Don’t look to government to reform education

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Jeanne Allen
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      Jeanne Allen

      Jeanne Allen is the President of the Center for Education Reform (CER), a Washington, D.C.-based organization driving the creation of better educational opportunities for all children by leading parents, policymakers and the media in boldly advocating for school choice, advancing the charter school movement, and challenging the education establishment.

      Co- author of "The School Reform Handbook: How to Improve Your Schools" (1995), Jeanne is recognized as one of the country's leading education experts. She appears frequently on national television and radio programs, and can often be found in the pages of the nation's most influential newspapers and magazines.

      Jeanne's deep knowledge of the legislative process, her reputation as an influencer on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in statehouses around the country, as well as her immensely successful grassroots work in local communities, keep her in demand as a keynote speaker and presenter before groups throughout the United States.

      An advisor, both formally and informally, to a number of education reform groups, grassroots organizations, foundation executives and legislative leaders, she has also served as a participant in several exclusive presidential and administration roundtables.

      Jeanne currently serves as an Alliance Trustee to the America's Promise Alliance and as an advisor to the Mercy Center Foundation. She is an active contributor to both The Politico's The Arena and The National Journal's Education Experts blogs.

      Jeanne is the mother of four school-age children, Johnny, Teddy, Anthony, and Mary Monica and is married to Dr. Kevin L. Strother.

With CPAC attendees descending on Washington this week, with a new conservative manifesto being penned to protect the Constitution, and with Tea Parties being planned for the spring, I find myself hoping and praying that such small-government fervor infiltrates the ranks of education reformers.

Today’s new brand of education reformers look too often to the federal government, and in particular, the Obama administration, for guidance. It’s understandable. President Obama and his team have masterfully sounded the call over the crisis in education and trumpted many popular reforms such as charter schools and performance pay (alas, not full school choice—what I think of that is most apparent in tonight’s John Stossel Show on Fox Business at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.). Sadly, the new kids on the reform block need some history lessons about where real reform is incubated, and where it’s not.

In rhetoric, Obama can be compared to former Education Secretary and world-wide radio traveler Bill Bennett, whose famous 1987 “Chicago has the worst schools in the nation” remark vilified him with the establishment but called attention to a truth that few in Washington had by that time dared to speak. Now it’s okay, thanks to those who took the early arrows—to admit we not only have a crisis, but that adult jobs—a.k.a. union interests—are the primary reason for this crisis.

Where Obama and hopeful reform fans fall short is in celebrating that the solution to that crisis can be generated from the federal government. With little difficulty the Administration has unleashed a dizzying array of programmatic and policy proposals aimed at reshaping American education. The problem is, they have no history as to how real reform actually occurs, quite successfully, in the absence of a strong federal role. And with a major election on the horizon, the potential for restoring the strong state leadership that once created education reform to begin with is worth recalling.

It was the states that pioneered strong standards in the ’90s, across Virginia, Massachusetts and California to start, without the feds saying they should. It was the states that created the first truly strong charter school laws, before there was a federal grant program, and such laws flourished across both red and blue states. It was the states that enacted school voucher programs, when even the mention of the word “voucher” was anathema in Washington.

And the reforms were bipartisan. The program that made Milwaukee famous—school vouchers—and now graduates kids at rates of 18 percent more than public schools—was shepherded by a Republican white governor and Democrat black councilwoman.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kian-Mead/100000454748695 Kian Mead

    Looks like no one cares about education. How sad.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kian-Mead/100000454748695 Kian Mead

    Sure, unions are a destructive factor in education reform – but I am more concerned with the interference of the fundamental christians in the school boards manipulating what we teach – especially in the sciences and history.

    Local reform must be balanced with national education guidelines to stop our children being taught anything fitting with any political or religious philosophy rather than the tools to discern the truth, and what is supported as rigorous science (yes, that means evolution).

    Obama is taking the centrist position, concentrating power in the education department – but is taking too many powers, and the wrong powers. What we teach needs to be decided nationally, how we teach locally.

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  • alanmulvey19

    Obama lays out higher education agenda, get a Medical Assistant Degree from http://ow.ly/18uCo