Brown Roundup

Not surprisingly a lot of good coverage and commentary on Brown. In The New York Times Justice Stephen Breyer writes about the significance of the decision but UVA’s Michael J. Klarman says the ruling was less counter-majoritarian than it seems. On the same page Andrew Sullivan looks at the decision in light of the current debate about gay marriage and Albert Preston of DC’s Sousa Middle School reflects on Brown and his experience as a teacher.

Conversely, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle Clarence Johnson wonders “if we have spent too much time integrating classrooms and too little time figuring out how to truly guarantee our children a quality education.”

The Washington Post’s William Raspberry comes down in the middle. The Post’s Michael Dobbs examines school segregation in one community and also at how Brown impacted Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s thinking. And, NYT’s Greg Winters today looks at school finance and Brown in an article that will probably leave some readers hungry. In the Christian Science Monitor Gail Russell Chaddock examines teacher quality in relation to Brown, it’s a must-read, particularly the apparent sign of NEA movement on the issue.

And, if you want more of a Brown fix, here and here are other recent articles and commentary.

Afterthought: Not to take anything away from Brown, it’s very important — and hopefully Brown II will get some attention next year too — but is it just Eduwonk or have the other education related cases (for instance higher ed cases like, Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, Spiuel v. Oklahoma, Sweatt v. Painter, and McLaurin v. Oklahoma) that paved the way for Brown been ignored during this anniversary. They’re interesting by themselves and show that this was a process, change is slow and hard…something to keep in mind today.

Brown Coverage and Commentary

Too much interesting discussion and reflection on the Brown anniversary to round it all up here. National and regional newspapers are devoting the kind of attention to the anniversary that it deserves, so you’ll have to read with more than just deliberate speed to get more than a sample. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times Sunday book sections have good reviews of new books and don’t miss Greg Winter’s provocative story in the Sunday NYT.

A Suit That Doesn’t Fit

More talk of a state lawsuit against No Child Left Behind claiming it is an unfunded mandate. The law could use more funding to make its implementation more effective, but as a technical matter it is not an unfunded mandate.

The only “mandate”, the testing provisions, are funded at a minimal but technically sufficient level as this GAO study shows. There should be more funding for those provisions because kids deserve better than minimal (in practice cheap multiple choice tests), but garnering such support requires a political not judicial strategy.

Besides, No Child’s opponents look ridiculous arguing that the problem with a law they obviously hate is that it is underfunded. This law is awful, but it must be fully funded now! There’s a message…

Dog that Didn’t Bark Afterthought: Whatever happened to that vaunted NEA lawsuit against the “so called No Child Left Behind Act”?

Sensible Message Afterthought: Ted Kennedy and George Miller have the right idea here on message and policy. Support the law and fund it. Not one or the other.

Historical Afterthought: When did so-called progressives become such states’ rights fanatics?

Update! NCSL analysts think the Wisconsin lawsuit might be the vaunted lawsuit. Could be…the straight from talking points quotes in this article reveal it for the blatantly political exercise it is.

Good Reads

Relaxing poolside this weekend? Rick Kahlenberg in Slate and Cass R. Sunstein in The New Yorker both offer interesting discussions of Brown.

On the show “Uncommon Knowledge” legal scholar Douglas Kmiec and historian Garry Wills discuss church-state issues. Well worth listening or reading, a thoughtful discussion and good context on today’s debate.

And, this book is essential pool or beach reading for any eduwonk.

Disciplining Ourselves

Public Agenda just published a study on discipline in schools in cooperation with Common Good, Phillip Howard’s legal reform organization. Not surprisingly teachers and parents see discipline as a major issue and a major problem (one in three teachers said it was the top problem at their school) although they blame a small minority of students for most of the problems. However, in terms of solutions the devil is very much in the details. Respondents favored “zero tolerance” policies, for example, but wanted such policies to also include “common sense”. Of course, one person’s common sense is another’s inconsistent discipline policy. Common Good undertakes important work to rein in our lawsuit culture and we should wish them success. Schools have been forced to adopt uniform policies in part because of lawsuits. Uniformity not discretion is a foil against litigation and until the current climate changes it’s hard to blame the schools for protecting themselves.

