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The Obama administration has been busy shaping education policy since the first days of 2009. The stimulus package, the "Race to the Top" fund, and initiatives on college lending, merit pay for teachers, and charter schooling have all been at the forefront of the public discussion of education reform. President
Download Audio as MP3 Obama has also been credited for his own strong support of charter schools and merit pay. The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind will be on the agenda for 2010.
As the president prepared for his 2010 State of the Union address, AEI resident scholar and director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess and fellow panelists discussed what to make of the administration's agenda and what to expect in the future. AEI visiting scholar Mark Schneider, who is also vice president at the American Institutes for Research, AEI adjunct scholar Andy Smarick, and Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, offered their analyses of current and forthcoming education reform efforts. Alice Johnson Cain, education director at the Hope Street Group and a former senior adviser to Chairman George Miller of the House Committee on Education and Labor, provided a Capitol Hill perspective. Andrew Kelly, research fellow in education policy at AEI, moderated the discussion.
|9:00||Panelists:||Alice Johnson Cain, Hope Street Group|
|Kevin Carey, Education Sector|
|Frederick M. Hess, AEI|
|Mark Schneider, AEI and American Institutes for Research|
|Andy Smarick, AEI|
|Moderator:||Andrew Kelly, AEI|
Washington, DC 20036
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
WASHINGTON, JANUARY 27, 2010--A panel reviewing the Obama administration's first year in education reform noted that over $122 billion has been outlaid for education initiatives in the president's stimulus package, giving education more funding than any other category. AEI research fellow Andrew Kelly moderated the January 27 discussion amongst education experts on a range of secondary and higher education issues.
Alice Johnson Cain of the Hope Street Group took a sanguine stance on K–12 efforts like the stimulus package and the Race to the Top fund: "I think the Obama administration has ushered in a new era of education reform. I think Race to the Top is genius." AEI adjunct scholar Andy Smarick similarly noted that over two dozen states have changed their laws to compete for the Race to the Top funds. Smarick called this the best single accomplishment of an education secretary to date but was the first of several panelists to caution against making final judgments on Race to the Top before it plays out in practice.
The panelists also debated the implications of the stimulus package for K–12 education. AEI's director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess argued that the injection of so much money into the school system only serves to turn school districts into a "jobs program," instead of prompting them to make much-needed reforms. In contrast, Kevin Carey of Education Sector contended that the stimulus package was necessary for the economy and that other pieces of the administration's education plan, including Race to the Top, contained important reform measures.
In discussing higher education, panelists focused on the American Graduation Initiative, which funds community colleges, and the College Access and Completion Fund, which aims to spur higher college graduation rates. At issue was the nature and function of higher education itself, which the panelists agreed is undergoing changes due to rising tuition costs, the current recession, and the administration's emphasis on opening the doors to more individuals. Mark Schneider, of AEI and the American Institutes for Research, noted that we lack adequate information on the ideal mix of four-year colleges, community colleges, and distance education to justify increasing federal funding for community colleges. The panelists also discussed the importance of tying funding to efficiency and outcome indicators.
At the end of the discussion, the panelists graded the administration and offered advice for the year ahead. Grades ranged from an "A" to "A Gentleman's C." The panelists agreed that, in many respects, it is too early to judge accurately the administration's education policy. The practical implementation of heavily-publicized reform efforts like Race to the Top as well as the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will ultimately render the verdict on the president's education ambitions in the coming year.
