Grim tea leaves for reform-minded dems
The NCLB saga continues

Fredler Brave

High school students in a Miami classroom.

Article Highlights

  • trying to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary #Edcuation Act seems to be going #nowhere fast

    Tweet This

  • Reform dems need to bridge the gap between their view on involving the #feds in edcuation, and the tea-party republicans

    Tweet This

  • A coalition of such R's and Democratic reformers is possible..... in #theory

    Tweet This

This week's developments have been notable-- less because the reauth effort is likely to go anywhere, and more because they offer a clarifying look at where things stand. The more the Ed Trust and Center for American Progress view mandates as the measure of "reforminess," the more they ensure that they will not find common cause with even sympathetic Republicans. Whereas Ed Trust was central to the NCLB negotiations a decade ago, today they're standing outside the emerging consensus that spans from Harkin-Enzi on the center-left, to Alexander-Burr on the center-right, to the House Republican caucus (and the NEA!) on the right.

"Reform-minded Dems in Washington may well find themselves on the outside looking in." -- Frederick M. Hess

The concern on the right, for many who embrace charters, test-based accountability, and overhauling teacher tenure, evaluation, and pay, is not, as Senator Alexander ably explained, these policies, but the hubris of those who think they can be effectively prescribed or policed from Washington. NCLB illustrated how self-proclaimed "reformers" can drive past the bounds of common sense and a well-ordered federal role. One result, which should not surprise, is that Republicans seeking to bring the feds back in line are finding much common ground with the unions.

State-level action this year, from Indiana to Wisconsin to Ohio, has shown that tea party-inspired Republicans are eager to battle teacher unions, promote accountability, and advance school choice. A coalition of such R's and Democratic reformers is entirely possible in theory, but it's foundering on their very different orientations towards federal action. The administration and the reform Dems need to find a way to bridge this divide. Otherwise, after years of being at the white hot center of the education debate, reform-minded Dems in Washington may well find themselves on the outside looking in.

Finding sixty votes for some version of Harkin-Enzi in the Senate will prove enormously difficult, if not impossible. Most of the Senate Republicans are going to resist anything that includes much in the way of categoricals, HQT, and mandated improvement strategies; Ed Trust Dems will insist on those things; and NEA Dems are going to want more money and less accountability. How you assemble sixty votes there is tough to see. And, even if you do, it's hard to see how one reconciles whatever emerges with what House Republicans are hoping to do.

This all means that the odds of a reauth before the 2012 election may have edged up a few ticks from 1-in-100, but they haven't moved much more than that. The maneuvering and fighting are less important because they're likely to produce a new law, and more because they are backlighting the landscape, forging alliances, and fixing markers and default language for the next go-round, in 2013.

Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at AEI

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.


    Follow AEI Education Policy on Twitter


    Follow Frederick M. Hess on Twitter.

  • Email: rhess@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Sarah DuPre
    Phone: 202-862-7160
    Email: Sarah.DuPre@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.