AEI's Rick Hess (our Gadfly Show co-host) picks up on some themes elaborated at last week's ???Left at the Altar??? event (video now available!) in this National Review Online article:

Despite the buyer's remorse that suffused conservative opinion on George W. Bush's education agenda, the real problem was not his administration's willingness to compromise with the Left on No Child Left Behind, K-12 reform, or higher education; this was appropriate and inevitable for a governing party. The problem was how it compromised. The administration embraced the expedience of grand gestures and good intentions instead of relying on a more principled position shaped by fiscal restraint, respect for government's limitations, and attention to the importance of incentives.

He also weighs in on the stimulus bill moving through Congress:

When it comes to education, conservatives can identify the conditions under which they might view the proposed aid more warmly by focusing on incentives, cost-effectiveness, and fiscal restraint. States and localities would have to demonstrate that they were reallocating dollars from less effective programs and services to more effective ones. School systems would identify and remove poor teachers and redirect


So says Benjamin Berrafato, a fifth grader at??New Lane Memorial Elementary School in Selden, New York. This young man composed an open letter to his classmates recently (reprinted by the New York Daily News, no less) urging them to resist "illegal" homework. Why, you may ask, is homework illegal? Benjamin explains:

Homework is assigned to students like me, without our permission. Teachers expect us to do homework, even though we'd rather not. It can be hard sometimes. We get punished if we don't do it. If we do it, we get no reward; we just don't get punished.

Simply put, if we don't, we get punished, and if we do, our reward is ... nothing.

Thus, homework is slavery. Slavery was abolished with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 6, 1865.

So, every school in??America??has been illegally run for the past 143 YEARS. That's something to think about.

Probably a good thing we don't let fifth graders make education policy. He does, however, cite outside sources, abide by the rules of logical argumentation, and write with relatively good grammar. I bet you he learned how to do all that while doing his...

This morning on National Review Online, AEI's Rick Hess urges Republican lawmakers not to roll over when it comes to education spending in the stimulus bill. The package has lots of fat for states and districts but, explains Hess,

It says nothing about whether this money would be spent wisely or would simply prop up current budgets, which are padded by years of increasing revenues from inflated property-tax rolls--thereby minimizing the need to scrub school spending for waste or inefficiency.

Bush may have compromised on NCLB, but that doesn't mean Republicans should be compromising now...Read the rest here.

On the same day that Ohio's legislature begins deliberating his biennial budget proposal (which counts on $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money), Governor Ted Strickland is warning that the Senate version of the stimulus bill is ???????hugely harmful.??????? According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Senate measure (which reduces Ohio's share by close to $1 billion) ???????threatens Ohio with a tuition increase for 40 percent of public-college students, the loss of thousands of state- and local-government jobs, closure of two ???????medium-sized' prisons, and 50,000 fewer people receiving mental-health services.???????

The governor hasn't indicated what a reduction in federal aid would mean for his plan to increase state spending on K-12 education by $925 million over the next two years (and by even more for the next six years after that). But, it's a safe bet that the state employee union (whose members are already facing across-the-board pay cuts and layoffs), mental health advocates, colleges and universities, and others won't easily swallow additional cuts to their budgets and the programs they care about while local school coffers continue to fill up.

Even if Strickland gets the federal aid he's hoping for, his education...

I'm sitting in my downtown Washington office but I'm thinking of snowy trails in the White Mountains. That's because I'm participating in "The Exchange with Laura Knoy," a public radio show out of New Hampshire. Joel Packer of the NEA, Gary Huggins of the Aspen Institute, and I are talking No Child Left Behind. Listen live here.

Update: Listen anytime here.

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),...