November 2007 Archives

Since I've already updated you on the education question that did get asked during Wednesday night's Republican CNN/YouTube debate, I thought I'd put together a collection of my favorite school-related questions submitted to YouTube that were not asked. These certainly would have sparked interesting responses. Take this one: A 14-year-old from Traverse City, Mich., who declares that teen violence is actually caused by school, and "all the crap" students have to put up with there. Or this one, from a Florida student who is using way too many big words for his age. Did someone do his homework? Then ...


Check out Michael J. Petrilli's thoughtful piece in the National Review that sizes up the education debate in the presidential campaigns. Petrilli, a vice president of the Fordham Foundation and a former Bush administration education official, offers an important insight at the end of his article: That perhaps education is such a yawner issue in this election not because the public doesn't care, but because the candidates aren't offering anything bold or truly new to the debate....


Last night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate in Florida provided an opportunity for regular people to submit questions to the presidential questions via video through YouTube—and thousands did. As I scanned the questions beforehand, I found that hundreds dealt with education, from how the candidates would change No Child Left Behind and help students better afford college to where the candidates stand on evolution in the classroom and national standards. But only one of the 33 questions asked during the debate even touched on the subject of education. Perhaps the producers could have swapped out the question about the Confederate ...


That's the opening line of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's new television ad that's running in Iowa. I question the "only" and the "bold" part of his claim. His "bold plan," if elected president: getting rid of the No Child Left Behind Act, expanding prekindergarten, paying teachers more, and expanding math and science academies. Hardly original ideas, since most of those proposals are shared by every other Democratic candidate in the race. Webster's dictionary defines bold as "readiness to take risks, daring, fearless," and although he goes a step further than other candidates by calling for an all-out elimination of ...


Democrat Hillary Clinton outlined her plan to cut the dropout rate in half yesterday at a campaign stop in South Carolina, an early-voting state in the presidential primary race with one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. Sen. Clinton, of New York, has some good ideas (which I'll get to in a minute) and is attacking a problem that is downright devastating in particular parts of the country. She announced her plan in South Carolina, which according to our latest installment of Diplomas Count (produced by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which is affiliated with Education ...


ED in ’08, a multi-million dollar campaign aimed at focusing attention on education issues in the 2008 presidential election, gathered a group of highly regarded political reporters, commentators, and operatives last evening for a forum on education and the campaign at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. But little of the discussion centered around specific candidates and their education platforms. Instead, several commentators said education has largely remained a backburner issue in the campaign so far. Dan Balz, a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, suggested that this year’s big domestic issues ...


Over at Learning the Language, my colleague, Mary Ann Zehr, has a must-read about the presidential candidates' views on bilingual education. While all of the Democratic frontrunners said they supported bilingual education, only Republican Mitt Romney and the lesser-known Tom Tancredo responded in time to the survey Mary Ann featured in her post. They came out against bilingual education. While some may disagree with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who supported a 2002 voter-approved initiative against bilingual education, at least he responded to the survey. And although his campaign's response was a little murky, he has staked out a clear ...


Getting young people interested in politics—and to the polls—is still a tough chore. But in this presidential race, and even in next year's governors' elections, the stakes couldn't be higher for the nation's youth, who will be affected by decisions made about education, the economy, and war. Enter Facebook. This hugely popular social networking site that draws millions of young people, who share thoughts, photos, and even trivia knowledge, is partnering with ABC News to bring its users political coverage. By adding the "U.S. Politics" application, Facebook users can track the political coverage and candidates through ABC News reporters,...


Check out this blog item at The Washington Post, which details Republican Mitt Romney's brief statement of support on Sunday for student testing as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The former Massachusetts governor may not be taking the popular stance in defending standardized testing. But, he's clearly distinguishing himself in the pack of presidential candidates in both political parties who are routinely bashing the federal school accountability law....


There's a big fight brewing over merit pay in Oregon, where an anti-union activist is taking on the teachers' unions by campaigning for a 2008 ballot initiative that would link teacher raises to "classroom performance." Read more about that here. Voters in Oregon nixed a similar proposal when it was on the ballot in 2000. But it's eight years later, and merit pay has become a much bigger education reform topic and has spread to states like Texas and Minnesota. Merit pay is even being talked about on the presidential campaign trail. Read my earlier posts here and here. The ...


In Sen. Barack Obama's new education plan, his ideas for reforming the teaching profession are substantial, expensive, and have the potential to result in fairly dramatic changes in the teaching profession. I discussed this with one of my colleagues on the teacher beat here at Education Week, Bess Keller, who helped me navigate my way through the Illinois Democrat's detailed plan. Obama wants to get serious about recruiting by offering $25,000 "teaching service" scholarships to talented, high-performing teacher candidates who agree to teach in a high-need area or subject for at least four years. His $18 billion plan calls ...


Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., released a detailed education plan in New Hampshire this morning. It’s long on detail when it comes to teacher pay, early childhood education, and expanding federal college outreach … but somewhat skimpy when it comes to what is arguably the biggest education question in Congress these days: how states should be held accountable for student progress under a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act. Obama said he wants to “reform” the law and repeats perennial Democratic criticisms about a lack of adequate funding by the Bush administration. His most interesting proposal calls for helping states expand ...


One of the few issues in education that divides Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in this presidential campaign is merit pay. Yesterday, Sen. Clinton criticized the idea during a campaign stop at an Iowa elementary school. While the senator from New York said she supports the less controversial idea of incentives for teachers who work in high-need areas, Clinton, who won the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers in October, denounced the idea of merit pay as "demeaning and discouraging." (However, she does like the idea of school uniforms for students.) Teachers' unions usually fiercely oppose the ...


School choice has continued to be a hot political topic over the last several months, especially with the referendum that failed miserably in Utah that would have created the country's first universal voucher program. Often, supporters of vouchers and other school choice options talk about how such efforts could help level the playing field between poorer parents, who may not be able to afford to move out of a failing school district, and wealthier parents, who have greater means to do so. U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut exercised school choice of a different kind today, according to ...


One of his spokesmen seems to think so. Check out this story about Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri in the Providence Journal. (You have to scroll down about half-way through this story to get to the Carcieri education secretary nugget.) The Republican governor's communications director told a local talk-radio audience earlier this month that if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins the presidency, there's talk that Carcieri will be tapped as his secretary of education. From the way the article reads, however, Carcieri is by no means a shoe-in for the post. After all, even though campaign season is ...


Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has a new televsion ad up in New Hampshire that focuses on education, sprinkled with some parenting advice. (Over at the Democrats for Education Reform blog, Joe Williams writes that Obama, a Democratic presidential contender, is the first candidate in the race to hit television airwaves with an education-focused ad.) The ad starts by getting personal, as Obama talks about his childhood—that his parents weren't rich, his Dad left when he was very young, but that he still managed to get a good education. He briefly touts his plan for expanding early childhood education and ...


In last night's Democratic debate on CNN, the seven presidential candidates were asked whether they were in favor of the very controversial issue of merit pay for teachers, which is generally fiercely opposed by some of the Democrats' biggest supporters—the teachers' unions. None of the candidates came out in favor of the kind of merit pay in which individual teachers are paid more based on their results in the classroom. Interestingly, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who is the only Democratic candidate to openly support and talk about merit pay for individual teachers on the campaign trail, didn't jump ...


While most of the education fuss on Election Day last week was over the voucher referendum in Utah, there was another significant, state-level referendum, this one in Washington State where results are still, a week later, neck-and-neck. Although many believed a referendum that would have made it easier for school districts to get property-tax levies approved by voters had failed, days later, we find out differently. As of Election Night, according to the story, the measure was trailing by a seemingly formidable 38,000 votes—what was thought to be a somewhat comfortable lead. But late votes, including mail-in ballots, ...


The issue of immigration has been particularly divisive within the Republican Party and, today, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, criticized his GOP opponents for backing tuition assistance for children of illegal immigrants. Usually, what this means is states give students whose parents are illegal immigrants the lower-tuition, in-state status if they meet all other residency and academic requirements. Specifically, Romney targeted former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for providing tuition breaks for illegal immigrants at City University, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for supporting 2005 legislation in Arkansas that would have granted in-state ...


This is the kind of support—and headline—voucher proponents probably don't need: "Two polygamous burgs back vouchers," Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 12, 2007. Vouchers are controversial enough on their own—and certainly were during the Utah referendum—without being linked to polygamy (though associated with the Mormons, polygamy is illegal and shunned by the Mormon Church)....


One could really question the political strategy on the part of the Indianapolis teachers' union after watching this. At issue is the shocking loss of Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson , a Democrat, in Tuesday's election, despite outspending Republican political newcomer, Greg Ballard, by 10-1. Peterson, who is a major champion of charter schools, is known nationally for working to expand options for students in Indianapolis Public Schools' by authorizing 16 charter schools for the city. This growth had prompted IPS Superintendent Eugene White to call for a moratorium last year, declaring that the loss of students was draining money from the ...


When a new governor gets elected, there's a new sheriff in town. And that's bound to mean changes, including in the education realm. Kentucky Gov.-elect Steve Beshear, a Democrat who beat incumbent Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, already is letting the State Board of Education know who's the boss in Kentucky. The board of education is in middle of a search for a new education commissioner to replace Gene Wilhoit, who left last year to lead the Council of Chief State School Officers. The board had narrowed the choice to four, and was poised to name a new commissioner next ...


