As President Barack Obama might have said, I screwed up on Friday afternoon when I reported that Senate moderates had agree to strip "most" education funding from the bill. There are cuts, to be sure, but??the majority??of the money remains. Education Week (which employs real journalists!) reports that the major reductions are for school construction, which was zeroed out (though bonds for construction remain) and the state bailout fund, which was reduced from $79 billion to $39 billion. But the big bucks for special education and Title I mostly got spared. Importantly, a little bit of Arne Duncan's "incentive grant" fund stayed in (to the tune of $2.5 billion versus the House's $15 billion). Even if they split the middle, that's??a whole lot of discretion for the Secretary and could provide some needed leverage to push states toward reform.

All in all, not a terrible outcome; as I wrote last week, less money plus more reform equals a better deal. Now let's see what happens during this week's conference committee. If the President pushes hard to keep the best features of the House bill (with its dollars for charter schools, merit pay,?? and data systems) and...

The lady with a mission has a soft side. This morning's Washington Post featured an editorial from DC Chancellor of Schools herself. I couldn't help but hear a sharply defensive tone throughout and be somewhat mystified by the whole thing. Is Madame Scorched Earth, to ad lib Weingarten's nickname for her policies, announcing the planting of a veritable forest? Or is she just trying to smooth things over after thoroughly alienating the District's teaching force?

Three things, in particular, stuck out. First, she very much wants to set the record straight. "I want to be clear about something: I do not blame teachers for the low achievement levels," she says. Although this statement, if memory serves me, is technically correct, Rhee is leaning a bit too heavily on semantics for my taste. Her argument is basically this: it's not that she blames teachers for all of DC failures, but that she understands how important teacher quality is--the most important factor, in fact--when it comes to student achievement. But that's like saying that 6 is the same as one half dozen. If teacher quality is the most important factor, then teacher quality is at the heart of DC's dismal...

Suzannah Herrmann

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education supports our recommendation that Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education reform plan should include making the Buckeye State compatible with alternative teacher preparation efforts and improving the state's alternative licensure rules.???? A rigorous, randomized study found that ???????students of teachers who chose to enter teaching through an alternative route did not perform statistically different from students of teachers who chose a traditional route to teaching.???????

That's the word on the street (and on the hill). As I explain below, that's not such a bad thing. But it would be a huge setback for the Administration, which needs to get its messaging straight on this piece of the stimulus. Will it stimulate the economy? Is it a bailout? If it is a bailout, what will the government expect from the nation's public school system in return? And if it's a long-term investment in America's future, why not wait and debate that through the regular appropriations process?

It almost seems too good to be true, but lo and behold, a ???gang??? of moderate Senators from both sides of the aisle are pushing to reduce the amount of money in the stimulus package going to schools. Before you call me a Scrooge, let me remind you why this is good news: as previously structured, the Senate plan was basically a huge bailout of local school systems. And perhaps such a bailout makes sense if your only purpose is to keep any teachers or school bureaucrats from losing their jobs. (I'm not an economist; maybe that is precisely what we should do to stave off a depression.) But educationally, it's terrible policy, because it rewards states and districts that have been profligate with their spending (which has doubled in real dollars in the past twenty-five years) and which have locked themselves into unsustainable spending far into the future. So if throwing an enormous amount of money at the schools is a bad idea, throwing a really large amount of money at the schools (as these moderates propose) is a less-bad one.

But if it's a bailout (and let's be honest: it's a bailout),...

OK, I'm jumping the gun a bit, but I'm hearing a lot of chatter that indicates that Linda Darling-Hammond is almost certainly getting the Department of Education's #2 job. I suspect the news will come next week. The Reform-o-Meter will be waiting.

Charles Krauthammer takes a swing at the stimulus today in the Washington Post. Of note, he uses education to illustrate the wastefulness of the unstimulating stimulus:

It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus--and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Isn't it ironic that the biggest mistakes are often the ones we make the quickest? It's not for nothing that our legislative procedure is a slow...

Our Reform-o-Meter is getting a workout now that the Obama Administration is announcing new Department of Education appointees daily. (Almost as frequently as it announces the tax problems of Cabinet nominees or their spouses .)

The latest is Russlynn Ali , currently the director of Education Trust-West , who was nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights . And let there be no doubt: she's a butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners, storm-the-barricades, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs reformer. As one friend asked me, ???Can we turn the dial to 11????

Now, this would be a good time to point out that ???reform??? comes in lots of shapes, sizes, and shades. If you've been reading some of the things I've been writing, like this, for example , you know that I'm not entirely enamored of Education Trust-style reform. I think the group is much more optimistic about the federal government's ability to do good in education than the evidence supports. They were responsible for some of the most problematic features of No Child Left Behind, particularly the ill considered ???highly qualified teachers??? provision. And they've been lukewarm to charter schools and the broader school...

President Barack Obama takes to the pages of the Washington Post today to defend his stimulus plan . I don't quarrel with his larger points???that the economy is tanking and now is the time for action???but I found his education passage extremely disappointing:

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

We're going to give our children ???every advantage??? by upgrading their school facilities? I can't think of a single serious, credible study that says that an upgrade of school facilities will be the cure for what ails our schools. Now, if you want to launch public works programs to infuse the economy with cash, I'm fine with rebuilding schools instead of rebuilding roads. But let's get real about the likely impact on learning: nada.

And I'm totally perplexed by the line about ???training our teachers in math and science.??? That's a fine idea, but somehow, with $140 billion...

We know you wait, every week, with bated breath for your RSS feed to tell you that the Gadfly has arrived. Well, wait no longer. In the top spot, find a thought-provoking (and chillingly true) editorial from Raegen T. Miller and Robin Chait of the Center for American Progress. Maybe it's time to scrap "last hired, first fired" provisions, they argue, since not only do they potentially lower the average quality of the teaching force but send a disturbing message to entire profession: when it comes down to the wire, seniority wins out over effectiveness. Yikes. Then get the story on Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's long-awaited (and, yet, still disappointing) education reform plan. It's got some good ideas... but plenty of bad ones too. Take "evidence-based models," for example, which Strickland thinks are the bee's knees. Newsflash, Ted, evidence-based models have been blown open as an unreliable, unscientific load of crock (to put it mildly)! Our VP of Ohio Programs and Policy, Terry Ryan, gives you the scoop.??

Further in, get the story on Minnesota Q Comp's 99 percent pay out rate (it's a MERIT pay system... you do to the math), more ...