural change in education as a key theme in both campaigns and counseled the candidates to make the issue a cornerstone of their campaigns.

CER President Jeanne Allen made the following statement:

“I’m pleased that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are finally paying serious attention to education reform. I hope this signals a shift to a serious focus and healthy debate about reforming our education system in a real and substantive way.

President Obama is now proposing that Race to the Top – the centerpiece of his education plan which has had mixed results in the first round – should aim federal funds at schools districts, clearly a constituency he needs to win re-election. But while creating a competition for money at the district level is alluring, history tells us that it will make no difference in the lives of children, so long as school systems continue to be hogtied by unreasonable union contracts and subject to laws that hamper reform.

“Governor Romney, who when he ran Massachusetts was leading the charge for the kind of reforms that have been often touted by the Obama and previous administrations has launched an effort to reenergize his education credentials with his speeches last night in New York and today in Washington. His comments on putting kids before unions are encouraging as were his support for accountability and choice.

“Both candidates

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Snob Nation: Meaningful Thoughts Underneath

Snob Nation
by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
March 5, 2012

Is President Barack Obama a snob? A brief look at his personal education might make you think so. He attended the prestigious Punahou prep school in Hawaii. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. If I had seen that resume at age 18, I would have rated him high on the snob meter knowing nothing more about him. (I was starting college with lots of prep-school classmates, which made me acutely self conscious about my public school education.) Personally, I don’t know if Obama is a snob, and I don’t care. I figure that as president, he’s entitled either way.

I am intrigued, though, with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s use of the sassy slur to lambast Obama for his efforts to increase college attendance and graduation. “What a snob,” Santorum said, railing about “liberal” college professors “trying to indoctrinate” impressionable teens. The huffy reactions to Santorum’s rants are to be expected. He’s good at eliciting them. An essay from the Harvard Crimson entitled “In Defense of Snobbery,” which is quite well written, is just one sample of the many people who disagree with Santorum.

But I wonder if Santorum is on to something. It has become increasingly clear over the last 20 to 30 years that college is a necessary component of a middle class lifestyle in America. Should it be that way? Do we want to be the kind of country where a mortar board is a de facto requirement for being a part of the community? Perhaps Santorum is simply expressing the frustration many people feel that the achievement goal posts keep moving.

It’s certainly easier to get a job with a college degree. The unemployment rate for

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Obama to Governors: Boost Spending

“Obama urges governors to boost education funding, calls it key to competitiveness”
by Beth Fouhy, Associated Press
Chicago Tribune
February 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama Monday urged the nation’s governors to invest more state resources in education, saying a highly skilled workforce is crucial for the U.S. to remain competitive with other countries.

Obama made his pitch at a White House meeting with governors in Washington as part of the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association. The president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a black tie dinner with the governors Sunday night.

Obama said at Monday’s session that he sympathized with governors whose state budgets have been badly squeezed during the economic downturn. But he said that was no reason to trim resources from schools.

“The fact is that too many states are making cuts in education that I think are simply too big,” Obama said. “Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest. Budgets are about choices.”

He reaffirmed his view that decisions about education should be left to states and not the federal government. “I believe education is an issue that is best addressed at the state level,” the president said, “and governors are in the best position to have the biggest impact.”

It was a message directed largely to Republican governors, many of whom have complained of too much federal intrusion in state matters including education. Several prominent GOP governors were in the room as the president spoke, including Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Obama earlier this month granted waivers to 10 states, freeing them from some of the toughest requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, as long as they measure student progress with their own standards.

He called on governors

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