In comments about the stimulus plan at last night’s press conference [see above link for transcript], President Barack Obama called for education funding accompanied by more reform. (Kudos to Politics K-12 blog for its post on this topic.)
“I think there are areas like education where some in my party have been too resistant to reform and have argued only money makes a difference. And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said, ‘No matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let’s just blow up the public school systems.’ And I think that both sides are going to have to acknowledge we’re going to need more money for new science labs, to pay teachers more effectively, but we’re also going to need more reform, which means that we’ve got to train teachers more effectively, bad teachers need to be fired after being given the opportunity to train effectively, that we should experiment with things like charter schools that are innovating in the classroom, that we should have high standards.” — President Barack Obama, February 9, 2009
President Obama is right on the mark. His pragmatism and practicality is quite refreshing. Not liberal, not conservative, not even moderate necessarily. How different from the holier-than-thou, we-like-to-get-our-names-in-the-press Senate “moderates” that slowed the bill down over … what exactly? Cuts in funds for shovel-ready school construction projects (read: jobs) and help for shell-shocked state governments?
The President’s comments get to the heart of my recent posts (here, here, and here) which argued that money alone would neither transform the federal role in education or lead to more reform. President Obama seems to agree. Fortunately, there’ll be future opportunities to inject some needed policy reforms and retool some spending priorities in education. The stimulus package alone is not going get that done, but will inject some desperately needed funding into things like Title I, special education and Pell Grants and hopefully help to keep schools and students afloat … once it gets out of the Capitol Hill sausage factory.