Amuse Bouches!

Not only does Mike Petrilli do yoga, it turns out he also tosses around phrases like “amuse bouche.”  Is he a foodie or is he French?  Who knows!  But we do know that he is stingy if you believe this article in National Review  where he, Checker Finn, and Rick Hess argue that stimulus money will be bad for schools, or rather bad for education. 

They’re certainly right that some reciprocal obligations are a reasonable and necessary accompaniment to big infusions of federal dollars and one hopes to see that in the stimulus.   And they’re also right that school districts and states tend to absorb dollars in uncreative ways, which, by the way hardly makes them unique in the public sector.  But they also seem to think that tough times inherently force sensible belt-tightening.    

In fact, in education tough times can often just force mediocrity and there is little evidence that scarcity forces good fiscal decisionmaking.  Rather, across the board cuts and similar strategies (last hired, first fired…) tend to be the norm during downturns instead of creative strategies designed to leverage longer-term solutions.   Given the politics of education that’s not really surprising.   But even notwithstanding the past quarter, or the past year, public schools are headed for some tough budget times.   It will take deliberate decision-making and firm resolve to make the productivity enhancing reforms to address that.   It won’t happen on its own whether through technology or hard times.

3 Replies to “Amuse Bouches!”

  1. You are so right about the difficulty of making productivity-enhancing reforms that are so necessary not only to function in this time of financial crisis, but also to effect meaningful education reform and increased student achievement.

    But, what are your suggestions for how to bring these reforms about? What can we do to get our political leaders to act boldly and stop tinkering?

  2. The latest issue of Inc. Magazine just ran an article titled “The Ultimate Business Tune-Up for Times Like These.” In the article, Tony Hsieh of says, “…Zappos offers new employees $2,000 to quit, plus their time worked…. We want people to be here because they are passionate about customer service….” The policy is geared toward weeding out younger employees who are in business for the money. I wonder if a similar policy could work to weed out unmotivated or underperforming teachers.

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