Should the federal government bail-out state education budgets? Or would budget cuts be good for schools? The debate goes on. Consider these comments from AEI's Rick Hess, in response to Andy Rotherham's rebuttal to our National Review piece:

I totally concede Andy's point!?? These kinds of cuts can absolutely lead to stupid changes (remember what "Chainsaw" Al Dunlop used to do in his corporate restructurings, for instance) or the ways that school systems do last hired/first fired, "shutting down the Washington Monument," and thermostat adjustment.??The Detroit auto industry has been teaching this lesson for 3 decades.

The reality, however, is that you almost never get smart restructuring without an external shock, such as an eroding market share and/or tough market conditions. I'd say, instead, that we were arguing that the economic crisis could provide a necessary but not sufficient condition. You're right that sufficiency would be a product of the tactics, smarts, and organizational strategies wielded by states and districts--and that past practice offers little cause for optimism. In fact, the only scenario that offers me less cause for optimism is to presume that the fiscal crisis has been alleviated since then we'd get the same problematic practices, the same tendency to buy reform with huge ramped-up price tags (Joel Klein's deal in NYC with the UFT, ProComp, Michelle Rhee's contract offer), and the same tendency to muddle through. That's not to knock what Klein, Rhee, and ProComp are attempting; at least they're trying to get the system to move and improve. But it's just that reform typically comes by baking in all current spending, and then topping it up with new dollars to buy off opposition and support reform. The sum? Inefficiencies never get wrung out.

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