Barackobama.com published the President’s three-part vision for education: Improve K-12, expand access to higher education, and preparing children for kindergarten. Is this more talk from a blow-hard or is this at least one area where Obama has put some substance behind his style?
The website says that K-12 will be improved through aggressive recruiting of new teachers, new ways to reward effective teachers, and by lessening the severity of actions against schools that fail to meet standards. 20% of existing teachers are expected to retire in the next five years. While several news articles talk about things like scholarships for “Teacher Service” and “Teacher Residency Programs”, no bill has been enacted that would provide for them. Another portion of Obama’s teacher recruitment/retention strategy is merit pay. However, the idea of financially rewarding good teachers does not resonate with the National Education Association (NEA) and the powerful group seems to have prevented Obama from accomplishing this portion of his plan. Barack would also like to send teachers to lower-income areas as stipulation of subsidizing their college costs. It is my opinion that a teacher that is forced into an area where he/she does not want to live and work will surely get them to retire quickly. As an aside, the President’s budget for 2010 also cuts funding for classroom technology by $169 million. Grade on k-12: all style – no substance: F.
So how is Obama doing on his push to make higher-education more accessible? The President’s budget does have provisions to increase funding of Pell grants. Barack’s plan will increase Pell grant maximums from $5,350 to $5,550 and indexing the grant maximum to inflation. There is controversy in how the President intends to pay for the increase in grants. The administration is going to cut-off subsidies to lenders that provide student loans. The reason the subsidy is necessary is government regulations that make the student loans bring in less money than it takes to administer them. This will most-likely result in the government take-over of the student loan market. While the grant increase will make education more-accessible to low-income households, it will also have the affect of making college less-affordable for middle-class families that rely on student loans to finance the trip through a University. Grade on higher-education access: he’s taken action, but appears misguided: D.
Obama also intends to improve the preparation of pre-k children for school. The President would like to reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Other than speeches on the campaign trail, speeches from the White House, and speeches by other members of his administration, there appears to be no action on this part of the Obama plan. Barack felt that NCLB was underfunded and put too much emphasis on preparing students for standardized tests. No mention is made in the President’s budget about NCLB, instead it talks about creating a new program based on the “Harlem Children’s Zone” initiative. This new “Promise Neighborhood” program does not appear to have funding in the budget, so it is unclear how or if it will even be implemented. Grade on pre-k: all talk, no walk: F
So far, all we have seen is the Obama administration doing what has been done by every previous one – throw more money into a failing system. $8.6 Billion was given to California alone to make up for education budget shortfalls, but no new programs came with the money and no new behavior has resulted. Obama’s final grade: D-.