Obama Administration Doesn’t Walk the Ed Reform Walk

Oh, they’ll chew your ears off about how boldly they support and are catalyzing  real education reform, and how they won’t accept the failed status quo. Yes sir, they’ll boast nonstop about what a gigantic success their  Race to the Top initiative has been, despite having no real evidence to back that up. Without question, the Obama administration will talk the talk about transformative education reform. But walk the walk? That’s another story.

Let’s put this in perspective. Almost the entire basis for the Obama administration’s claim to school reform supremacy is Race to the Top. And what does RTTT do? It furnishes $4.35 billion to entice states into submitting sort of bold-sounding plans for education reform while requiring them to do very little when it comes to implementing those plans. At the very least, we have little reason to believe the administration can or will hold states to their promised reforms. And by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s own admission, the only winners to date won by getting lots of union and school district buy-in for their proposed reforms. So, as far as we can tell, Race to the Top itself is way more hot air than fiery reform.

But that isn’t even close to the clearest evidence that the Obama administration does little more than flap its gums about real reform while substantively supporting something very different. The clearest sign is that the so-called “stimulus” from which RTTT funding came furnished about $100 billion for education, and the vast majority of that was intended to keep as many people employed in our incredibly inefficient, labor-dominated public schooling monopoly as possible. In other words, the “stimulus” provided a gargantuan payoff for the very people who are supposed to be the subjects of tough reforms, while furnishing a relatively tiny sum for the program supposedly intended to inspire such reforms. (Of course, the Obama administration also helped kill the proven-effective D.C. school choice program, but we’ll save that for another time.) 

And the hits just keep on coming. With school districts nearing the end of their stimulus windfall, they once again face having to cut some of their copious fat. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has put forth the $23 billion, “Keep Our Educators Working Act” to keep that from happening, and yesterday the administration — suprise, surprise — threw its support behind the bill.  

Even the Washington Post has come out against the legislation, which if nothing else would add another $23 billion to our absolutely collosal federal deficit. Moreover, to borrow a favorite phrase of the President’s, let me be clear:  an honest accounting of even the biggest potential staffing cuts shows that those losses would constitute a relatively small cut from a system that has for decades added staff at a furious pace without producing any better outcomes.

Unfortunately, neither the shamefully irresponsible mortgaging of our future, nor the clear need to eliminate costly public-schooling jobs, seems to matter to this administration. As long as people keep letting them get away with nothing but reform-y talk, it appears they’ll willingly bankrupt the country to keep the status quo fat and happy.