Passing a set of historic reform bills last week, the Louisiana legislature handed Gov. Bobby Jindal and his new education chief, John White, the keys to reform city. By a healthy majority in both houses, it passed legislation, writes Bill Barrow of the Times-Picayune, which will
The Lousiana legislature passed a set of historic reform bills last week.
Photo by Jim Bowen.
…curtail teacher tenure protection, tie instructors' compensation and superintendents' job security to student performance; shift hiring and firing power from school boards to superintendents; create new paths to open charter schools; and establish a statewide program that uses the public-school financing formula to pay private-school tuition for certain low-income students.
It was anything but a cakewalk for the Jindal reform package, as teachers descended on the Capitol to fight the bills and Democrats charged the second-term Republican governor with strong-arm tactics reminiscent of former political tough guys Huey Long and Edwin Edwards. “I make no apologies for having a sense of urgency,” said Jindal. “I was elected to help lead our state. I was not elected just to hold an office."
Even Diane Ravitch made a trip to Louisiana to cheer-lead the anti-reform troops. As she recounts on her Bridging Differences blog, headlined “Bobby Jindal v. Public Education,”
One might fairly wonder why the Council on Foreign Relations, of all outfits, would wade into school reform, but in fact the task force that CFR convened on this topic has made a valuable contribution.
We’re accustomed to reformers arguing that America’s international economic competitiveness hinges on a better-educated workforce; we’re used to parallel (and equally justified) assertions that our civic future and cultural vitality depend on kids learning a great deal more in school. What the CFR team has done is remind us that revitalizing our education system is also essential for the defense of the nation itself. In their words, “America’s failure to educate is affecting its national security….In the defense and aerospace industries, many executives fear this problem [dearth of adequately skilled people] will accelerate in the coming decade….Most young people do not qualify for military service….The U.S. State Department and intelligence agencies are facing critical language shortfalls in areas of strategic interest….”
They’re not exactly saying that nuclear warheads will rain onto our population centers the day after tomorrow unless our schools become more effective but they are reminding us that the intersection of national wellbeing and education has many dimensions. One may usefully recall the post-Sputnik angst that led to the National Defense Education Act and a flurry of other efforts to strengthen the U.S. education system as well as the stirring and alarmist rhetoric
A venerable maxim of successful organizational management declares that an executive's authority should be commensurate with his or her responsibility. In plain English, if you are held to account for producing certain results, you need to be in charge of the essential means of production.
There's a serious imbalance between a principal's accountability and authority.
Photo by Kat.
In American public education today, however, that equation is sorely unbalanced. A school principal in 2012 is accountable for student achievement, for discipline, for curriculum and instruction, and for leading (and supervising) the staff team, not to mention attracting students, satisfying parents, and collaborating with innumerable other agencies and organizations.
Yet that same principal controls only a tiny part of his school's budget, has scant say over who teaches there, practically no authority when it comes to calendar or schedule, and minimal leverage over the curriculum itself. Instead of deploying all available school assets in ways that would do the most good for the most kids, the principal is required to follow dozens or hundreds of rules, program requirements, spending procedures, discipline codes, contract clauses, and regulations emanating from at least three levels of government—none of which strives to coordinate with any of the others.
In short, we give our school heads
In what might be the quote of the day (if not year), Geoffrey Canada tells Anna Phillips of the New York Times that,
Folks are genuinely looking for opportunities to make peace and not war…. And I think that’s terrific. But someone has to make war.
A triumvirate of kumbaya they are not.
Who better to lead the troops than Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Eva Moskowitz, three of the most aggressive education reformers of the last decade, or, if you prefer, as Phillips has it, “some of the most well-known and polarizing figures in public education.”
A triumvirate of kumbaya they are not.
And what they have now done is form a group that intends to raise $10 million annually for the next five years to lobby the New York State legislature to protect the reform initiatives launched by Klein and his mayoral boss Michael Bloomberg in New York City, promote reform throughout the state, and, as Phillips writes,
…neutralize the might of the teachers’ unions, whose money, endorsements and get-out-the-vote efforts have swung many close elections.
Bloomberg’s third (and this time final) term expires at the end of next year. Says Phillips,
[T]he campaign is beginning while advocates of reform have an ally in the mayor. But their eyes are focused on 2014, when a new mayor—most likely one who is more sympathetic to the teachers’ union than Mr. Bloomberg has been—enters office.
In fact, the law to renew
- 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.
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