As Liam mentioned , we just finished our latest "reporter roundtable" here at Fordham, this time with District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. (More on that in a bit.) One topic of conversation was whether she would try to convince the Obama or Palin families to send their children to DCPS. She said she'd make a persuasive case for her system, but she would never tell any parent where to send their kids to school.

The Obama Family So where would the Obamas or Palins go if they attended their "neighborhood" school? See for yourself; if you go here and type in "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW," you'll learn that the Obama girls would go to Stevens Elementary School at 21st and K Streets, about five blocks from the...

It's no surprise that McCain failed to utter the four dirty words ???No Child Left Behind??? last night, but it's also interesting that he didn't mention ???accountability??? or ???standards??? or ???excellence.??? He didn't fail to mention ???failing,??? failed??? or ???fails,??? however???he used each one within his three-paragraph section on education.

We're thrilled to introduce the second cohort of Fordham Fellows and the reborn Fordham Fellows blog to the edusphere. As you may recall, even before there was Flypaper there was the Fordham Fellows blog, which had a good run from September to December of 2007. We've retooled the Fellows program for this year, and it will stretch all the way through May. Our Fellows--Laura Bornfreund, Catherine Cullen, Ben Hoffman, Nora Kern, and David Powell--are a talented crew, and will be learning the ropes of education policy in their positions at Common Core, Education Sector, Fordham, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the National Council on Teacher Quality, respectively.

Their first assignment was to read the "broader/bolder" and "education equity" manifestos to start wrestling with the big debates in education. And they have some fair insights and good questions, like this one:

What is it about the Broader, Bolder Approach that makes Checker Finn "convinced that many of [the signatories] are trying to change the subject, diverting attention...while letting schools and educators off the hook"? What's


Perhaps we can shed light on Rhee's obvious confusion of KIPP and American dollars with the following factoid, also revealed this morning at the Reporter Roundtable: Michelle Rhee pays her children to do their chores . It seems, then, that her insistance on paying children to do the tasks they should be doing already (making their bed, doing their homework, showing up to school) started at home. Not only does this transferance of her own parenting techniques onto the school system contradict her zealous outburst in support of parental choice (especially in regards to the choices made by the Obama or Palin families come January) but I fear that she suffers from an overactive optimism about the application of economies of scale.

Nothing new to report from the RNC:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is ready to be read. In the top slot, I write about why paying students (bribing them, really--let's call it what it is) to study and attend class is a terrible idea. Some say, "Why not try it out? Why not experiment?" I say, "Schools are not Petri dishes, and experiments have consequences." Like Frankenstein's monster, or Spam.??Elsewhere in the issue, Mike??notes that??we should quit resisting online education, and we comment on Florida's voucher setback, the Republicans' NCLB??discord, and the governor of Alaska, who, we're told, has completed the Iditarod--without using dogs or a sled. She jogged.

Liam Julian

All the talk is about Sarah Palin. But this is (largely) an education-related blog, and the Republican who spoke last night most fervently about education was Mike Huckabee (scroll forward to 10:20 in the video), who elocuted about a teacher in Little Rock who, on the first day of school, removed from her classroom all the desks and then made her students guess why. "You get a desk in my classroom," Huckabee said the teacher said, "when you tell me how you earn it." (Umm, our parents pay taxes?) By day's end, news cameras were arranged outside and no student had yet correctly picked out how they could retrieve their classroom furniture. Then... through the door walked 20 veterans, each carrying a desk which he quietly restored to its original position. "You don't have to earn your desk," the teacher reportedly??told her students, "'cus these guys--they already did."??As??his four-minute story drew to a close, Huckabee??solemnly said,??"John McCain helped me have a schooldesk."

So, there. And some of you thought the Ed in '08 campaign was wasting millions of dollars. (By the way, didn't Mike once endorse Huckabee for U.S. Secretary of Education???Might the Arkansan try to...

Education Sector's Kevin Carey--a friend and occasional co-host of the Education Gadfly Show--hits the American Prospect this week with a provocative piece, "How the Dems Lost on Education." (Subscription required--how progressive is that?)

Mostly his essay is a call for Democrats to get on board the school reform train, particularly when it comes to NCLB-style accountability, charter schools, and public school choice. And he sticks it to the unions pretty good too. And for that, we reformers on the right should be glad, yes? But he also argues that the Democrats' "education policy failures" create "numerous political opportunities" for the GOP.

Well...I don't mean to be ungracious, but if we're talking about winners and losers, there's a strong case to be made that NCLB has been a boon to the left and an embarrassment to the right. What...

Last week the Democrats had some fun at the teachers unions' expense, but yesterday it was the Republicans' turn. First there was Margaret Spellings:

I do not think [John McCain's] going to be worried about the teachers' unions and the equities of grown-ups.

And then Mitt Romney:

Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? It's liberal.

Let's face it: just like Republicans can never outbid Democrats when it comes to school spending, Democrats can never outdo Republicans on teachers union bashing. But it's great that they're trying!...

She wasn't forthcoming on the policy side, but she did say something, at least. Talking about her newest child, Trig, who has Down Syndrome, she opined:

And children with special needs inspire a special love.

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Nothing we didn't predict but I'm curious what policies she'd advocate.