Many conservative commentators blame the dismal state of the Republican Party on the talk-show crowd: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and the other blowhards who play on people's fears for a living. I wouldn't argue that point, but the moment I viewed the GOP (and the conservative cause) as entering a tailspin was when the Wall Street Journal decided to give Karl Rove his own column. To be sure, Rove is a very good, if not necessarily "good," political mastermind. But a public intellectual? Not only are his op-eds predictable (and thus boring), they are full of spin.

Consider today's, "Bush Was Right When it Mattered Most," which makes the following bold (and false) statements about education:

Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.

I spot four errors (you might say lies) in those two sentences alone:

1. The law surely doesn't require states to set up "tough" accountability...

It's here and it's hot. In the top spot, you'll find Mike's ideas on how we should couple responsibility with accountability. Although the government can do very little to influence the raising of children in the privacy of our nation's homes, he argues, there is one thing it can do: be a bully pulpit for taking responsibility for our children. And maybe recruiting Bill Cosby as spokesman. Then, take a peek at how Catholic schools' recent renaissance may be too little too late, why Duncan's Chicago exit breeds hope for his Washington entrance, and why Bush may get the last laugh on education after all. Checker then reviews two new books--one by James Tooley, he of Third World private school research, and the other by Alex Standish on cleaning up geography curricula--and Amber takes a look at a new sensible overview of alternative teacher preparation. Don't forget the podcast, wherein Mike and Rick discuss the inauguration (of course), the stimulus plan, and accusations that charters cost more than traditional schools (they don't). Finally, Charles Miller, grandfather of Texas education reform, responds to Robin Lake's editorial on the partisanship of Bush's...

Suzannah Herrmann

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is expected to unveil his much-anticipated education plan during his State-of-the-State address next week. People and organizations (Fordham included ) have been offering him advice since his 2006 campaign when he hung his gubernatorial success on "fixing" school funding in the Buckeye State. Not wanting to be left out, the Ohio Grantmakers Forum weighed in this week with Beyond Tinkering: Creating Real Opportunities for Today's Learners and for Generations of Ohioans to Come , a follow-up to the group's 2006 report, Education for Ohio's Future .

Beyond Tinkering is the result of six months of hard work by 43 people from 33 different organizations across the Buckeye State. It is considered a "consensus document," but its contributors certainly don't agree on all of its 11 action...

Yesterday, Barack Obama said that "those of us who manage the public's dollars our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between and people and their government." So maybe he'd like a great new proposal from the Oklahoma Business & Education Coalition, floated last week: to create an independent agency to manage the state's testing and accountability program. This makes a ton of sense, and not just in Oklahoma, because right now these functions are buried within departments of education, where they can be subject to political manipulation, particularly in states where the agencies are run by elected officials or gubernatorial appointees. Would anyone trust results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress if it was managed directly by the U.S. Department of Education? Still, not surprisingly, Oklahoma's (elected) state superintendent, Sandy Garrett, dismissed the idea as merely adding "more bureaucracy." Which brings to mind another Obama quote from yesterday: "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply."...

For a day of celebration and catharsis, President Barack Obama's inaugural address struck tones both somber and sober. But his message was powerful: regarding the economy and our state of politics, we all got ourselves into this mess, and now we're all responsible for getting ourselves out. Or, as George Will put it, "Americans do not just have a problem, they are a problem." No more finger-pointing, Obama seemed to imply. As Michael Jackson once sang, "if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change."

If taken seriously, this idea of "be the change" could transform the education policy debate. Because the most important unsaid assumption of all of us in the "conversation," whether on the right, left, or center, is that many parents will be irresponsible in the raising of their children--and that there's nothing that policymakers can do about it. And thus schools--or schools plus other social service agencies--will need to remediate.

But maybe it's time to challenge that assumption. Perhaps we'll never reach "100 percent parental responsibility," just like we'll never reach "100 percent proficiency"...

Mike wonders what President Obama's call for a new "era of responsibility" will mean for education, but I'm more curious about the impact of his call for Americans to "set aside childish things." As any parent will tell you, "childish" behavior is marked by self-centeredness and a singular focus on the id. That type of behavior, by grown men and women, regularly hampers education in the Buckeye State and will make tough here Obama's aim of "transform(ing) our schools."

