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Morning Shots

The sky is falling

dontchangeIf you’ve picked up a newspaper or turned on the evening news lately, it’s been all doom and gloom for schools, teachers and the future of American education.

First, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) tag teamed behind Education Stimulus 2.0 in a hearing on the ED budget, claiming that another $23 billion is “absolutely necessary” to save up to 300,000 teacher jobs, proving that everyday is Christmas for the unions (I guess last year’s $100 billion just wasn’t enough).

Then the NEA asked us to remember the children.

Tons of federal money + jobs + children + tears + zero historical context = Media Tsunami

Former CER colleague Neal McCluskey, however, actually grabs the data and puts it all into perspective:

For one thing, in 2007-08 public schools employed more than 6.2 million people; even the 300,000 figure is tiny compared to that huge number.

More importantly, preceding our schools’ few recent years of financial woe were decades of decadent plenty. According to inflation-adjusted federal data, in 1970-71 Americans spent $5,593 per public-school student. By 2006-07 we were spending $12,463 – a whopping 123 percent increase that bought lots of teachers, administrators, and other shiny things!

And, he points out, it hasn’t bought the student achievement demanded or intended.

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Proper focus

allaboutme(This post originally appeared on Politico‘s The Arena)

The noise about President Obama’s impending speech to schoolchildren Tuesday is muffling the real issues.  While the President has every right to address any segment of the nation on any subject – and we all have the right to voluntarily listen or not – it’s both the way this thing was rolled out and the predicted content that should be most alarming to people – Republican or Democrat.

First, let’s talk about process, i.e. the rollout.  Rather than simply announce that the president was making a back-to-school speech, the policy/PR/other sundry staffers attached to this wrote and distributed superficial lesson plans as if they knew anything about education to begin with and as if this speech was indeed about the president, not the nation’s education crisis.  Telling teachers they should consider engaging students in a dialogue about how President Obama inspires them is ludicrous, not because some may not agree with him, but because it suggests this speech is after all about HIM.  To then go ahead and attack people for attacking the speech is like smoking and then getting outraged when someone says they smell smoke on you.

The speech massagers were clearly set about getting the president press. While I don’t doubt the president wants to give a great, meaningful speech to kids, his handlers messed up and have thwarted that potential now, not Bill O’Reilly or dozens of other known detractors.  The president’s “men” fell on their swords on this one, and President Obama should take full responsibility for that.

Second, the president’s predicted content which we’ll all now see prior thanks to the defensive posture the White House has had to take on this, should not just be about

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