It’s starting to look like this prediction was a little-off…
But the post-election analysis still mostly stands though the convincing margin of Bush’s win will, at least initially, temper some of the partisanship. However, Bush’s victory does mean that the conflation of politics, anti-Bush feeling, and education policy will continue. Bush himself certainly deserves some blame for this state of affairs, though clearly not all, but he can do something to defuse it and achieve some progress.
On education specifically, a dramatic move would be to appoint a reform-oriented Democrat as his next Secretary of Education. The logical candidates are some of the same names tossed out as good picks for a Kerry Administration: San Diego’s Alan Bersin, New York’s Joel Klein, Virginia Governor Mark Warner (who would be terrific for the national interest although it’s not in his best interest), or former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes. Other good picks would include someone like former Detroit superintendent Deb McGriff or Hugh Price, the former president of the Urban League.
Picking someone from the other party for posts like Defense, State, or Transportation where differences do not consistently follow party lines is one thing. Reaching out to make a bold pick from across the aisle for a post where there are genuine partisan disagreements, but also room for real consensus building, is a whole different kettle of fish. It would also show that unlike previous feints to bipartisanship and unity, this time the President actually means to act on his words. It’s hard to find a Democrat who agrees overwhelmingly with Bush on education but there are plenty, like the above, who agree on more than enough to build real consensus.
Alternatively, Bush could follow advice like this and his second term will do nothing to build consensus in the nation nor move us closer to addressing the enormous challenges that American education faces.
Also, if Bush II doesn’t change its tax cut and spend ways, educators should worry more than anything else about the Geezer War, which will not just be a federal problem.
PS—Rumors abound that Margaret Spellings was once, or still is, a Democrat. Eduwonk doesn’t know, or really care, and while he thinks she’s a fine pick for Secretary because she has a much-needed pragmatic streak, a Spellings pick would, by itself, do little to defuse the toxic and intellectually deadening education politics of the past year or two.
Update! Several reliable emailers say that Diane Ravitch’s name is floating around. But she’s not a Democrat either! It’s unity! Remember?