In the wake of Tuesday's resounding "no" vote on vouchers in Utah, I thought I'd get some analysis from the two men responsible for financing most of the $7-million-plus political battle (which was more expensive than the state's last governor's race). And they are: the National Education Association's Reg Weaver, and Overstock.com's Patrick Byrne. Byrne, the Utah resident who founded and still leads the Internet shopping site, gave more than $2 million (including some contributions from his family) to the pro-voucher cause. He had a very terse, concise answer for what might have made a difference in swinging more ...


Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, told attendees at a forum yesterday in Iowa what he thinks is the No. 1 problem facing America's schools. Kids are bored. He called it a "huge, stupid mistake" that schools have changed their curriculum to include so much emphasis on math, science, and other core classes at the expense of subjects such as art and music, which may keep students more engaged in school. There's no easy fix to student boredom, especially from the president's vantage. Do you agree with Huckabee that part of the problem with schools today ...


On the same day we learned that voters in Utah decisively shot down the nation's first universal private-school voucher program, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney—who has significant ties to the state—reiterated today that he will promote school choice as part of his education agenda. So where was Romney during the voucher fight in Utah? He pretty much kept quiet, despite pleas from voucher advocates to lend his political capital to the fight. Perhaps he saw the polls, which consistently indicated vouchers as a losing issue in Utah. Or, maybe he was busy in early primary states, such as ...


Utah voters decisively and loudly spoke through the ballot box and repealed what would have been the nation's first universal voucher program, according to unofficial election results. When the legislature approved the law earlier this year, the margin was by a single vote. But the opposition in the general voting public was much stronger. With nearly 97 percent of the votes counted, 62 percent voted against vouchers, 38 percent voted for, during Utah's first "citizens' veto" statewide referendum in 30 years. This is a resounding victory for the law's biggest opponents: the teachers' unions, including the National Education Association, which ...


Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat and the only mayor in the country who has the authority to open and run charter schools, lost a tight re-election bid and has given the Hoosier State one of its biggest upsets in political history. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a native Hoosier. Peterson, a two-term mayor who was dubbed the "Peyton Manning of Charter Schools" in a recent article in Education Next, lost to Republican Greg Ballard for reasons that don't have a lot to do with education. Rising crime and rising property taxes relegated this once-popular mayor to ...


Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose campaign was mired in a hirings-and-firings ethics scandal from earlier in his administration, did not win re-election. With 90 percent of the votes counted, his opponent, former Attorney General Steve Beshear, unseated the incumbent and gave Democrats control of another governor's office. Beshear netted 59 percent of the vote to Fletcher's 41 percent. Beshear doesn't have anything earth-shattering on his education agenda—the ever-popular pre-kindergarten expansion, a pledge to raise teacher salaries, and a promise to provide more dual-enrollment opportunities so students can earn college credit while going to high school. This was a race ...


Voters in several states will make decisions today that will affect the quality of schools for years to come. The biggies: Vouchers—The polls don't look good for supporters of statewide, universal vouchers in Utah. Voters will consider whether or not to repeal a law approved earlier this year by the legislature that would give every student a voucher worth between $500 and $3,000, depending on income. Governors—Voters in Mississippi and Kentucky will elect their heads-of-state. Kentucky incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, is in danger of losing to Democrat Steve Beshear. In Mississippi, Republican Haley Barbour seems ...


Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who is big supporter of the National Rifle Association and an opponent of gun-control measures, came out on Sunday in favor of allowing law-abiding students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, so long as they comply with campus and state rules. The issue came up on Meet the Press, when journalist Tim Russert asked the former Tennessee senator about allowing students to carry weapons in light of the shootings in April at Virginia Tech. He first told Russert: "I don’t think that all students need to be carrying weapons on the school campus." ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings might be done influencing national education policy and the No Child Left Behind Act come January 2009, when President Bush leaves office. But that doesn't mean she'll be necessarily stepping out of the limelight, or leaving politics behind. A run for governor, or even U.S. Senator, in her home state of Texas may be in her future. This rumor has been floating around blogs for several weeks now, as people speculate where Spellings, a member of Bush's inner circle, will land once she leaves the federal government. Read more about what she may -- ...


Explaining war and politics to young children is hard. But here's how presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, a notoriously long-winded Democrat from Delaware, explained the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a group of 4th graders who asked him about the issue today in New Hampshire, according to an Associated Press story: "Osama bin Laden set up camps there [in Afghanistan], and he was getting a lot of help from folks running that country called Afghanistan. And that's where he planned an attack on America to bring the World Trade Towers down and kill all those innocent ...


Voters in three states will elect members of their Statehouses on Tuesday, and the ramifacations will be felt nationwide, as a story in USA Today explains. Certainly, voters in those three states—New Jersey, Virginia, and Mississippi —should care, since state legislatures set school spending and often shape educational priorities. (Louisiana's Statehouse elections are later in November.) Check out Education Week's Election 2007 coverage here. But these legislative elections also will determine who draws new Congressional boundaries in those states after the 2010 Census, which greatly influences whether Democrats or Republicans get elected to Congress. And, given the national interest ...


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