Guest blogger Ray Pinney is member outreach coordinator for the New Jersey School Boards Association. In this post, which originally appeared on the NJSBA BoardBlog, he reflects on Fordham and CAP’s Rethinking Education Governance conference and what governance reform means for the Garden State.
After I graduated from college, I took the summer off and backpacked through Europe because I figured that it might be the last time I could travel without time constraints (of course, I was right about this). Not being able to speak the native languages provided some funny and not-so-funny incidents. In any case, I am sure most of you have been in a situation where the discussion is hampered by the two people not speaking the same language. It can be frustrating at times and shows how simple things can become so complicated.
A few weeks ago, I described an education reform program I attended, Rethinking Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century, which was sponsored by the Fordham Institute. The presenters were for the most part academics with impressive credentials. For those who have been part of public education for a while, some of these concepts may just turn your world upside down. That is because they are seriously considering “rethinking” education, not just tweaking it.
Most of you know that New Jersey’s commissioner and governor both want to change
A new round of the popular education board game, Poverty Matters, began last week with a New York Times op-ed by Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske, titled, “Class Matters: Why Won’t We Admit It?” (Interestingly, the essay is really about poverty, not class, and the paper that Ladd wrote on which the essay is based is titled Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence. See also Kathleen Porter-Magee’s The `Poverty Matters’ Trap from last July’s Flypaper.)
Ladd and Fiske’s essay was one of those broadsides that spreads through the teacher ranks like a brush fire. I received my email copy from one of our district’s veteran teachers, a hard-working, dedicated woman who rarely misses an opportunity to remind me that she and her colleagues would be doing a fine job were it not for unmotivated kids and their irresponsible parents. And Diane Ravitch weighed in, calling to mind, in tune with the season, the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, offering to “update this tale for today’s school reformers” by calling attention to Ladd and Fiske’s op-ed. (Ravitch says she uses Ladd’s Education and Poverty paper in her post.)
What I don’t understand in all of this is who exactly is claiming that class (or poverty or parents or kids) doesn’t matter? Ladd and Fiske spend most of their essay stating the obvious: that socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes. The evidence that our policymakers and reformers are
While I’m still digesting the papers and footage from the recent day-long Rethinking Education Governance for the 21st Century symposium (sponsored by Fordham and the Center for American Progress), I want to call your attention to some intriguing outlier governance events and stories.
First, on NPR recently, CNN host Fareed Zakaria said that the Founders were so “obsessed with the problem of absolute power” that they created an unworkable government. “The system in Washington is so unwieldy that in order to get everybody to agree, [it] would seem to take a miracle and would perhaps take decades.” Is that good or bad? (Checker and Mike suggest that, as far as education governance goes, we’ve got to return more powers to the states.) On the same NPR show, former Congressman Mickey Edwards argued that the problem is not the Constitution – and the governance structure it created – but the party system. Sure, you can create an efficient government, like China, said Edwards, “the people just get in the way.” He continued: “Well I think that’s nonsense. We don’t need to change to a system that gives more power to the top…What you want is more power in the people. You have to figure out what’s denying them that power, whether it’s the political primary system [or] whether it’s the redistricting system; figure out what the problems are and solve the problems.”
Second, at yesterday’s Manhattan Institute
It wasn’t considered one of the top five moments of Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, according to the New York Times, but it should have been. After Romney attacked Gingrich for his Harvard proposal to put poor kids to work as school janitors (see my post last week) the new GOP front-runner, having taken some hits for his earlier comments (see my friend, Bronx teacher Mark Anderson), proves himself an able barometer of public opinion, dropping the kids-as-janitors idea but not losing his direction:
Kids ought to be allowed to work parttime in school, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use the money — if you take one half of the New York janitors, who are unionized and are paid more than the teachers. An entry-level janitor is paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half the janitors, you could give lots of poor kids work experience in the cafeteria, the school library, in the front office and a lot of different things. I’ll stay by the idea that young people ought to learn how to work. Middle class kids do it routinely. We should give poor kids the same chance to pursue happiness.
Yes, there was applause.
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- National School Board Association’s School Board News Today
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
- Texas Association of School Boards
- New York State School Board Association
- Florida School Boards Association
- California School Boards Association
- Program on Education Policy and Governance
- The Center for Research on Education Outcomes