Update: Statement of Administration Policy released late today contains a veto threat on the rescission provisions.
Update II: The package passed the House with the rescissions intact.
Update III: Even the usually mild-mannered Hope Street Group is on the attack over this. Plus don’t miss Jonathan Alter’s piece on this, a lot of inside baseball that is no longer so inside. Absolute must reading.
What a weird 24 hours. First, no one wanted to say that cannibalizing Secretary Duncan/President Obama’s top ed reform priorities was their idea. Now, people are lining up with Congressman Obey even though you can’t find an editorial board, moderate, or education analyst who thinks this is a good idea. Alyson Klein has great coverage of all the back and forth.
Key political issues:
- The Weingarten v. The White House dynamic bears watching.
- This is a test for reformers, some, for instance Charlie Barone, clearly get that. Unclear if everyone understands what’s at stake here. Hint, it’s more than the money for the programs…
- Jared Polis is really stepping out on this issue to protect the charter school funding. Keep an eye on that.
Substantively, now that the fight has shifted to offsets some of the underlying issues are getting lost. Mr. Robin Chait has a strong piece at TNR about the proposed Obey cuts. It’s being blasted all over reform-land. I think I’ve received it at least once for every word of text in it. It’s great that he calls out the ridiculousness of some of this, but overall I don’t like it so much because (a) he brushes off the possibility of doing something on “last in, first out” or LIFO with these funds as impractical. In practice, there are plenty of policy mechanisms you could attach to this funding that wouldn’t delay it but would commit states to some action now and/or moving forward. And (b) when he writes that “The right is using the pretext of education reform to oppose sensible fiscal policy, and the left is using the pretext of sensible fiscal policy to oppose education reform” that ignores all the left-leaning groups (eg Children’s Defense Fund and others (pdf)) that called for LIFO reform. Like many education issues, this one isn’t left – right.
That sentiment also minimizes the underlying fiscal dynamic here. Because of all the built in cost escalators for teacher pay if it takes $10, or $23 billion, or whatever, to stave off layoffs this year, it will cost even more next year absent either a dramatic change in state tax receipts or cost containment strategies. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which of those is more likely or something Congress can actually influence. Assuming that teacher ineffectiveness is not concentrated at one or the other end of the salary distribution (which after the first year the evidence says it is not) then not only allowing but encouraging schools to use effectiveness in layoff decisions is not only common sense, it actually helps address the underlying cost problems. Why? Because it encourages schools to lay off less productive workers not just cheaper ones. And it’s important to remember that while large districts with substantial annual hiring are getting the attention in many communities the “first out” teacher can still be a teacher with experience and a track record.