Ed Reform Politics
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Those who have long claimed that public funding cuts do lower the educational quality of public universities are finally seeing the connection go mainstream. The New York Times made it explicit again in the title of last week's coverage of the ongoing crisis in Caifornia higher ed: "California Cuts Threaten the Status of Universities." The story's accompanying photo is an image of the kind of factory-style higher ed that everyone from commercial e-learning companies to small-seminar advocates agrees will no longer do. Simultaneous news came last week that "S.F. City College can't afford all its campuses" suggesting that even the cheapest public ed factories are facing closure.
College students and graduates have racked up more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt, as the cost of a higher education is rising fast. Why are colleges and universities increasing tuition instead of cutting expenses? Is online learning on the verge of changing the way Americans prepare themselves for employment in the so-called "knowledge economy?" Also, the G8 Summit convenes at Camp David. On Reporter's Notebook, this weekend, six playoff games will be played in both hockey and basketball — in one single arena. Crews will have 80 hours to change a wood floor into an ice rink and back again.
The volume of federally guaranteed to students at so-called proprietary colleges — the ones that intend to operate at a profit and get nearly all their revenue from the government — continues to grow. At the same time, state and local governments across the country are slashing spending on higher education, and — the ones most likely to offer alternatives to the students recruited by the far more expensive proprietary schools — are suffering some of the largest reductions. That trend has been welcome news to the proprietary colleges. “The competitive landscape” is getting better, Kevin M. Modany, the chief executive of , one of the larger , told analysts this year. “When you look at what’s going on right now from a community college perspective,” he said, “we’re seeing a lot of state budgets being constrained.
Villaraigosa is one of several Democratic mayors in cities across the country — Chicago, Cleveland, Newark and Boston, among them — who are challenging teachers unions in ways that seemed inconceivable just a decade ago. “This is a very, very interesting political situation that is way counterintuitive,” said Charles Taylor Kerchner , who has written two books about teachers unions. At at time when most Americans believe that U.S. education is imperiled, and cities are especially struggling to improve schools, the tension between the mayors and the unions is causing a fundamental realignment of two powerful forces in urban politics. In the clash over what is best for children, adults on both sides are gambling.
Forgive American consumers if they feel a bit perplexed. Policymakers and pundits have been warning them about the prospect of deflation (a prolonged and widespread decline in prices), but there’s no sign of any decline in many of the prices that people pay every day. Car-insurance premiums jumped more than nine per cent last year. Health-insurance costs are soaring, to say nothing of the cost of a haircut. Cable-TV prices have risen sixteen per cent since 2000.
Teach for America is a worthy idea. It is wonderful to encourage young people to commit themselves to public service for two years. The program would be far more admirable if the organization showed some modesty, humility, and realism in its claims for its inexperienced teachers. Many foundations, corporations, and even the US Department of Education treat TFA as a systemic solution to the critical needs of the teaching profession. But it is foolhardy to expect that a profession of more than three million teachers will be transformed by the annual addition of a few thousand college graduates.
Tuomas Uusheimo The Kirkkojärvi School in Espoo, Finland, which accommodates about 770 students aged seven to sixteen and also includes a preschool for six-year-olds; from the Museum of Finnish Architecture’s exhibition ‘The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century,’ which will be on view at the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Architecture in New York City this fall In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Bush, former schools chancellor Joel Klein in New York City, former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have agreed that there should be “no excuses” for schools with low test scores. The “no excuses” reformers maintain that all children can attain academic proficiency without regard to poverty, disability, or other conditions, and that someone must be held accountable if they do not.
Undermining Protections for Students With Disabilities The ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Act has been introduced in Wisconsin as AB 110 by Rep. Michelle Litjens, and co-sponsored in the Senate by Leah Vukmir, who was an ALEC "Legislator of the Year" in 2009. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction said: This bill strips special education students of due process rights and rights to services.
This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series. Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding. About the Author
The characterized Mr. Duncan’s remarks, at a Las Vegas conference of college financial aid workers, as the start of a “national conversation” about high costs, which have prompted raucous protests across the country and ignited an angry push among some borrowers demanding debt forgiveness, federal grants and interest-free loans. The department used the opportunity to call attention to steps the Obama administration had taken to reduce the net price that students and families pay for higher education and make it easier to repay . But it was clear that the administration was taking heed of the rising furor over tuition increases, and a growing online debate about how much a college degree is worth at a time when few jobs are available for graduates.
Steven Brill If you saw Waiting for "Superman," Steven Brill's tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled "education reformers." But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill's briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are.
By Stanley N. Katz In a January speech at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, laying out his policy for higher education, President Obama opened by noting his agenda: "How can we make sure that everybody is getting the kind of education they need to personally succeed but also to build up this nation—because in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education." Although the United States still has "the best network of colleges and universities in the world," he said, "the challenge is it's getting tougher and tougher to afford it." Thus his primary policy concerns were high tuition and student debt. At Ann Arbor, President Obama captured the spirit of the megafoundation program for higher education.
The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence. Sergey Ivanov/Flickr Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland.
Last year, as Washington State faced a severe budget crisis, legislators embraced a novel way to fund student financial aid: a public-private partnership between the state and private corporations. Called the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, the fund attracts private donations and matches them with public money in order to support students in science, technology, and other “high demand” fields. As Inside Higher Ed reporter Paul Fain wrote, “ the thinking in Washington was that if corporations had more direct control of how their donations were used, they might be more inclined to give . “ This is exactly right -- Boeing and Microsoft quickly pledged $50 million -- but the creation of the fund must be placed in the broader context of state defunding of public higher education.
This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools”—charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet—as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits.