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November 1, 2009

"Chicago Muscle" on Education Reform and the Democrat Party

Jonathan Alter:

Kennedy worked closely with President Bush on the flawed and deeply unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. Like a packaged-goods company with a tainted product, the Obama administration has left that name behind and now calls its program the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, LBJ's original title in 1965. But the accountability-and-standards movement Kennedy and Bush launched is essential, and Obama has moved much faster than expected to advance it. He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are showing some Chicago muscle and giving states a "choice" right out of The Untouchables: lift your caps on the number of innovative charter schools allowed and your prohibitions on holding teachers accountable for whether kids learn--or lose a chance for some of Obama's $5 billion "Race to the Top" money. Massachusetts recently lifted its charter cap and nearly a dozen other states are scampering to comply. Now that's hardball we can believe in.

This issue cleaves the Democratic Party. On one side are Obama and the reformers, who point out that we now have a good idea of what works: KIPP and other "no excuses" charter models boast 80 percent graduation rates in America's roughest neighborhoods, nearly twice the norm. On the other side are the teachers' unions and their incrementalist enablers in the political class. They talk a good game about education but make up phony excuses for opposing real reform and accountability.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at November 1, 2009 3:11 AM
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