On the New York Times Education Watch, Dr. Lance Izumi lays out a post-election “lesson plan for Republicans” at the national level. He argues quite simply that the minority party needs to latch on to three basic themes in the area of education policy:
- Decentralization – repent for the federal overreaches of the No Child Left Behind era and return to advocate for decisions to be made “at the most practical nd effective level of government closest to the people.”
- Transparency – work to ensure that federal dollars are allocated in a simpler manner, and that Title I and other funds are attached more directly to the children that need them.
- Parental empowerment – expand the availability of vouchers and tuition tax-credits beyond special needs and financially disadvantaged students, and better make the case to middle-class families why school choice is important.
The themes that Izumi advocates are the right ones at the federal level. But what about here in Colorado? What approach should the minority party take in the interests of K-12 education and education reform?
Statehouse Republicans in 2009 would do well to adapt each of Izumi’s three themes as part of a broader agenda. On most issues, there should also be a contingent of Democrats to join in support with them (whether in significant numbers to effect legislative success remains to be seen). Of course, the sticking point often will be money. Many agenda items will have to be argued in terms of their ability to preserve the state budget during the economic downturn and a period of needed austerity.
Decentralization? Yes. Continue the fight to extend the principles of 2008’s Innovation Schools Act. Streamline the waiver process so that local schools and school districts can more easily and effectively show the way in innovative curriculum, programs, and options to hire, train, and even license qualified professionals to teach.
Transparency? Again, yes. While it looks like the initial push for online government financial transparency will happen at the state agency level, Republicans could lead the way in arguing that schools and school districts should work on stricter, more reasonable spending controls and make it easier for taxpayers to see where money is going.
Parental empowerment? Certainly yes. Remind Coloradans of the cost-saving effects of school choice. The term “vouchers” is tainted, but look to make common ground with some Democrats in advancing the case for tuition tax credits. Fight to defend charter schools and online schools from encroachments, and to expand the options available to parents. Republicans now have a more reliable ally in the Speaker’s chair as well as the Senate President’s office.
To me, this is the road to travel to advance reform ideas in the right direction to the benefit of students, in a time when there is little room left to shake down the taxpayer for more support.