Obama Has Politically Scrambled the Decks on Education

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute wrote an op/ed last week for the Boston Globe entitled “Schools and conventional wisdom.”  He said something that articulates what I’ve been noticing with the education scene with the two major political parties.

If the Republican convention showed us anything about Republicans’ views about education, it demonstrated just how successful the Obama administration has been in politically scrambling the decks. No longer is it clear which party is for standards, testing and charter schools (used to be Republicans), and which is for centralized policymaking in DC (used to be Democrats).

Republicans have always had within their midst a cadre of policymakers who believed that they could counter union power from the center—from DC—with prescriptive standards and testing as their core tools. The Fordham Institute and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander fall within that camp, comfortable with a level of control in DC that even the architect of the Great Society programs, President Lyndon B. Johnson, did not countenance. The justification for this convergence is “international competitiveness,” the driving force for DC-based policymakers since A Nation at Risk, if not 50 years before.

He also gave a suggestion should Mitt Romney win in November:

Rather than impose all kinds of new explicit or de facto federal mandates, a Republican administration would do well to create a real Race to the Top, which simply rewards states for results—not compliance with federal rules. If we are so taken with the narrative of falling behind other countries and losing our competitive edge as a result, a trope that is present since the 1983 A Nation at Risk report and continued in both Governor Bush and Secretary Rice’s remarks at the RNC, then a focus on results rather than what bureaucrats in DC think will work is the way to go.