March 27, 2008
Obama's National Public Education Plans
While Clinton's and Obama's health care plans attract attention, Obama's plan for public education largely goes unnoticed. National Health Care is on his first term agenda. Is National Public Education on his second?
When commentators accuse Obama of trafficking only in vapid bromides it means they've not read his campaign materials. The ethereal vagaries of his pep-rally speeches given on past election nights do not convey the full scope of his plans for federal social activism. Those are only spelled out in his written campaign materials. And reading them can be like wading through a room waist-deep in peanut butter. But they do reveal his domestic agenda.
Both Democrat candidates openly advocate a form of socialized medicine. Obama packages his proposal as a new national health plan. On its face, it represents a politically "liberal" proposal. But during the primary campaign in Texas, Obama resisted being called a "liberal." He charged that those applying the label to him were engaging in the tactics of politics-as-usual saying, "Don't let them run that 'okey doke' on you." If he won't accept "liberal," he's unlikely to align with "socialist." And one socialist-like program -- National Health Care -- is not enough evidence to make the charge stick.
That's where his Blueprint "Plan To Give Every American Child A World Class Education" (pp. 20-23), and its linked, 15-page single-spaced document entitled "Barack Obama's Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education" points to another, broad, federal intervention.
Nearly all of the various programs summarized below will involve additional federal dollars poured into the vast and dynamic education industry, the Democratic Party's most powerful interest group. When you see the word "encourage" in the same phrase as "federal" or "policy", grab your pocketbook, because they want to spend your tax money.
Not just school boards, but consultants, testing companies, publishers, schools of education and a vast universe of other service-providers stand ready to reap more billions. Every time you "address" a problem you have to have studies, conferences, boards, consultants, facilitators, meeting planners, and on and on. That's just to get started, before anything is actually decided, much less created. Education is big business. Plenty of well-paying jobs, in and outside the schools. It will surprise no one that Obama is looking for "new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay".
You might want to scan through the litany of proposals that comprise much of his education plan, just to gauge the scope of his intentions:
- Zero-Five Plan
- Early Learning Challenge: Early care and educational programs for pregnant women and children from birth to age five to address gaps in services and enhance quality programs that serve all young children.
- Early Head Start: Quadruple funding and improve quality; $250 million dedicated funds to create or expand regional training centers.
- Voluntary, Universal Pre-School: Provide funding to accelerate the trend toward voluntary, universal pre-school for all.
- Child Care Development Block Grant Program: Increase funding that remained unchanged under the Bush administration.
- Child Care Quality: Double resources within the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to develop quality-rating systems for child care that reflect higher standards and supports for teacher training and professional development, improving student/teacher ratios, providing family support in child care settings, and increasing professional development and teacher training.
- Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs: Expand programs to all low-income, first-time mothers, assisting approximately 570,000 first time mothers each year.
- Presidential Early Learning Council: Encourage dialogue among programs at federal and state levels, and within the private and nonprofit sectors, to collect and disseminate the most valid and up-to-date research on early learning.
- Transform the Teaching Profession
- Teacher Service Scholarships: Pays for four years of undergraduate teacher education or two years of post-graduate in return for four years of teaching service.
- All Schools Accredited: [What will be the impact on home schoolers and charter schools?]
- Teacher Residency Program: Obama will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to what eduspeak calls high-need schools.
- Career Ladder Initiatives: Expanded teacher mentoring programs will pair experienced teachers with new recruits and provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices. These initiatives will provide federal resources to states and districts to help create mentoring programs. Obama will provide $1 billion in funding to create mentoring programs and reward veteran teachers for becoming mentors.
- Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay. To be developed with teachers, not imposed on them.
- Middle School Intervention Strategies: Provide funding to school districts to invest in interventional strategies in middle schools such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.
- STEP UP Plan: Addresses achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children.
- Professional Development Schools: Obama will provide $100 million to stimulate teacher education reforms built on school university partnerships.
- State Leadership Academies: Obama will provide funding for academies to enable principals to develop the sophisticated skills they need and provide ongoing financial support. Obama's plan will also support research about the effectiveness of various approaches to principal training.
- Helping At-Risk Children Succeed in School
- Additional Learning Time: Obama will create a $200 million grant program for states and district that want to provide additional learning time for students in need.
- The Success in the Middle Act: This legislation, sponsored by Obama, would provide federal support to improve the education of middle grades students in low-performing schools. It requires states to develop a detailed plan to improve student improvement.
- Redesigned Schools
- Reorganization: Obama will support federal efforts to continue to encourage schools to organize themselves for greater success by developing stronger relationships among adults and students, a more engaging curriculum, more adaptive teaching, and more opportunities for teachers to plan and learn together.
- Competitive Grants to Help Students Graduate: Offers grants to existing or proposed public/private partnerships entities that are partnerships or entitles pursuing evidence-based models that work.
- Positive Behavior Support: Obama will promote a more effective and just method of addressing behavioral problems in school.
- R&D Programs for Improving Science Education: Obama will double our investment in early education and educational R&D by the end of his first term. Part of this funding will go toward improving science education.
- Expanding After-school Opportunities
- Expanding 21st Century Learning Centers Program: Obama will double funding for this main federal support for after-school programs to serve one million more children each year.
- [For more, read the Blueprint and linked documents.]
This is, obviously, not a full-blown plan to federalize the nation's public schools. But it does represent a bold and intrusive step in that direction. Senator Obama sees the state as an instrument to redeem us:
"It is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keep, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country work."
Those fine words express an ageless, altruistic principle behind countless good works, but they are not among the principles our Founders laid down. Barack Obama's broad social engineering design for America has many facets. But transforming education will play a key role when and if its time comes.
And that should concern us.