The past few weeks have been rough for many Obama cabinet appointees, but one appointment has garnered an impressive amount of bipartisan support. Arne Duncan, President Obama’s choice to head the U.S. Department of Education, has been lauded by Democrats and Republicans alike. The former Chicago Public Schools CEO comes to Washington with an impressive reputation for innovation and reform, both of which are desperately needed by the American education system. In other words, now would be a fabulous time for Duncan to live up to the hype.
Unfortunately, other than the Duncan appointment, what we’ve seen so far from the Obama administration points to business as usual in the education world. The so-called “stimulus” bill was packed full of education spending with the incorrect assumption that increased spending is the answer to America’s education woes. Study after study has confirmed that increased funding does not lead to better results. Some of the worst performing school districts in the country (see Washington D.C. as a prime example) have the highest per-pupil spending. Instead of pouring money into a flawed system, fundamental reforms to the system itself are needed to increase school performance.
Assuming Duncan is ready to make his mark as a reformer, I humbly submit some action items he may want to consider:
-Increased parental choice. Parents are increasingly frustrated with the limited options available within the public school system. Often times the only option a parent has is the local, government-assigned public school, which may or may not fit the needs of their child. Fortunately, Duncan has supported several school choice measures in the past. Whether it’s through charter schools, education tax credits, open-enrollment policies, or voucher programs – any program that gives more choice and flexibility to American families regarding education is a sign of progress. No child should be forced into a failing government school because of his or her address.