The Tale of Two Secretaries of Education Past

Michael J. Petrilli at Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog had an interesting side-by-side comparison of two former Secretaries of Education, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) (served under President George H.W. Bush) and Margaret Spellings (the 2nd Education Secretary for President George W. Bush).  Lamar has a respect for local control and Spellings does not.  They are having a debate today, and here are some of their position statements:


Margaret Spellings

Lamar Alexander

The appropriate federal role in education “I believe that the federal government should play a discrete and powerful role in maintaining accountability, that it is time for us to get serious as individuals about putting our education system back on track, and that our focus must not be deterred by the main issue of improving the system for all students.” Ed Week 1-12-12 “Washington can’t create good jobs, and Washington can’t create good schools. What Washington can do, though, is shape an environment in which businesses and entrepreneurs can create jobs. It can do the same thing in education, by creating an environment in which teachers, parents and communities can build better schools.” New York Times 9-27-11
How far can states be relied on to do the right thing? In far too many places, state and local control means excuses, inaction, complacency, and union control.” Huffington Post, 10-3-11 “No Child Left Behind has made one thing clear: when it comes to education reform, the states are both highly capable and highly motivated.” New York Times 9-27-11
Whether federal sanctions should apply to just the lowest-performing schools. “[Officials in the Obama administration] are going to double-down on the lowest-performing schools and that’s fine, but they are letting up to 90 percent of them escape the net of accountability. Today, every one of the schools feels its [NCLB’s] enduring legacy.” Hechinger Report, May 17, 2010 “And we would make sure that some of that money went specifically to help states turn around the bottom 5 percent of their schools.” New York Times 9-27-11
Whether to keep NCLB’s “public school choice” and “supplemental services” provisions “My other main beef is they have killed off tutoring and public school choice options, so when you fail, unless you are horrifyingly low-performing, then really nothing happens to you. There are no consequences, and I think that’s terrible” Hechinger Report, May 17, 2010 [Senator Alexander’s ESEA reauthorization bills do not mandate public school choice or supplemental services for low-performing schools.]