According to President Obama’s weekly Internet address his administration’s education policy is an attempt to create an educational system that “Creates a more competitive America and a better future.” It’s hard to argue with words like “what matters is what we do to lift up the next generation.” It is equally hard to argue with phrases like “raising expectations for our students and ourselves,” “rewarding good teaching,” “to recognize and reward excellence,” “improve performance of public schools,” and “give our kids and out country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.” We have been hearing the same thing from politicians for my entire 20 year career in education. So what is really different about the Obama’s administration from the previous administration?
According to his weekly Internet address, “states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards.” The idea of competition for federal funding is new. What is really wrong with this idea? As many people have pointed out, a competition means there will be winners and losers. Some states and school systems will have to do without needed funding in a year when states and local governments are having to slash budgets. Those will be the losers in the Obamafest Competition for Education Funds. Who will ultimately lose are students in those schools, systems, and states just because their state’s application is rejected. When a President boasts in the same speech that “unless we step up, there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential,” I see a serious disconnect between stated beliefs and practice. How can the President boast and declare that he is concerned about the education of every child, when he is going to use a process that by its very nature is going to declare some children losers, just because their state can’t write an acceptable application? In his speech regarding those 16 states who were finalists, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reminds us again that “Race to the Top is a competition. Only the best proposals will win.” A translation of this is, those states with poor proposals will lose, and so will the students in those states. I am puzzled to no end how a Presidential administration could possibly be so callous as to turn our children’s future into a bureaucratic competition.