President Obama gave a great speech yesterday in which he strongly endorsed charter schools and merit pay. He also emphasized the need to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms and to expand access to pre-school.
The problem is that these words bear almost no resemblance to the education priorities contained in Obama’s legislative agenda. This is really strange. I’m accustomed to presidents exaggerating the attractiveness of their proposed policies. But Obama is the first president that I can think of who pushes the attractiveness of policies that he is hardly pursuing in legislation while concealing the bulk of his actual efforts.
I’ve previously written about how the bulk of Obama’s increased education spending goes to status quo programs, such as Title I, special ed, Pell Grants, school construction, and generally holding localities harmless against losses in tax revenue. Almost no money has been devoted to charter schools, merit pay, efforts to remove ineffective teachers, and even pre-school (which received only $4 billion of the $800 billion stimulus package, and most of that was for propping up status quo Head Start programs). All of the great (and not so great) education policies that Obama talks about are almost completely absent in legislation that he has backed. And he hardly says a peep about all of the education policies that he does throw money at.
Obama just distracts us from his actual efforts with pretty words about things that he is hardly doing. Of course, the most obvious thing he was distracting us from with his speech yesterday was the Senate vote to begin the execution of the DC voucher program. He didn’t say a word about yesterday’s actions, knowing that all of the headlines would be about the reforms he did endorse (but has done almost nothing to actually enact).