…And Smoke Them Out?

In today’s Times Sam Dillon writes:

Representatives David R. Obey of Wisconsin and George Miller of California, the Democratic chairmen of the House appropriations and education committees, immediately saw the importance of extracting reform promises from the states, said a Democratic House staff member who attended the meeting but is barred from speaking on the record about committee business.

Rachel Racusen, a spokeswoman for the House education committee, said, “Chairman Miller said this couldn’t just be free money, that we had to get something in return.”

Wait a minute…something doesn’t add up here.  Anyone with an ounce of sense saw the need to extract something from the states in exchange for the greatest windfall of federal education dollars in history.   But, if Miller wanted reform, Obey wanted reform, and the Administration wanted reform, why then are there not actual requirements for reform in the law for reform rather than “assurances” and “promises” of intent to reform?   Did the Senate do it, in the parlor with the candlestick?  I can’t believe those dastardly moderates would have wanted less reform rather than more…Racusen’s comment is conspicuously non-plural…C’mon Sam, dig!  Diane Ravitch won’t just reveal the answer on her blog…

Update:  Another clue?  “During a visit home Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned his home state of Illinois is at risk of losing its shot at a new pot of federal money if it fails to show the political will to fundamentally shake up the way schools are funded and operated.”

3 Replies to “…And Smoke Them Out?”

  1. Interesting approach–here’s what we want, i.e., reform or a “shake-up” in the way “schools are funded and operated.” Now figure out what we mean and we’ll let you know if it’s okay??

  2. This gets us back to the same dilemma for “reformers” who want more than assurances and promises. Models that would assure greater accountability are simply not ready for prime time. We can debate whether the data-driven accountability sought by Rhee/Klein and others is humanly impossible or whether it would just take decades to develop. But we simply don’t have the tools necessary to produce a national system for evaluating teachers in a data-driven manner.

    So, why not tip your hand? What is it you would like to “extract” from the states?

    That gets us back to your previous post. Schmoke predicted the war on drugs fiasco, and thus predicted the failure of NCLB-type accountability. As was explained by the founder of data-driven community policing, and was further illustrated by The Wire, accountability by data is like chemo-therapy. A little can be helpful but keep it up and you poison yourself.

    Most people with real-world expertise on crime knew in the 1980s that the Drug War would turn around the percentages, making people of color the majority of prison inmates, even though they did not use drugs at a higher rate. We knew that we would fill the prisons with non-violent inmates, causing even more damage to families, hurting the poor and thus damaging education, thus making the downward spiral worst.

    And whether you were a cop or a social worker, a prosecutor or a defense attorney, a scholar or a small time criminal, you knew the reason why. IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NUMBERS COME OUT RIGHT, we’d lock up small fry and pervert our criminal justice system getting them to snitch on the big fish.

    I would think that Schmoke would be the perfect person to mediate because he understands the reality of urban poverty, and the human comedy and the way that people will turn themselves into pretzles to make the numbers look good. I heard Jason Kamras on C-Span at Aspen when he acknowledged that the value-added models sought by Rhee are not ready. Why did they waste a year pursuing some pipe dream? Get this wrong, and Rhee will do more unintended harm on poor children in D.C. than Reagan’s Drug War did. Yes, our problems are huge. Simplistic quick fixes, however, always have the potential to make things worse. I bet that Duncan and Obama understand that.

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