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Friday Reading List: No Swimming Pools for You!

When you're done digesting the Big Speech and sifting through the stimulus guidance, check out these good reads:

Vice President Joe Biden gets tough with states during a meeting yesterday at the White House with state stimulus czars, telling them that money must be spent wisely. He says: "This is not your usual federal grant going to states...The fact of the matter is all that is legal is not acceptable. Let me say it again. Just because it may be legal, it is not acceptable....A little hint: No swimming pools in this money."

Over at Gotham Schools, Elizabeth Green "fact-checks" NYC schools chief Joel Klein, who seemed to imply on a radio program that states and districts may have to evaluate teachers based on test scores in order to tap any of their stimulus funding.

The Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson tries to rile up education reporters by declaring there are no muckrakers in the mainstream education media who will fact-check claims that vouchers drain money from public schools.

Alexander Russo questions the U.S. Department of Education's communications strategy, or non-strategy.

Arne Duncan's interview with Charlie Rose gives NBC's White House reporter Chuck Todd a "light bulb" moment.

And finally, no, Barack Obama hasn't talked to Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio, who wants to cut state spending for charter schools even as the president is urging states to do the opposite and encourage the growth of high-quality public schools. Obama was asked about this yesterday in an interview with regional reporters. I don't have a link, so I've posted the relevant Q-and-A below:

Q Mr. President, yesterday you called for eliminating restrictions on the number of charter schools while enforcing some vigorous standards. In Ohio, the Governor has called charter schools a destructive influence on public education, a few years ago tried to have a moratorium on new charters, now wants to cut state spending by about 20 percent for charter schools and restrict some other funding. I'm wondering whether you've ever talked with him about this, and is this just a fundamental disagreement between the two of you?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I haven't had a conversation with Governor Strickland. I know that part of his concern was prompted by some bad experiences with charters in Ohio that weren't up to snuff. And if you looked at my statement yesterday, what I said was not only should we lift the cap on charters, we should also shut down charters that aren't meeting standards. I don't think that's inconsistent with Governor Strickland's position.

My goal here is to create laboratories of innovation so that in the public school system, we are on a race to the top as opposed to stuck in the old ways of doing things. And we've got to -- we've got to do that. In your home town of Cleveland, I don't know off the top of my head what the dropout rate is, but I've got to assume that it's hovering around 50 percent. If you look at the number of children going through the Cleveland public schools who are actually prepared to go to college, it's probably one out of seven or eight or 10. And that's just not acceptable. It's not acceptable for them, it's not acceptable in terms of America's economic future. And so we've got to experiment with ways to provide a better educational experience for our kids, and some charters are doing outstanding jobs.

So, the bottom line is to try to create innovation within the public school system that can potentially be scaled up, but also to make sure that we are maintaining very high standards for any charter school that's created.

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