Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rick Perry is right - the feds should stay out of education

The Fordham Institute, a generally conservative-leaning education think tank wrote an opinion piece critical of Texas governor (and possible presidential candidate) Rick Perry's education policy.  In "Good for Texas. Good for  America?" Chester Finn first blamed "cocky" Texans (in general) for saddling the rest of us with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which ended up being a costly, regulatory nightmare that emphasized testing, testing, and more testing with a patchwork of state standards trying to conform to burdensome federal regulations.  By the time this federal  bureaucracy trickled down to the local level, school boards and teachers were left "teaching to the test" with the threat of harsh penalties from the Feds always looming.  

Finn acknowledges that the biggest flaw in NCLB was the loss of state control:
"NCLB tried. It tried harder than any federal education law in history. Its shortcomings are due in large measure to its architects’ failure to distinguish between what a state government in a place like Austin can make happen in K-12 education and what Uncle Sam can bring about."
He then goes on to criticize Perry for acknowledging that very thing - for saying that Texans wanted to take matters into their own hands do education their own way, without interference from the federal government:
"Governor Perry heads into his presidential quest with a different blind-spot, in some ways the obverse of Bush’s. He is best known in education (and several other domains) for his adamant refusal to let Texas be pushed or pulled at all by Washington or other forces outside the Lone Star borders. That’s why he vehemently refused to seek Race to the Top funding. (Texas’s share could have been $700 million.)
About RTTT he said:“We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington.”
But Uncle Sam isn’t the only education scarecrow in Perry’s wheat field. Consider the Common Core standards for reading and math. Several months before the draft product of that initiative was even ready for inspection, he declared that “I will not commit Texas taxpayers to…the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests."
I say good for Texas!!  More states should stand up and refuse to take the carrots the federal government is dangling because those carrots have mighty long strings attached. 

Finn goes on to say that many states are desperate for federal handouts and it's not fair to deprive them of this money.  Apparently, Rick Perry is setting a bad precedent - or a bad example for other governors.  He even goes as far as to say that in "gravely ill jurisdictions such as Ohio and Michigan...Uncle Sam might help reformers duke it out with entrenched unions."  

Really?  The Obama Department of Education is going to let Governor Kasich use NCLB and RTT money to battle unions?  The National Labor Relations Board is having the vapors as we speak. 

Finn continues:
"Yes, one can pledge allegiance to the tenth amendment and declare that such challenges are the states’ problems to solve if they want to and can. But is that the best thing in the twenty-first century for a big modern country that is being outpaced in education (and economic growth) by nations around the planet? And is it the best thing for 55 million kids, many of whom today face dim futures that could be brightened by a better education? Few deny that today’s federal role in K-12 schooling needs major surgery. But with a deft scalpel, not a cleaver. If Perry brings only a Texas chainsaw to the task, it could turn out that projecting another set of Lone Star precedents upon all of American education would be one more mistake."
Yes, pledging allegiance to the tenth amendment is the best thing!  The Federal government has no business meddling in education. It is a state function and the sooner we send it back there,  the better we'll be.  The Federal government is the problem, not the solution.  Part of the reason education is so expensive is the myriad of rules and regulations imposed by programs such as NCLB and RTTT.  Once you gut all those regulations, cut all those jobs at the Department of Education, cut all the jobs of people who must administer all those rules and regulations, states won't need all those carrots the Feds are dangling. 

I don't agree with Rick Perry on every issue, but on this one he gets an A+ in my book.

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