The gap between the Obama administration’s rhetoric and action on education policy is growing larger each day. I’ve written previously that Obama and Duncan talk a lot about charter schools, merit pay, and getting rid of bad teachers, but those rhetorical priorities are almost completely absent as legislative priorities.
And, as Matt has pointed out in NRO this week, Obama declared that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “will use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” Again, those lofty words do not match their actions. When the DC voucher program produced positive results, they failed to release them in time to inform the congressional debate over killing the program, they buried the release on a Friday afternoon, and they attempted to spin the results as somehow disappointing. Their actions were not guided by their rhetoric about ignoring ideology and doing what works.
So the Obama Administration is hostile to school choice. What, then, is its plan for reform? Here’s what Secretary Duncan recently told the Washington Post after dismissing DC’s voucher program:
The way you help them [all kids] is by challenging the status quo where it’s not working and coming back with dramatically better schools and doing it systemically.
Oh, challenge the status quo and deliver “dramatically better schools”! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” I mean, that’s powerful stuff, along the lines of how do you get to Mars? You fly there! Obviously, the important thing is howyou challenge the status quo and provide better schools, and for decades we’ve been trying sound-bite-driven reform like Duncan offered the Post, and exhibited in his recent declaration that he will “come down like a ton of bricks” on any state that doesn’t use waste-rewarding “stimulus” money effectively. And how will we know when a use is ineffective? Why, we’ll make states report on test scores, teacher quality, and other things, and then threaten to withhold money if outcomes don’t get better. Of course, we know how well that’s worked before. Simply put, tough talk from politicians has delivered pretty much nothing good for kids or taxpayers.
Many of of the rhetorical points made by Obama and Duncan have been great. But now it’s time to prove that those words can be matched by action. The credibility of the Obama administration is on the line.