At last, education debated
I was just about ready to pass out in front of the television last night when the final question of the final presidential debate perked me up. At last, a question about education. It's been discouraging the last several months how little the topic -- which Sen. McCain last night called the civil rights issue of our time -- has played a part in the campaign.
I was baffled by McCain's response about No Child Left Behind, that the law needs more "transparency" and "accountability," but not necessarily more money thrown at it. This may be true of many things in government, and many things in education as well. But in the case of NCLB, aren't we already making everything transparent -- embarrassing low-performing schools by making their scores available for all to see? Don't we already have accountability -- holding schools to ever-higher standards and sanctioning those who don't meet state-established benchmarks for two years or more? Isn't a big part of the problem that the federal government has placed these increased demands on schools without providing the extra resources to meet them?
Sen. Obama compared NCLB with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, the 1975 federal law that requires schools to provide disabled students with a "free and appropriate public education" but has never been fully funded. But much of the back-and-forth centered around vouchers. (Does Michelle Rhee support them, or only charter schools? McCain said she does. Does not, replied Obama. Does, too, replied McCain. I'm sure the D.C. schools chancellor was thrilled to have her position debated on national television. The Washington Post and a Post blogger say today she supports both, vouchers and charters.)
Given the current economic climate, an infusion of cash for education seems unlikely regardless of who wins the White House. In Maryland and many other states, cuts are on the way. But let's be real about what the needs are.
UPDATE: The Web site Fast Company talked to Rhee today about what was said about her. She said she hasn't issued a formal position on vouchers, but her office issued a statement saying vouchers aren't the solution to fixing the D.C. school system.