Edu-Reform . . . Maybe

Yesterday, the president's celebrated education speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a prime specimen of what is already identifiable as classic Obama. The president delivered a serious speech that urged both right and left to move past "stale debates," called for substantial new spending, and promoted some serious reform while fudging on the details of those reforms.

In a noteworthy salvo, the President offered an indictment of American schooling clearer than that of any previous Democratic president, declaring, "Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we've let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us . . . It's time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones."

This was bold stuff, especially for a Democratic president elected with the backing of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Obama explicitly endorsed performance pay, (eventually) removing lousy teachers, and the need for more charter schools. All to the good, and none of it easy.

Whatever the president's intentions, between the stimulus and the omnibus budget there has thus far been much spending but little evidence of reform.

At the same time, the President sent up worrisome signals that he may champion faddish "21st century skills" pablum in lieu of strong content standards, was so vague on performance pay that the unions said they shared his vision, and remained silent on the effort of congressional Democrats to choke off the D.C. voucher program even as he touted the need for "innovation."

More tellingly, whatever the president's intentions, between the stimulus and the omnibus budget there has thus far been much spending but little evidence of reform. The president's budget "scrubbing" has come up empty, the $110 billion in education stimulus spending is mostly going to protect jobs and preserve the status quo, and the strategy for higher education and preschool amounts to ladling out fresh billions of borrowed funds.

The president can give a great speech and his heart seems to be in the right place. But will his administration's actions match his handsome words? The speech gives cause for optimism; the early signs, cause for skepticism. Classic Obama.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess

What's new on AEI

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.