In Cleveland, a district budget deficit means teacher layoffs. Because of last-hired, first-fired rules, up to 30 percent of the teachers recruited to the district's ten single-gender and specialty academies could lose their jobs. These "new and innovative schools" were made possible by millions of dollars of local philanthropy and are at the heart of the district's effort to build a portfolio of high quality schools of choice. Still, union president David Quolke offers no apologies for protecting senior teachers.

To paraphrase President Obama, Quolke, the teachers union, and district administrators need to grow up. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer editorial board agrees:

...Quolke ought to consider the students and


Around the country, school districts are urging officials to crack down on charter school growth--and on existing charter schools--because, they assert, there isn't enough money in strapped state budgets to pay for this sector--and of course the districts must come first.

I'm seeing this in Ohio, in Utah and in Massachusetts and do not doubt that it's happening all over the place.

But of course it's completely cockeyed. If every public-school pupil in America attended a charter school, the total taxpayer cost would be 20-30% LESS than it is today. That's because charters are underfunded (compared with district schools) and thus represent an extraordinary bargain--even if their overall academic performance isn't much different from that of district schools. Think of it as the same amount of learning at three-quarters of the price.

What's really going on here are two bad things. First, as we've known for decades, school systems are great at expanding their budgets but absolutely dreadful at shrinking them. So they reach for every imaginable excuse and alternative--federal bailouts, state bailouts, county bailouts, the "Washington monument strategy" ("if you make us cut our budget we'll have to eliminate art and football and Advanced Placement"),...

The Washington Post reported Sunday on Bush's plans to start a new think tank, the Freedom Institute, which will include an education component:

Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, said the policy institute will be built around several key themes, including "freedom, compassion, opportunity and individual responsibility."

"It's really a place where you're trying to advance effective policy solutions above a partisan level," Langdale said. "He's made clear that history will be a judge of his legacy. The purpose of the institute is to be more forward-looking."

Margaret Spellings, Bush's education secretary and longtime friend, said in an interview last week that she expects the policy center to focus on "game-changing" initiatives such as the schools testing program called No Child Left Behind. "There will be a dimension of trying to keep these policies current and in context with whatever is happening at the time," she said.

So he apparently will join brother Jeb in the education think tank world. I'll be curious whether they collaborate or compete on this issue, and I submit that any scorecard should show Jeb Bush in the lead--in Florida, ??No Child Left Behind ...

It's great news that Tom Nida, chair of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, has been exonerated by the District Attorney General, for allegations raised by the Washington Post that he was improperly mixing his day job as a banker with his volunteer job overseeing D.C. charter schools. (Thanks to eduwonk for the tip.)

Much has already been written (also see here and here and here) about the unfair treatment the Post gave him, with its Sunday front-page headline ("Public Role, Private Gain") worded to sell newspapers, and to its credit, the Post editorial board did take Tom's side. But it's a shame that this good news is relegated to the Metro section, and it's disappointing that one won't read an apology from the reporters and their headline writers for dragging his name through the mud unnecessarily.

Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, what say you?...

I've heard from several friends, particularly those on the left, who are perplexed by the arguments made by me and others that budget cuts can be good for education reform. Sure, they concede, it's theoretically possible that difficult times would give local leaders the political cover to make tough decisions that would otherwise be politically impossible, such as releasing their most ineffective employees. But most often, superintendents and school boards do the politically expedient thing instead, such as laying off all their young teachers, or cutting art and music, or eliminating school counseling programs.

This issue is brought into stark relief in the city of angels. Los Angeles Unified has announced plans to lay off 2,300 teachers. And guess which approach to layoffs the district is pursuing? The most junior teachers will be gone, including most (maybe all?) of the city's Teach For America teachers. This even though those recruits have been found to be just as effective as more veteran instructors, and even though they earn much lower salaries.

This is an outrage. A crisis. And crises are good times to push for policy changes. The L.A. Times, local foundations,...