Why Ed Reform Needs Republicans

Rick Hess and I have a piece on National Review making the case, once again, that an ed reform movement that consists almost entirely of Democrats is doomed to fail and may help explain our lost decade of progress on NAEP results.

Some points to emphasize:

— We repeat our observation that the ed reform movement consists almost entirely of Democrats these days, but we note that this is dramatically different from 20 years ago. Back then, when we look at a similar sample of campaign contributions from employees at ed reform organizations, we see a partisan split that is closer to 50-50.

— We do not know and do not really care about who is to blame for this severe partisan imbalance. Our main goal in this piece is to get people to recognize how the current absence of Republicans in the movement is harming its political success.

— If you are not willing to set aside some tangential issues and compromise on others, you aren’t really seeking to advance education reform policy — you are choosing to lose politically for virtue-signaling. That’s a fine choice and some compromises may be too unpalatable to make, but be aware of what you are sacrificing when you do this.

8 Responses to Why Ed Reform Needs Republicans

  1. sstotsky says:

    The best solution is to defund all federal involvement in education. Not one agency can be trusted (NAGB, NCES, et al). If not one is capable of telling us why/how “gaps” are widening, then get rid of them all. All they want is more taxpayer money.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    How can you attract people on the Right like myself back into coalition with the people who contemptuously threw us out of “their” movement, if we’re not allowed to talk about what they did to us?

    Most people won’t sacrifice their dignity for political victory, which is why professional politicians tend to be so unlike the rest of us.

    An apology is too much to hope for, but some candid talk and a little show of humility would go a long way.

  3. Mike G says:

    “it’s fair to say that it’s partly a tale of Republicans walking away from school reform and partly one of an emboldened Left driving Republicans out of the movement by prioritizing identity politics and heavy regulation.”

    I agree.

    Third contributor? Perhaps reform’s “wins” have been (as perceived by the reformers) real but more modest in magnitude than hoped. If jaw-dropping (to the reformers), more effort would have been made to keep the gang together.

    Per Greg’s point above, given the anger/contempt, if anyone hopes for bi-partisanship, maybe best to try Heineken “worlds apart” beer diplomacy with no policy discussions in 2020. Then January 2021 engagement once election dust settles.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Unfortunately, I suspect beer diplomacy doesn’t work if it’s an iterated game.

      • Mike G says:

        I had to google “iterated game.”

      • Greg Forster says:

        Well worth knowing! The Heineken ad is fantastic, and I always appreciate a well-designed human-subject experiment. But it all depends on the subjects not knowing each other and thus not having incentives to protect future interests. It’s easy to be vulnerable and generous with people you know you’re never going to see again.

        I’m not saying there’s no hope to overcome polarization! I’m saying beer diplomacy only shows that it’s possible in principle to get there; it doesn’t get you there sustainably.

  4. sstotsky says:


    I find it alarming that there is not one single word I would change today in editing my letter of explanation of why I couldn’t sign off on Common Core’s standards in May 2010.

  5. Betty Peters says:

    What do the words “education reform” mean? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think education today is broken and needs fixing, repairing, changing, improving, etc. After 16 years on a state school board during which many “reform” ideas were implemented, I can’t help but conclude that “reform” is in the eye of its proponents, usually vendors who pay politicians to push their wares. I’m still waiting to find out why the “reformers” which came up with CC math did not utilize the findings of the 2008 National Math Panel (which were very similar to the excellent Carnegie Mellon study conducted 2-3 years later). Instead CC writers went in the opposite direction and look how that has turned out! I found that the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which both Pres. Obama and his Ed Sec. both called a “total transformation of education” garnered bipartisan support for “reform.” Both parties supported it; the National Gov’s Assoc. and the Council of Chief State School Officers supposedly co-authored both math and ELA standards–lots of bi-partisanship there. The over-reliance on technology was, I understand, pushed by the Gates Foundation, NCEE, Pearson, NCEE, PTA, NASBE etc. Before the CCSS were unveiled, the gov. of WV and the Partnership of 21st Century Skills had already gotten them embedded in legislation passed by Congress. Thus this new legislation to “totally transform {reform} education in the US” occurred before the public had ever heard of CCSS with its constructivist methods and excessive emphasis on digital devices. Interestingly, CC’s unsuccessful predecessor Goals 2000/School to Work/Careers also had bi-partisan support for Progressivist teaching methods and technology and over-emphasis on vocational/career tech skills. So whatever “education reform” is, it is always headed in the same direction, and it’s never in the direction of traditional methods.

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