Alice Johnson Cain is the education director for the Hope Street Group. Before joining the Hope Street Group, she was the chief adviser for K-12 education for Chairman George Miller of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Her expertise includes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and she led the team of House committee staffers working on the rewrite of No Child Left Behind. In addition to advising Chairman Miller, Ms. Johnson Cain served as a resource on education policy to the Democratic members of Congress serving on the Education and Labor Committee and their staff members. Ms. Johnson Cain has twenty years of experience in education policy. Prior to joining the committee, she worked at the Children's Defense Fund advocating on behalf of federal and state policies to help poor, minority, and disabled children. She spent six years in the Clinton administration, where she directed the policy office at the National Institute for Literacy, and was detailed for a year to assist Vice President Al Gore with workforce education and training policy. She spent five years on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions staff of Senator Paul Simon, where she assisted with the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization. More recently, she spent a year in New Zealand researching education policy and practice on a fellowship administered by Fulbright New Zealand. Ms. Johnson Cain has served on the boards of several national and local literacy organizations and spent many years teaching General Educational Development and English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for low-income and homeless adults and youth and volunteering in Washington, D.C.'s public schools.
Kevin Carey is the policy director at Education Sector. In addition to managing Education Sector's policy team, he regularly contributes to the Quick and the Ed blog and has published Education Sector reports on topics including a blueprint for a new system of college rankings, how states inflate educational progress under No Child Left Behind, and improving minority college graduation rates. He has published magazine articles and op-eds in publications including Washington Monthly, The American Prospect, Phi Delta Kappan, Change, Education Week, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and Christian Science Monitor. He also writes a monthly column on higher education policy for The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 1995, Mr. Carey worked as an education finance analyst for the state of Indiana, where he developed a new formula for setting local property taxes and distributing state education aid. He subsequently served as a senior analyst for the Indiana Senate Finance Committee, writing legislation and advising the Democratic caucus on fiscal policy. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Indiana's assistant state budget director for education, where he advised the governor on finance and policy issues in K-12 and higher education. In 2001, Mr. Carey became an analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research organization focused on policies that serve low- and moderate-income families. There he published new research on state poverty-based education funding programs. Mr. Carey subsequently worked at the Education Trust, where he was director of policy research.
Frederick M. Hess, AEI's director of education policy studies, is an educator, political scientist, author, and popular speaker and commentator. He has authored such influential books as Spinning Wheels, Revolution at the Margins, and Common Sense School Reform. A former public high school social studies teacher, he has also taught education and policy at universities including Georgetown, Harvard, Rice, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is executive editor of Education Next and a faculty associate with Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, and he serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education. At AEI, Mr. Hess addresses a range of K-12 and higher education issues.
Andrew Kelly is a research fellow in education policy at AEI and a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include education policy, congressional policymaking, and public opinion. While in residence at Berkeley, Mr. Kelly was a National Science Foundation graduate training fellow and was twice recognized as an outstanding graduate student instructor. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining, and the politics of education. His research has appeared in Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, Policy Studies Journal, Education Next, Education Week, and various edited volumes.
Mark Schneider, a former commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics—the primary federal office that collects and analyzes data relating to education—writes about a broad range of education issues: charter schools, consumer choice in education, the relationship between school facilities and academic outcomes, and higher education policy. He also studies and writes about urban politics and public policy. He is the author and coauthor of numerous scholarly books and articles, including the award-winning Choosing Schools: Consumer Choice and the Quality of American Schools (Princeton University Press, 2000). From 2000 to 2001, he served as vice president of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and simultaneously as president of APSA's public policy section. He is currently vice president for new education initiatives at the American Institutes for Research. Mr. Schneider's research at AEI focuses on higher education, in particular the issue of accountability in postsecondary education.
Andy Smarick is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and an adjunct fellow at AEI. From 2008-2009, he served as deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education, where he helped manage the department's research, budget, and policy functions. From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Smarick served at the White House on the Domestic Policy Council, working primarily on K-12 and higher education issues. Prior positions include chief operating officer for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, legislative assistant to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and aide to members of the Maryland state legislature. Mr. Smarick helped found a college-preparatory charter school for disadvantaged students in Annapolis, and he was a member of the Maryland Governor's Commission on Quality Education. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, National Review Online, Education Next, and other outlets. He is a former White House Fellow. He has recently written about the federal stimulus, school turnarounds, charter schools, and the decline of inner-city faith-based schools, and he is completing work on a book about rebuilding America's urban public school systems.