I have two -- count 'em, two! -- op-eds in two -- count 'em, two! -- newspapers on Friday on massively important subject of education reform.
The Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register kindly published my commentary on a bill by Illinois State Senator James Meeks that would establish as pilot voucher program in Chicago. Meeks may seem an unlikely champion of school choice, but it turns out this pastor of the largest black church in Chicago's South Side understands that liberating school kids from the status quo is more important than milking contributions from the teachers union:
School choice has been proven to empower parents, help children excel, narrow the achievement gap among poor and minority students, and save taxpayers money. Yet teachers unions, education bureaucrats and their patrons from the White House on down oppose any reform they cannot stifle with red tape and regulation.
But they cannot kill school choice. Against the odds, choice keeps coming back, in the unlikeliest of places.
A voucher program is one step closer to reality in President Barack Obama’s own home state, despite fierce opposition from the powerful Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Meantime, the Sacramento Bee on Friday publishes my take on the first round of Race to the Top funding. I've written about Race to the Top for the Bee in the past. As it turns out, the program is quite a bit lamer -- and more insidious -- than I initially had thought:
Race to the Top was always too good to be true. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan sold the $4.35 billion stimulus program as education reform’s 21st century “moon shot.” But as this week’s announcement of the first two state grant recipients shows, it’s just another expensive sop to the education establishment, no less beholden to politics and bound by bureaucratic red tape.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia made the list of finalists, but only two applicants—Delaware and Tennessee—made the grade. Delaware will receive about $100 million and Tennessee about $500 million to put their comprehensive school reform plans into practice over the next four years.
Cash-strapped states passed over in the first round are scrambling for a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion in Race cash. Any state that lost out should take a close look at not simply what plans passed muster with the Education Department but why those plans succeeded.
Turns out, those plans succeeded by compromising with the unions. More innovative plans that did not win union support did not win...period. The union often wins, though events in Illinois suggest the public is not with the union at all. We'll see.