April 2008 Archives

Vallas: From NOLA Schools Chief to Illinois Governor?

This dispatch comes from my colleague Lesli Maxwell, who has done a fabulous job covering recovery and reform efforts in New Orleans' public schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As part of this special project, she's spent nearly nine weeks in the city on several different trips, getting to know the students, teachers, and the man who is running the schools of New Orleans. Now that the Chicago media have reported that Paul Vallas, superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, is “open to running again” for governor in his home state of Illinois, there will be ...


One Good Thing About This Long, Drawn-Out Primary

If Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren't in a fierce political battle for their party's nomination, then students like Brian Griffin and Kaci Gardner probably wouldn't have gotten so involved in the campaign. Growing up in a state like Indiana—as I did—you realize that presidential candidates don't pay much attention to you when your electoral votes are a foregone conclusion. (I think Indiana's electoral votes—there are 12 now—have gone to the Republican nominee since the dawn of time.) Of course, it was mildly exciting when Indiana provided George H.W. Bush with his vice president. (That...


A Kinder, Gentler McCain

While the Democratic candidates are still trying to close the deal on the nomination, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, is out showing his softer side by doing a tour of "forgotten places" in America - some of which just happen to be in potential swing states such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Arkansas. He wrapped up the tour last Friday in Arkansas, meeting with college students who've participated in the Our Kids Program, a mentoring program which helps provide positive role models for young black males - a pretty education-focused event, at least for McCain. And he ...


From the Campaign Trail in the Hoosier State

I just returned from the campaign trail in Indiana, where I hung out with high school students who are working for both Democratic presidential candidates and where I attended a Barack Obama campaign event, a town hall meeting in New Albany, Ind. You can read all about it in the next issue of Education Week - but here are some quick observations: - Education is definitely a minor player in the Illinois Democrat's stump speech - but his criticism of the No Child Left Behind Act solicited some of the loudest applause of the day. Really. I couldn't even hear ...


How McCain Would Help Rural Schools

At a town hall meeting in the small town of Inez, Ky. yesterday, Sen. John McCain discussed how he would help rural America—including schools. He said he wants to bring more high-speed Internet access to rural communities by starting a "People Connect Program" that encourages companies to build the infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks. He touted the importance of community colleges and alternative paths to teaching (such as Teach for America) for school districts that struggle to recruit educators. Even as a significant amount of talk about education reform centers on the nation's struggling urban districts, it's important ...


Gym class or Obama?

These kids picked Obama. And even though the Democratic frontrunner signed their tardy slips, that wasn't good enough. Both have been suspended from a Scranton, Penn. high school....


Now Obama Enters Autism Fray

Last month, I took John McCain to task for declaring that there's strong evidence linking autism and vaccines. I questioned what evidence he was referring to since research has found there's no such link. Well now, Barack Obama has waded into this controversy, declaring the research has been "inconclusive". Are the candidates reading the research? While they may certainly argue that more research is needed into the causes of autism, they should also acknowledge what the research has found—and that's no link between the mercury found in vaccines and autism....


Is this Clinton's 'Last Day'?

Today, voters in Pennsylvania are casting votes that will likely make or break Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. At a rally in Scranton, the senator from New York admitted that "the last day is here." Clinton is a big ally to the teachers' unions, and a champion of early education. And, she's still trailing Barack Obama in delegate counts. With the end to this heated two-way Democratic primary near—whether it comes immediately after today's primary or if it drags out until summer—I'm wondering what impact a Clinton departure would have on the debate about education in this race. Would ...


Blast From the Past: William Ayers and Campaign '08

William Ayers, the 1960s radical about whom Sen. Barack Obama was questioned at this week's Democratic presidential debate, is widely known in the field of education as a professor, commentator, and advocate for small schools and student rights. Of course, Ayers doesn't exactly hide his past as a former member of the Weather Underground and someone who has acknowledged a role in, and has refused to apologize for, bombings the group carried out at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and the Department of State. The debate exchange is here. The New York Times notes here what is behind the ...


Who Will Rescue Education from Campaign Oblivion?

Richard Simmons!...


Friday Frenzy: Democrats Still Don't Like NCLB, and Other Earth-Shattering Developments

In case you missed Wednesday's Democratic debate in Pennsylvania ... well, you didn't miss much. The candidates very much like teachers, and still hate the No Child Left Behind Act. And here are a couple of other good reads from this week: USA Today's Richard Whitmire implies in a Politico piece that there is hope for us all... in that Sen. John McCain may make education a near-top tier issue. My colleague David Hoff visited Pennsylvania for a pre-primary story that shows how voters can curse their way onto the American Federation of Teachers' "Do Not Contact" list. And over at ...


How Important is Good Parenting to School Success?

It's very important, if you look at the lively comments being posted to a blog item that I wrote earlier this week in response to a Barack Obama speech. However, some of the commenters also pointed out that it's important not to overlook bad teachers. And one writer took exception to Obama's tone. Check out the dialogue going on, and please weigh in!...


John McCain: The Link Between School Choice and Global Competition

John McCain delivered an important speech today on what he will do to fix the ailing economy. Although he didn't talk much the role of education, in a five-point plan he released today to accompany his speech, he identified education as central to making American workers more competitive And that's to his credit. (ED in '08 must be thrilled!) But again, McCain seems to think school choice is the answer to improving education. School choice may work to improve student performance and schools but I'm not sure even the most ardent school choice supporters (who should correct me if I'm ...


