Monday, August 17, 2009

Obama's Push For Charter Schools Is A Wonderful Surprise

The biggest political and policy surprise from the President is no longer related to healthcare. Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary, is threatening to withhold stimulus funds to persuade states to rewrite their education laws to allow more charter schools and to promote the use of student test scores to judge teacher performance. See Sunday, August 16, 2009, New York Times article, "Obama Pushes States to Shift on Education" by Sam Dillon.

Health reform is mostly about cost containment and affordability. It is about budgeting and living within the country's means. It will happen with or without Presidential or Congressional action, because eventually the public will not endorse the increase in taxes or debt needed to fund the government's medical entitlement programs projected cost explosion. Additionally, insurance companies and the medical establishment will not allow a significant percentage of middle class families to go without health insurance solely due to affordability issues when the government cannot step in as an insurer of last resort.

Education is a much more fundamental problem affecting the US's future. Schooling is about investing in all our futures. An educated America is a productive, economically growing and politically stable country. Without massive quality investment in our future generations, the US will not be able to continue to enjoy its wonderful standard of living or maintain a low unemployment rate.

Duncan's actions are a complete surprise because the policies diverge from expectations based on his background, Obama's campaign promises and the President's actions and background.

Obama and Duncan are very pro union. Despite the teachers' unions strong opposition to charter schools and evaluation of teachers based on student test scores, Duncan is pushing for both and using a very strong persuasive tool, money.

Charter schools are traditionally non-unionized. Comparative studies of union and non-union charter schools clearly show that students at unionized charter schools perform worse than at non-union charter schools and like regular public school students.

If Obama adheres to the goal of increasing charter schools without additional demands that these schools use union teachers, it will be a great achievement towards improving the public educational system of our children.

No comments:

Post a Comment