Obama and the Independent School District

"I don't want to send another generation of American children to failing schools." (Barack Obama, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Des Moines, Iowa, November 10, 2007)
The signature initiative of an Obama campaign for a second term would be nationalizing public education, kindergarten through grade 12. If it happens, say goodbye to the Independent School District (I.S.D.) as we've known it.

The Obama campaign document entitled "The Blueprint For Change: Barack Obama's Plan For America" continues to be ignored by the old media news. The section entitled "Plan To Give Every American Child A World Class Education," was profiled earlier in much of its mind-numbing detail inAmerican Thinker. Of the fifteen topics in his Blueprint, "Education" is arguably the most thoroughly articulated, with community "Service" a close second. (In comparison "Veterans" is a flyby.)

Barack Obama has clear and audacious intentions concerning public education in America.

On November 20, 2007, in a speech entitled "Our Kids, Our Future," he said,

"A truly historic commitment to education -- a real commitment -- will require new resources and new reforms. It will require a willingness to break free from the same debates that Washington has been engaged in for decades - Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more accountability. And most of all, it will take a President who is honest about the challenges we face -- who doesn't just tell everyone what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.

I am running to be that President. And that's why I'm proposing a comprehensive plan to give every American child the chance to receive the best education America has to offer - from the moment they're born to the day they graduate college. As President, I will put the full resources of the federal government behind this plan. But to make it a reality, I will also ask more of teachers and principals; parents and students; schools and communities."  (emphasis added)

If you couple the scope of that statement with details outlined in his plan, the unavoidable message is that he would, as president, move toward federalizing public education from K-12, and greatly expand Washington's role in the pre-school arena.

In a February 19, 2008 speech in Wisconsin he stated,

"If you're ready for change, we can assure that every child in America has the best education this country has to offer from the day that child is born to the day that child graduates from college. The problem is not the lack of plans, [or] the lack of good ideas. The problem is a lack of political will, a lack of urgency."

"Political will" is about provoking the will of the people to give the federal government the authority to educate America's children. Obama sees himself as the Chief Education Officer of the United States. His Department of Education will manage one large, nationwide, public school district with a unified federal budget. Here's how Obama would position this initiative.

Public education is too important to the nation's prosperity and security to leave in the hands of essentially volunteer school boards. Just as it doesn't make sense in the modern world for each community to have its own postal system, or its own military, likewise it no longer makes sense for each community to struggle to support their own educational enterprise in a world growing more complex and competitive by the day. It's time the government of all the people takes responsibility for educating all the people's children, regardless of how affluent or poor their individual community happens to be. All the children, after all, are our nation's future. We can no longer afford Corridors of Shame anywhere in these United States of America. 

Before you dismiss this notion as fanciful, consider likely responses from those most directly involved in public education.

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Teachers' Unions:  The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers would gladly become federal employees. It would standardize pensions and benefits, equalize pay scales nationwide, ease teacher transfers from state-to-state, offer greater job security, and allow poorer districts to raise teacher salaries. Plus, it would enhance union influence and grow the power of union officials.

Administrators: Many School Superintendents would welcome becoming federal employees. It would rescue them from the oversight of school boards and make them as locally unaccountable as their town postmaster.

Today, administrators seek to mitigate the risk of lawsuits from angry parents. With federalized schools that risk disappears. Who sues the federal government? Assault on a teacher would be a federal offense. School Security Administration (S.S.A.) personnel would, akin to the T.S.A., enforce school safety. Meanwhile, local police officers could leave school and go fight crime.  

Parents: They'll support anything that promises their kids a better education. Most parents couldn't name two of their school board members to save their lives. They won't fight for the independence of their I.S.D.  Plus, transferring their children from state-to-state will be less traumatic when every kid in the 4th grade nationwide marches lockstep in academic cadence.

State Education Departments & Bureaucrats: State education employees would welcome federalization the same way that workers at Small Grocery Store, promised job security by the new owners, welcome a buyout from Big Mega Market. State legislators responsible for budgeting state support for education would gladly surrender that chore.

University Education Departments: The academy leans left and won't oppose federal public schools. Professors would salivate at the thought of a boom in consulting opportunities, federal research grants, and nationwide distribution of their curriculum materials.

Text Book Publishers:  Big publishers could cut sales staff by dealing with a single buyer. Plus, they won't need to placate the politically correct agenda of individual states. The intelligent design vs. evolution debate will end inside the Beltway. Louisiana, California and Rhode Island will use the same earth science textbooks.

Rank & File Taxpayers: Taxpayers won't care whether their school taxes go to the local I.S.D. or Uncle Sam. Plus, nationalization will promise to reduce school taxes overall. When the feds buy millions of 5th grade math books, the contract is negotiated by a U.S. Department of Education Undersecretary for National Textbook Acquisition. Per-unit cost declines with economy-of-scale purchases. Same for materials and supplies.

Students:  These, the real customers, will parrot what their teachers and parents say.  They're just kids. Don't expect demonstrations from High Schoolers chanting "Free Our Local School Board."  

I.S.D. Board Members: Urban school boards have presided over a continuous train wreck for decades. Most will gladly surrender and let the feds take over. Some suburban and rural school boards might resist, futilely.

Home Schoolers:  They'll see nationalization as a threat to their independence, because it is.  But they're dedicated and resourceful people. They'll survive, and perhaps even flourish after a favorable court decision. (Maybe)

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There's one powerful point that would make the idea of federalizing schools a seductive lure. Nearly all agree that the I.S.D. system isn't adequately preparing America's children to compete in a global economy. In short, they're failing the nation. But imagine the consequences if your children's school teachers and administrators become accountable to Washington, D.C.


"Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for." Will Rogers