It wasn’t considered one of the top five moments of Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, according to the New York Times, but it should have been. After Romney attacked Gingrich for his Harvard proposal to put poor kids to work as school janitors (see my post last week) the new GOP front-runner, having taken some hits for his earlier  comments (see my friend, Bronx teacher Mark Anderson), proves himself an able barometer of public opinion, dropping the kids-as-janitors idea but not losing his direction:

Kids ought to be allowed to work parttime in school,
particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use
the money — if you take one half of the New York janitors, who are
unionized and are paid more than the teachers. An entry-level janitor is
paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half the
janitors, you could give lots of poor kids work experience in the
cafeteria, the school library, in the front office and a lot of
different things. I’ll stay by the idea that young people ought to learn
how to work. Middle class kids do it routinely.


School reforms abound today, yet even the boldest and most imaginative among them have produced—at best—marginal gains in student achievement. What America needs in the twenty-first century is a far more profound version of education reform. Instead of shoveling yet more policies, programs, and practices into our current system, we must deepen our understanding of the obstacles to reform that are posed by existing structures, governance arrangements, and power relationships. Yet few education reformers—or public officials—have been willing to delve into this touchy territory.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Center for American Progress have teamed up to tackle these tough issues and ask how our mostly nineteenth-century system of K-12 governance might be modernized and made more receptive to the innumerable changes that have occurred—and need to occur—in the education realm. We have commissioned fifteen first-rate analysts to probe the structural impediments to school reform and to offer provocative alternatives.


The Education Gadfly

While the first two sessions of last Thursday’s Fordham-CAP Rethinking Education Governance conference explored problems posed by the way America governs education, the afternoon panels focused on potential solutions. In the third session, Michael Minstrom, Barry Rabe, Richard Walley, and Paul Manna attempted to draw lessons for education governance from other sectors and countries.

In the final segment, Checker moderated a discussion of big-picture governance reforms that featured Paul Hill, Kenneth Meier, Jon Schnur, and Paul Pastorek.

For more, download drafts of participants’ papers and stream all the video from the conference, including Chris Cerf’s lunchtime keynote address, on the Education Gadfly’s YouTube channel....

baby bundled up photo

Drop some of those onerous layers, government!
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

For years, government has plastered new
regulations upon old, thickening the bureaucracy and making it ever harder to
move within its confines. In Colorado, for example, new rules for day-care
centers specify exactly how to execute nearly everything—including the number
of block sets (two) and the number of blocks (minimum of ten) needed in each
playroom. An anecdote, yes; but hyperbole or exception, no. Modern regulation,
as Common Good’s Philip Howard writes in the Wall Street Journal this week, “doesn’t just control undesirable practices—it
indiscriminately controls all the work of regulated entities,” arresting all
human discretion, good and bad. While the gut-wrench reaction is simply to blow
up the house, thick plaster and all, there’s a smarter way. Some old-fashioned
inputs are important (Colorado does
want to ensure that their day-care centers aren’t operating in window-less
basements filled with asbestos and...

Testimony prepared for delivery to the Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, August 4, 1999.

The Education Gadfly

Chris Cerf, New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education, stopped by last Thursday’s Rethinking Education Governance conference to deliver a thought-provoking address on the role of governance in improving public education’s outcomes. Drawing on his experience with education systems in New York City and the Garden State, Cerf gave his take on “a new and improved model of government.”

Want more? The first and second panels can be viewed online and we’ll be releasing the rest of the footage tomorrow on Flypaper.

The Education Gadfly

The second panel at last Thursday’s Rethinking Education Governance conference examined one of the most entrenched aspects of our governance system: local control. From interstate standards to mayoral control, experts Margaret Goertz, Kathryn McDermott, Ken Wong, Rick Hess, and Jeffrey Henig evaluated our other options in a lively discussion.

To learn more, download drafts of participants’ full papers and watch the first panel on Flypaper.

If you missed last Thursday’s Fordham-CAP Rethinking Education Governance conference, you’re in luck: In the coming days we’ll be posting all the action here on Flypaper. To start off, Cynthia Brown, Michelle Davis, Marguerite Roza, and Steven F. Wilson provide a primer on what’s wrong with our governance system, breaking down how it hinders innovation while perpetuating inefficiency and inequity.

To learn more, download drafts of participants’ full papers and keep an eye on Flypaper for more footage from the conference.

t was a bit odd to see Charles Blow (of the New York Times)
take out after Newt Gingrich for saying that “really poor children in
really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody
around them who works.” I had just returned from an inner city school
where teachers and administrators and parents were saying the same
things as Gingrich.  In fact, I’ve been hearing these complaints from
teachers – and business leaders – for years.  Teaching children the
“habits of working” is a growing part of the school reform movement.

For the last couple of weeks Gingrich has been tossing read meat to
the liberal wolves in ways that only the Grinch who stole Christmas
can.  He has also suggested that poor kids do janitorial work in school –
and earn money doing it.  According to,
the former West Georgia State College history professor told a Kennedy
School of Government audience that. It’s worth an extended quote,
because Gingrich needs context to make up for the  lightning-bolt
phrases he drops in throughout:

This is something that no liberal


Ending the AEI lockout

Mike and Rick come out swinging after their
Thanksgiving respites. In Pardon the Gadfly, they attack our current governance
model, sympathize with Newt Gingrich, and consider what to do about private
donations to public schools. Amber brings autonomy down to the school level and
Chris requests a State of State Moral Standards.