Education Reform

Now We Know Who Loves Duncan and King

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The Wall Street Journal–the voice of free market globalism–loves privatization of America’s public schools, loves high-stakes testing, and loves evaluating teachers by test scores. Conversely, it despises public schools and unionized teachers. This newspaper, one of the jewels of mogul Rupert Murdoch’s Empire, is consistently on the far right, hawkish and pro-corporatist. They dismiss the views of parents, as if they don’t matter. As you will see, they love centralized control by the federal government so long as it is pushing their radical rightwing goals.

Read what the WSJ said about federal education policy today.

“The Lost Education Opportunity”

“President Obama made a fine choice on Friday in John King, a charter
school advocate, to be his next Secretary of Education. Then again
Arne Duncan, who is returning to Chicago at the end of the year after
seven years as Secretary, also arrived with much promise only to run
afoul of the antireform inertia in the Democratic Party.

“Mr. King has been a senior adviser to Mr. Duncan since last year and
before that was state education commissioner in New York, where he
pushed for higher standards. This made him unpopular with unions,
which these days ought to be a requirement for any education
leadership position. Mr. King helped found one of Massachusetts’s top
charters, Roxbury Prep, and later moved to New York to help launch the
Uncommon Schools charter-school network.

“It’s nonetheless hard to be optimistic that Mr. King can accomplish
much in the waning days of the Obama Presidency, especially after Mr.
Duncan’s experience. Mr. Duncan did well to promote charter schools
and high standards. His Race to the Top initiative used federal
dollars to catalyze reform in the states, especially by encouraging
them to hold teachers accountable for student performance.

“Yet such progress was overshadowed by his unwillingness to fully take
on the union-backed status quo. When Democrats in Congress killed a
scholarship program that gave poor kids in the nation’s capital a shot
at a decent school, Mr. Duncan remained on the sidelines. He was also
mute when the Justice Department sued Louisiana because its voucher
program helped poor minority kids by letting them attend schools that
didn’t have enough whites.

“Mr. Duncan’s worst legacy is the Administration’s assault on
for-profit higher education. He promoted the takeover of most student
loans, piling up a trillion dollars in new federal liabilities. And
his department, at White House insistence, has driven a “gainful
employment” rule that targets for-profit schools whose graduates don’t
meet the arbitrary debt-to-earnings level the Education Department
thinks they should have.

“The rule doesn’t apply to the nonprofits and community colleges that
often do even worse by employment, confirming a glaring double
standard. Some of Mr. Duncan’s admirers say he was merely going along with an agenda driven by the White House and Capitol Hill liberals,
but the result has hurt minority and lower-income adults who benefit
from the flexible schedules and job-focused skills that for-profits
can provide.

“The Obama Presidency has been disappointing on many counts, but
education is its biggest lost opportunity. The nation’s first
African-American President had unique standing and moral capital to
remake the politics of education. Mr. Obama might have united
reformers on the right and left into a movement that empowered parents
to choose the best school for their children regardless of their
location or income. It might have been a unifying issue and a great
legacy.

“But he opted for tepid, and now his main K-12 legacy will be having
presided over the unwinding of President George W. Bush’s bipartisan
No Child Left Behind reform. We were no fans of that law, but at least
it elevated higher standards and performance measurement regardless of background. Those principles are now under assault by unions on the
left and populists on the right.

“One sign of how this debate has moved backward: The nation’s two
largest teachers unions have already endorsed Hillary Clinton for
President. Mr. King looks to be a short-timer even if Democrats keep
the White House in 2016.”

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