Since tonight’s debate won’t talk education…
…I will. It’s a safe bet that education won’t be a big part of tonight’s presidential debate, so if you need to ponder what an McCain or Obama administration should or could do, two NY Times blog entries from earlier this week have some interesting thoughts.
Lance Izumi charges that Obama’s wish-list of education programs makes him seem “oblivious to the fiscal reality he faces,” and argues for McCain’s “alternative view of the way Washington should finance education”:
According to his campaign Web site, Mr. McCain believes: “Funding cannot be effectively apportioned in Washington, but it shouldn’t be a state-level official or district bureaucrat either. The money must be controlled by the leader we hold accountable: the school principal with a single criterion to raise student achievement.”
On the other hand, Bruce Fuller has a radical suggestion for a future President Obama:
If Mr. Obama is serious about public investment for innovation—focusing on inventive teachers and schools that truly boost student performance—he must cut ineffective, yet politically entrenched programs. Take, for example, Washington’s Title I compensatory education program, which channels $14 billion each year to schools that serve students from poor families.
President Bush tied big infusions of fresh Title I dollars to implementation of his No Child Left Behind Law. Yet several evaluations of Title I, which tries to improve poor children’s reading skills, have shown limited benefits, largely because mainstream classroom practices have remained the same. This huge program fails to lift children’s learning curves, and yet teachers unions and civil rights groups fight tooth and nail to protect it, a sentimental symbol of equity since the Great Society.
Cutting Title I isn’t going to happen, whoever wins. But Fuller is right that “Washington needs to simplify, without weakening its role in education reform.” Both candidates probably could agree on that.