It’s that most special time of the year! Children get a healthy red glow on their faces and the policy types argue about policy agendas. On Tuesday the “bigger and bolder” crowd launched their manifesto and on Wednesday the “there is also a problem with the schools” crowd launched theirs. I signed the latter one. Read it all, make up your own mind. You can find most of the press coverage via Google.
Here are a couple of quick contextual thoughts.
First, per Greg Toppo’s story today* no one has declared war on anyone and Rick Khalenberg knows better. But, there is a debate among Democrats about the extent to which schools are part of the educational problem and the point we’re at in the reform debate is the time at which that issue will come to something of a head. That’s good, debates like this are healthy.
Second, there is a basic calculus between these two documents and that is the following: The people who signed the document saying that the schools are part of the problem are much more vigorous in their support of things like expanding access to health care for children, better social services for low-income Americans, expanding access to pre-K, etc…than many of the folks who signed the “bigger and bolder” manifesto are about real accountability for the schools. Eduwonkette sees the call for “continued school improvement efforts” as a rousing call to arms for accountability but offers no specifics. The manifesto didn’t either. You’ll search that document in vain for any specifics about holding adults accountable or seriously dealing with low-performing schools.
And that’s where the debate will happen because, again, pretty much everyone from the center-left to the left is all for the other pieces, the debate is over whether schools are a part of the problem. And if the bigger/bolder drafters really thought they were, then they would have written that, too, while calling for these other things. It’s a significant and non-accidental oversight and one that narrows rather than broadens the coalition.
Third, one guy signed both of the documents and though he’s not a household name is someone who would be a logical and effective pick for an Obama Secretary of Education and someone who can put together a real accountability plus agenda that holds the line on accountability while building a coalition around other supports for children.
*Here’s his other story on this, he was busy yesterday!