Where Education Matters in Campaigns

In Delaware, which has a hotly contested race for governor, funding public schools is becoming a big issue as the state faces a $250 million budget deficit. And in Chicago, a new report says Latinos are particularly concerned about the issue, especially since they face long lines for prekindergarten programs in their neighborhoods and persistently high dropout rates....


Obama: Don't Blame the Schools for Poor Parenting

Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama, who has sent a strong message to families before about the importance of being a good parent, is continuing to expand that message. According to this Associated Press story, Obama tells crowds that parents must set a curfew, make sure their children do their homework, meet with their kids' teachers, and set a good example. This must be music to teachers' ears. He said: And the last thing is, if your child is misbehaving at school don't curse out the teacher. You know who you are. It's not the teacher's fault that your child is misbehaving. ...


Who's Vulnerable: House Education and Labor Republicans Edition

Earlier we noted that a number of Democrats who barely squeaked into Congress in the 2006 election (with under 55 percent of the vote, according to the University of Virginia's Center for Politics) are on the House Education and Labor Committee. Only three incumbent Republicans retained their seats with a similar vote proportion. One is Rep. Ric Keller of Florida, who is the ranking member on the House subcommittee overseeing higher education and a long-time advocate for increasing federal Pell Grants for low-income students. Another is Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, a ...


The Kid Vote

So, according to this New York Times story, Democratic super-delegates, as well as regular voters, are getting pressured into voting for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. (and in some cases, rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.) by their kids. And apparently supporters are going after the Sponge Bob vote, via Web sites such as Yrmomma4obama, which includes pro-Obama text messages kids can send their parents (in English and Spanish!) The Yrmomma4obama Web site includes a list of reasons why kids should encourage their parents to vote for Obama ... none of which mention education. Obama's own campaign Web site has a section ...


Detention Slip Over Obama School Video?

The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., may have put some officials at a New York City high school in a sticky situation, after filming students doing their own version of the candidate's "Yes We Can" speech as part of a class project. The campaign sent the video out as part of an e-mail to potential donors and posted it on Obama's campaign Web site. That's apparently a violation of the New York City school system's regulations, which prohibit filming in school buildings for political purposes, according to the Daily News account. But Mark Sweeting, the principal of the ...


School Choice Group Nets Record Election Fine

In Ohio, election officials have levied their biggest fine ever—$5.2 million— against a school-choice lobbying group called All Children Matter. The group has been involved in numerous states across the country, and as the 2008 election season heats up in the states, it's one worth keeping your eye on. I've been following All Children Matter since it started running ads in 2004 in Indiana Statehouse races when I was a reporter for The Indianapolis Star. Though its purpose is to get school-choice-advocates into local and statewide office, the Michigan-based All Children Matter, which has its money-raising PAC in ...


Jeb Bush for Education Secretary?

If you want some insight into Sen. John McCain's education ideas, check out this Associated Press story, which mentions a key adviser to his campaign. Former Florida and fellow Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. McCain, who was campaigning in Florida with Bush's successor, Gov. Charlie Crist, said he's been seeking Bush's advice on education for the last couple of years, and would continue to do so if elected in November. Bush, who was a big supporter of school vouchers, standardized testing, and merit pay for teachers during his 1999-2007 term in office, has been working on beefing up his education legacy ...


Is Obama a Wimp on Education?

Alexander Russo offers an interesting case study in Slate on a 1999 dispute over who hires and fires principals in Chicago—and what Sen. Barack Obama's actions mean for changes in education policy if he wins the presidency. Essentially, Russo paints a picture of an Obama who stood on the sidelines as then-Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas went to the Illinois Legislature in an effort to wrest more control over his principals from local school councils. The story quotes a Republican state legislator who said Obama wasn't really that bold, or creative, when it came to education. Russo writes: ...


Education-free AFT Ad

Apparently even teachers' unions believe voters aren't really thinking about education this election cycle. The American Federation of Teachers is running a radio ad for its endorsed presidential candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in the primary battleground of Pennsylvania. The ad doesn't mention education or schools at all, although one of three voters featured in the ad is a teacher. The others are a "retired university professor" and a former Navy careerist. One voter says she's "worried we're falling into a recession" -- more evidence of how the economy has trumped education. Another says that the presumptive Republican ...


To ED in '08: 'I Will Steal Your Hot Wife'

On this April Fool's Day, the Fordham Foundation has a particularly entertaining issue of its Education Gladfly. For those of us still wondering if the $60 million in foundation money from Gates and Broad will make any difference in the presidential election, the Fordham Folks have this to say... ...which is a parody of this real ad by ED in '08:...


John McCain's $38,200-a-Year Ed Solution

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who until yesterday barely said boo about education, now has the solution to our education ills: Every child should be blessed with a teacher like I had, and to learn at institutions with high academic standards and codes of conduct that reinforce the values their parents try to impart to them. This snippet from a speech he gave today was set against the backdrop of Episcopal High School, (pictured above), a private boarding school in Alexandria, Va., where Sen. McCain got his diploma in 1954. (Photo credit: Episcopal High School web site). In his speech, Sen. ...


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