A week ago (i.e., in a timely fashion), Andy commented on President Obama's budget request for education. I'm still catching up on the old Reform-o-Meter front, so let's get to work.

As Andy reported, there's plenty of good news for education reformers (key details here). The Teacher Incentive Fund, which supports pay-for-performance programs, would get funded to the tune of $500 million, up from $100 million now. The charter schools program got a more modest (but still important) increase of $50 million. And Teach For America will see $15 million if Obama has his way.

But let's not get too excited. In typical Obama style, there's a lot of love to go around. The Department's more traditional programs get plenty of funding too (voc-ed gets over a billion, for instance), so this is hardly a case of Obama's team showing preference for reform over business-as-usual. In fact, its temerity in cutting wasteful programs should be alarming to taxpayers. Whereas in its final year in office, the Bushies wanted to kill 47 Department of Education programs costing $3.3 billion, Team Obama has only found 12 programs worth sacrificing, to the...

Checker argues in this morning's Washington Post that universal preschool as currently conceived should be reexamined.

For all its surface appeal, universal preschool is an unwise use of tax dollars. In a time of ballooning deficits, expansion of preschool programs would use large sums on behalf of families that don't need this subsidy while not providing nearly enough help to the smaller number of children who need it most. It fails to overhaul expensive but woefully ineffectual efforts such as Head Start. And it dumps 5-year-olds, ready or not, into public-school classrooms that today are unable even to make and sustain their own achievement gains, much less to capitalize on any advances these youngsters bring from preschool. (Part of the energy behind universal pre-K is school systems--and teachers unions--maneuvering to expand their own mandates, revenue and membership rolls.)

In fact, the way in which we think about preschool is grounded in four incorrect assumptions, he explains. Instead of jumping on the preschool bandwagon, we should be asking ourselves four things: if everybody really needs it, if preschool fulfills educational goals, if the existing programs are really doing a good job, and, especially, if Head Start, the long...

I've already expressed concern about how much reform we're likely to get out of the ARRA--possibly not much at all because of problems with the law. ????Stay tuned for more on this.

But two quick things as you head into the weekend. ????According to the latest ED docs, about $13 billion from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund has already been handed out. ED's due to release a new report, so this figure will be going up.

Second, in a????recently released but????little-noticed GAO report on implementation of the stimulus plan there's this disheartening finding also pointing to the struggle to get reform out of the ARRA. ????In one of the states studied, leaders decided to use SFSF funds to protect jobs and programs instead of advancing reforms because of the "funding cliff":

U.S. Department of Education guidance allows school districts to use stabilization funds for education reforms, such as prolonging school days and school years, where possible. However, officials said that Illinois districts will focus these funds on filling budget gaps rather than implementing projects that will require long-term resource commitments.


Secretary Duncan visits Detroit, calls it Ground Zero for education reform, and pushes for mayoral control and major change. ????Kudos to Mr. Duncan. ????(Previous posts????here????and here.)

About government, that is. Check out his piece, "Our Government, For Better Or Worse." Here's his thesis:

Ever since I came into contact with government, both state and federal, and especially in the four decades since first going to work in it, I've been struck by the gap between what many Americans expect of government and what it's actually good at doing.

And the heart of his argument:

Government, in short, has enormous difficulty fulfilling its current responsibilities, coordinating its various parts and accomplishing its present objectives. You don't have to romanticize the private sector's competence to harbor serious doubts that giving government even more duties is a formula for disappointment.

Big news out of Detroit. ????Emergency financial manager Robert Bobb is making some tough but desperately needed changes--closing????nearly 30 failing schools. ????I think he's been reading Flypaper!

Here's my previous post about Detroit and why such bold action is needed.

Apropos, Secretary Duncan is visiting the Motor City today; I can't wait to see what he says. I'm betting he'll build on his Brookings speech on closures/turnarounds and mention the state's charter cap.

I apologize that the Reform-o-Meter has been slacking as of late. I have suffered from a nasty cold for the last two weeks, which has cut into my productivity, blogging and otherwise. But the Administration marches on and so must our analysis of it.

Today's topic is former McKinsey consultant Tony Miller, recently nominated by President Obama to be the Department of Education's Deputy Secretary. As I already told Education Week (from my sickbed!), it makes sense to hire someone for the "COO" spot who can keep the trains running on time. He's dabbled in education a bit--working with the Los Angeles school district and also the one in Malibu--but mostly he's a business guy who understands turnarounds and implementing complex procedures.

Here's hoping that he brings a breath of fresh air to the Department, which is in constant need of someone asking, "Why do we do it that way?" But here's also expecting that in the end, few bureaucratic procedures will actually change. (That's because the answer to my question is typically "because the Inspector General is making us do it that way." If the Obama Administration can rein...

Latifah Coleman, 17 and an 11th grader at Mound Street Academies in Dayton, Ohio, shouts at a school choice rally in front of the Statehouse in Columbus on Wednesday morning. "I was going to a public school but it wasn't really helping me," she said. At Mound Street "more teachers sit down and talk with me. They're helping me to graduate."

The biennial budget passed by the Ohio House of Representatives last month would mean major funding cuts to all charter schools and funding reductions of nearly 75 percent to the state's virtual schools????????all but guaranteeing those schools, which serve 24,000 students in the Buckeye State, go out of business next year. Today, in protest to the funding cuts, approximately 4,000 people held a rally at the capitol.???? Chanting ???????My School, My Choice! ??????? the group marched four blocks to the Statehouse lawn and heard remarks from parents, teachers, and lawmakers????????including Senate President Bill Harris, whose chamber is now deliberating the budget bill and who has personally vowed to protect school choice in the Buckeye State.

About 4,000 people...

The US Senate held a hearing on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program today. Watch the video here.

The parent and student testimony is moving. You can't help but be touched when hearing these young people talk about what would've happened to them were it not for the program.

Kudos to Sen. Lieberman for chairing the meeting and Sens. Collins, Ensign, and Voinovich for their comments. ????Interestingly and sadly, Sen. Lieberman said that Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee, and union leaders were invited to testify, and they all declined.

Big ups to Jeanne Allen from CER for her twittering (find her at JeanneAllen).

Update: ????Good Post article and????editorial....

Diane Piche is headed to the Dept of Ed to be DAS in the Office of Civil Rights. ????Diane is sharp, experienced, and a big ed reformer. ????Congratulations.

ED Week folks on top of the upcoming US Senate hearing on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.