Return of the Five Underreported Stories

Last week’s musing on the five (plus two more) underreported education stories generated a lot of interesting emails as well as posts elsewhere. President Clinton liked to say that every problem is being solved somewhere around this country and, as it turns out, every story is likely being written somewhere — especially on a blog somewhere. But, just because it’s been written once or somewhere does not mean the issue is getting the sustained attention it merits.

Number 2 Pencil took issue with Eduwonk’s assertion that President Bush’s mishandling of NCLB is not getting the attention it deserves. She pointed to the slew of stories about NCLB and assumed Eduwonk was kidding. Perhaps this wasn’t clear. The stories are mostly about interest group ginned up resistance to NCLB. Interest group angst is an old — if too often misunderstood — story. Any reform with broad benefits to the public or a broad class of citizens (in this case poor youngsters) but burdens on selected constituencies is bound to spark the sort of resistance that NCLB is facing. That same dynamic is why it’s hard to reform agriculture subsidies, drug costs, and a host of other policies with strong special interest backing. Education is no different; people just like to think it is.

President Bush is, obviously, not to blame for this dynamic. However, it was pretty clear that this was going to happen and he is culpable for (a) failing to plan for it through an aggressive public information campaign and (b) making several key implementation blunders that only served to fuel the fire rather than help tamp it out. This article has more on all that. Examination of these issues — rather than tired back and forth about funding or the law itself — is sorely needed, especially considering the President is campaigning on “leadership.”

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