Saturday, October 18, 2008

People Get Ready for the Charter Schools may be coming

J. P Greene's snapshot of the impact of presidential politics on the schools is worth a read.

Education finally came up in a presidential debate and I heard something that I never heard before — the standard-bearers for both parties agreed that competition was good for public schools. Sure, past Democratic candidates have endorsed school choice with charters, as Obama did. But Obama did something new.
He specifically said that competition from charter schools was important for improving traditional public schools.

Clinton, Gore, and Kerry embraced school choice with charters as an escape hatch for students condemned to failing public schools, sounding very much like Sol Stern, Mike Petrilli, and Rick Hess. But Obama left previous Democratic candidates and these fellows at market-oriented (?!) think tanks in the dust by saying that choice was desirable because of competition...
Greene recalls Barack Obama's remarks from last week's debate:

Charter schools, I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois despite some reservations from teachers unions. I think it's important to foster competition inside the public schools.

He points out that Obama and McCain agree on "the big idea" that public schools are improved when they have to compete.
But there is at least one important difference between the two. Obama, "wants to limit choice and competition to public schools (which include charters), while McCain wants to include private schools in the mix. "
This is an important distinction, and vouchers should continue to be resisted.
Kentucky has also resisted a charter school law. And it's not clear that charter schools would fully comply with the school equity language in the state constitution. Unless the General Assembly maintained strict accountability over funds and student achievement results of all schools in the state, charter schools could become very disequalizing.

But maybe Kentucky's Constitution doesn't matter. No matter who wins the presidential election, Kentucky schools may be in for expanded choice options.

That all depends on the approach used by the new president. Will he choose to continue the trend toward a more centralized system of schools in America? Will he abuse the Constitution by spending public money on private interests?

Does the reserve clause of the Tenth Amendment prohibit a president from trumping whatever a state determines to be best for its citizens?

Or, does the Constitution require the government to not only provide for the common defense, but also to promote the general welfare?

Those who, simultaneously, champion the "reserve clause" argument against federal intrusion over states rights, while wishing for a presidential expansion of choice options, may be conflicted in this case.

Or maybe not. Folks do tend to use the most convenient argument to support their short-term desires. The need for logical consistency is a distant second.

But history suggests that all a president needs to do is offer enough funding and the parsimonious states will fall in line. The president need only set a course.
Obama's plan splits the difference between the teacher's unions and progressives.

McCain jerks the wheel to the right by supporting welfare for private schools in the form of vouchers.
When the primary campaign began, my my first impulse was to support one my preferred moderates; Joe Biden or John McCain. Biden's campaign failed to ignite, but he got the nod as Obama's VP. McCain reinvented himself as someone much less moderate and threw caution to the wind with his Sarah Palin pick.
Whether Palin or vouchers, McCain's move to the right is wrong for moderates and independents.

Tip of the hat to David Adams at Kentucky Progress.

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