Flypaper

Earlier we looked into Arne Duncan's eyes and got a sense of his soul. But what about his team? Who is likely to get jobs in the new administration? This Week in Education's Alexander Russo pondered that question yesterday. (Alexander's not so great at lots of things, like accuracy, or thoughtfulness, but he does know how to dish gossip.)

Let me fill in a couple of holes in Alexander's analysis with a bunch of unreliable, secondhand information. First, let's start at the top (or at least near the top). I've heard more information in recent days that makes me think that the Linda Darling-Hammond as Deputy Secretary rumor is true. Jon Schnur, I understand, has agreed to take a job; I'm not sure which one but Alexander is probably right to surmise chief of staff. (He was spotted "behind the glass doors" in the inner sanctum of the Secretary's office the other day, so maybe he's already playing that role.) Andy Rotherham, too, is almost certainly going to join the administration. Note to Alexander: it wouldn't take a very high profile job for Andy to "lord" it over me, as my official title at the Department...

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down for a series of one-on-ones with the national education press yesterday, and their stories are starting to paint a picture of the man, his policy leanings, and his priorities. What do we know about him?

1.???????????? First, he's definitely a liberal. That's not meant to be pejorative; I LIKE liberals! (Which is a good thing, considering where I live.) He's giddy about the federal largesse in the stimulus package ("It's a historic chance to make things dramatically better," he told the AP, and "We have a chance to make education in America dramatically better - and, for a whole host of reasons, it has never been more important that we do that," he told USA Today). And he has no problem with the government taking responsibility for the needs of poor children. "If they're hungry we need to feed them, if they don't have clothes you need to give them clothes," he told Education Week. And he's also willing to live his values; he and his wife are looking for a ??"great public school that's diverse."

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That's what House Appropriations Chairman David Obey has been saying, but I've been skeptical, arguing that these new spending levels (on education at least) will become the "new normal" and that interest groups will push hard to maintain them. Today came confirmation of this theory. Note this quote from Mary Kusler, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, that appears in this USA Today story:

Title I and IDEA "are areas where they cannot cut back three years from now."

"Cut back"? We're looking at $140 billion in new spending for education, and the establishment is already asking for more.

Amy Fagan

So, just a funny Friday-afternoon tidbit. Apparently last night, The Daily Show's Jonn Stewart did a little skit called "Senate Confirmation Hearings Roast," in which, among other nominees, he pokes fun at Arne Duncan for keeping his kids out of school that day (truancy), and having his son fetch him water during the hearing (child labor laws). It's kind of funny....

Amy Fagan

Well well. Look who's going head-to-head with the new education secretary. Our own Mike Petrilli! Check out this USA Today piece about the stimulus and its big payday for schools. Arne calls it "an extraordinary opportunity." Mike says it's "redefining the federal role" in education.

By the way, Mike is quoted in a USA Today stimulus article that ran earlier this week, too.

Education Week reports this week on efforts by reform-minded district leaders to recruit and retain better teachers by "front-loading" teacher compensation to pay new teachers significantly more than they'd make under a traditional salary schedule:

Economists who study teacher compensation say most salary schedules, combined with defined-benefit pension plans, tilt compensation strongly toward veteran teachers regardless of those teachers' effectiveness at raising student achievement.

Low starting pay, they argue, discourages talented individuals who might otherwise consider teaching from giving it a try. And lock-step salary increases can drive away young teachers who feel they aren't earning what they are worth.

The driving idea behind front-loaded pay systems is to bring the teacher-development and -compensation trajectories together, thus giving beginning teachers the opportunity to win high salaries sooner, and by extension, improving districts' ability to recruit and retain teachers.

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According to the New York Daily News this morning, NY Chancellor Joel Klein is making some big cuts for next year--15,000 jobs, specifically, and most of them teachers. Class sizes will increase and some programs (no word on which ones) will get cut. "There's no way for me to sugarcoat the budget situation in??New York City," he explained.

We here at Fordham have been calling for some fat-trimming for some time now. Per that opinion, this decision is right on the money. (Eh! It's a pun!) I'm not going to rehash that argument. What I am curious about is the ratio of cuts to funds from, say, 2 or 3 years ago. Sure, no one wants to see art class and after school programs cut, but schools should be subject to the same rules as everyone else when it comes to the economy. This is the umpteenth time we've heard predictions of disaster due to budget cuts from teachers, unions, parents, legislators-you name it. But is it really disaster? Every year budgets go up for schools, at a much higher rate than inflation would deem necessary. Enrollment across the country is dropping...

Laura Pohl

Checker and Mike tackle the bleak question "Will the recession kill school reform?" in a commentary just published on Forbes.com. They write:

Understand that gloomy fiscal news does not necessarily portend worse schools or an end to serious reforming. To the contrary, an earnest campaign to "trim the public sector's fat" would not only turn up many plump candidates to cut, it could actually make our education system more effective.

You can read the whole opinion piece here.

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