Friday, March 23, 2012

Obama, GOP governors share many views on education

It's great to see that education reform is one area in which Obama is working well with Republicans (at least some Rep governors) (with a nice quote from DFER's Joe Williams):

A funny thing is happening between President Barack Obama and many Republican governors when it comes to improving America's schools: They are mostly getting along.

After Obama spoke recently to the nation's governors, Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal publicly praised the administration's efforts on education, and Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said there was a lot of room for "common agreement" on fixing schools. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, another Republican, introduced Obama in September at the White House before the president announced that states could be freed from stringent rules under the No Child Left Behind law if they met certain conditions.

GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels freely credits Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for helping to pave the way for a "tectonic" shift in education, including comprehensive law changes passed in his home state of Indiana last year that include the rigorous use of teacher evaluations and one of the nation's most expansive uses of vouchers to help parents send children to private schools.

Republican governors are unabashedly behind some of the most aggressive changes in education policy today, from Indiana to Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott successfully pushed law changes to establish merit pay and eliminate tenure protections for new teachers, to Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker seeks statewide screening of incoming kindergartners and requirements that elementary school teachers take a more rigorous licensing exam.

While Obama doesn't agree with all these actions, he and the governors have found common ground in a number of areas, including teacher evaluation systems with consequences, merit pay for teachers, holding teachers and schools more accountable for how much students learn, and charter schools, which are public schools run by an independent third party.

Obama's awarding of waivers from No Child Left Behind in exchange for a promise by states to improve how they prepare and evaluate students has been popular with many governors of both parties, as has been the opportunity to compete for billions of dollars in the administration's "Race to the Top" competition, which rewards states for pursuing policies Obama supports.

…While Obama still must tread carefully when dealing with teachers' unions, Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, said Obama's never had a cozy relationship with them, so that has also freed him to advocate for changes on his own terms. And that's earned him some respect among Republican governors.

…Williams said in the '90s, there was a push for changes in education by governors, but it dried up. He says Obama gave the "mojo" back to governors.


Obama, GOP governors share many views on education

Associated Press

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