Unlike four years ago, a vote for the re-election of President Barack Obama was not about change. It was about maintaining the status quo.
This is no truer than in the issue of education, where Obama will continue to use the federal government’s purse strings to incentivize states to pursue his top-down agenda.
The two biggest programs he pushed during his first term – the Race to the Top Program and Common Core Curriculum – are similar in design to No Child Left Behind Act, a piece of legislation that has few friends on either side of the aisle.
Even though the Race to the Top Program has good intentions – using billions of dollars in grant money to persuade states to pursue a number of reforms – it makes the federal government the main driver of change in education, not the states or municipalities.
What education needs right now is not standardization – it needs innovation. This can only occur if states and localities are able to design schools and curriculums that fit the needs of the students in their areas. Expecting a one-size fits all government solution to work is naïve and too restrictive to promote real success.
While his opponent, Mitt Romney, suggested that he would distribute some federal money in the form of opportunity scholarships, Obama has taken steps to eliminate these programs – look no further than Washington, D.C., where he and the Democrat-controlled Congress ended an opportunity scholarship program that was raising student achievement.
From all indications, it looks like Obama will continue to pursue this agenda in the future.
During the debates, Obama also promised to hire 100,000 new math and science teachers.
The Illinois Policy Institute thinks this policy is misguided, not only because decreasing class sizes is one of the least cost-effective reforms to put in place, but also because school staff increases have ballooned during the past two decades.
True education reform starts from the bottom up, despite what Obama believes. It will only be when we give parents the choice of where to send their children to school that we will see real change happen.