It’s all worth reading — particularly the raw data in the back.

Current Event Afterthought: One concern raised by teachers in this study was discipline for special education students. Both the House and Senate IDEA reauthorization bills include changes to IDEA’s discipline provisions. The House language, however, is stronger. Look for that to be an issue in conference.

Stop the Presses!

Fordham Foundation’s Education Gadfly endorses universal access to pre-k education. It’s a crucial issue and not unaffordable, even now. The success of technology education surely convinced them of the efficacy of some progressive ideas! But will Bush – Cheney listen? It is anybody’s guess who will find religion first, liberal Democrats on accountability or conservative Republicans on the importance of pre-k education. But that party will be in pretty good shape…

By the way, Gadfly’s analysis of Kerry’s education plan gives the teacher quality provisions short shrift and minimizes the importance of the graduation rate issue. And, like Mickey Kaus they focus on the the political challenges down the road which, while formidable, do not minimize the significance of the proposal now. Gadfly does, however, note that President Bush needs an agenda in the first place.

Of course, Eduwonk feels like an ingrate for criticizing on the heels of being labeled perspicacious. Maybe they’ll find a fancy synonym for ungrateful next week!

Too Little, Too Late

In the interest of fairness and balance Eduwonk notes that for the most part President Bush’s education speech in Arkansas on Tuesday and remarks at NIH on Wednesday were pretty good. Sure, there were Bushisms galore and he fuzzed up the funding question, but his fundamental point — that it is essential to hold schools accountable for student learning and imperative that we do a better job looking out for the interests of struggling students — is an important one that progressives should be trumpeting not resisting.

Bush also noted that NCLB’s provisions are not punitive or draconian as opponents (and his former assistant secretary of education) claim. There is possibly a danger for anti-NCLB Democrats if he starts beating this drum…because it’s true. Good thing the press doesn’t think so! Besides, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out recently, liberals should favor doing something serious about low performing schools.

Yet Bush is in a hole of his own creation because he’s only saying these things now and focusing on education when his back is to a political wall. He left implementation of the most ambitious federal education law in a generation — which would have been a challenge in the best of circumstances — to an ideologically driven Department of Education that quickly turned it into a mess. In the process he became an unlikely ally for the law’s most virulent opponents. A three-day political roadshow is too little too late.

Senator Kerry will not move many votes except among public policy scholars by calling for a sustained implementation effort — it’s the last thing the law’s foes want — but it is exactly what is needed right now. What might such an effort include? For starters, real technical assistance particularly with accountability design and testing, professional development for both implementers and teachers, and targeted resources. State departments of education need help too. Someone should suggest that. Someone did!

Looking Glass Afterthought: If you needed more evidence that education is politically twisted, consider this: Reid Lyon, the NIH researcher who hosted Bush yesterday (and advises him on reading), has made his life’s work learning more about how children learn to read. In the process he’s produced seminal research that is helping to prevent learning disabilities and improve reading instruction. Yet the left loathes him…something about phonics. Did we mention he’s also a Democrat?

Dorothy, Show Me the Money

A Kansas judge has ordered schools there closed at the end of June because the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional. And they are to stay closed until the state legislature fixes the problem. Worth watching…

By the way, No Child will lead to more school finance litigation which is, of course, a reason liberals should like it.

Senate Does Its Own Dirty Work

Although the betting was that some Senators would take a free vote and rely on the House to reject mandatory federal funding for special education, instead the Senate rejected mandatory funding today by a 56-41 vote (Republicans used budget rules to require the amendment to have 60 votes to pass). You can see how senators voted by clicking here and follow the progress of other IDEA amendments by clicking here. This could lead to faster passage of the final package and the White House will likely try to get maximum political traction out of passing an education bill this year. Whether they can do so remains to be seen.

Strange Bedfellows IDEA Afterthoughts: The NEA is supporting Senator Santorum’s paperwork reduction pilot program…and Senator McCain voted with the Democrats on mandatory IDEA funding (so did Warner, maybe they really do want to be Defense Secretary!)…