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For education to remain an increasingly important domestic policy issue in the 2012 elections, policymakers and candidates will need to clearly link education and the economy, a panel of education experts from both sides of the aisle concluded after a spirited discussion at an AEI event on Wednesday. Moderated by AEI's Frederick M. Hess, the panel touched on a number of key education issues in this election year, ranging from the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act to the impact of the Obama administration's reform agenda to the president's State of the Union vision for containing college tuition prices and raising the high school dropout age to 18.
One major question, fostered by Hess and Andrew Kelly's recent volume "Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from a Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America's Schools," was, "What can the federal government do well when it comes to education reform, and which issues are best left to state and local government and individuals?" According to Peter Cunningham of the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government is at its best when promoting transparency around data issues and using the bully pulpit and incentives, all with an eye to driving state and local actors. Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform agreed, emphasizing that a renewed focus on data over the past decade has "changed the conversation and allowed all sorts of different coalitions to form . . . in terms of getting things done on the ground."
David Winston of the Winston Group, however, was quick to point out that for any federal action in school reform to matter to the public, it has to be connected to the economy and jobs, a conclusion echoed by the rest of the panel and one that is good for policymakers to bear in mind as they prepare for the upcoming elections.
The 2012 election cycle is off and running, with big implications for America's schools. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) awaits reauthorization. The Obama administration is implementing new regulations targeted at for-profit colleges. Standoffs between the GOP-controlled House and the Obama administration have yielded budget brinksmanship, while domestic spending has been squeezed by massive deficits. President Obama, following in the footsteps of the Bush administration, has aggressively championed federal education initiatives like Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation fund. Meanwhile, the Republican primaries have been marked by candidates' rejection of an active federal role in education, as several have pledged to "turn out the lights" at the U.S. Department of Education.
What do the 2012 elections hold for education? What will happen this year when it comes to ESEA, for-profit education and federal education spending? Join us at AEI for a conversation that will consider these issues against the backdrop of the new book "Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from a Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America's Schools," edited by AEI's Frederick M. Hess and Andrew P. Kelly.
PETER CUNNINGHAM, U.S. Department of Education
KATHERINE HALEY, Office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
ALYSON KLEIN, Education Week
JOE WILLIAMS, Democrats for Education Reform
DAVID WINSTON, The Winston Group
FREDERICK M. HESS, AEI
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Peter Cunningham is the assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the Department of Education. In this position, he leads the Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO), composed of more than 125 employees and charged with broadcasting the president and secretary's education agenda, as well as supporting federal education policy development and promotion. Using a range of resources, from the secretary of education's speeches to the department's website and social media, OCO promotes the department's effort to expand access to and improve the quality of our nation's education system to several interested parties, including national, regional and local press; education nonprofits and interest groups; elected officials; administrators at institutions of education; teachers; students and the general public. Previously, Mr. Cunningham was president of Cunningham Communications, a Chicago firm specializing in communications for local government, political groups and nonprofits. He began his career as a reporter and writer for business and general interest publications, including the Southampton Press. He went on to work for several years as a speechwriter for the Illinois attorney general's office, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Katherine Haley serves as the assistant to Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) for policy, handling education, workforce, welfare and social issues. She is responsible for developing policy and coordinating strategies for Republican members of Congress and their staff on behalf of Speaker Boehner. She previously worked in the offices of U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and U.S. Senators Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), as well as for the Senate Select Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Health within the House Committee on Ways and Means. Ms. Haley conducted clinical cancer research at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University and was awarded a research fellowship at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School to further examine faith and medicine.
Frederick M. Hess is resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He has authored influential books on education including “The Same Thing Over and Over,” “Education Unbound,” “Common Sense School Reform,” “Revolution at the Margins” and “Spinning Wheels” and pens the Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up.” His work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, New York Times and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, stretching the education dollar, the impact of education research, education entrepreneurship and No Child Left Behind. He serves as executive editor of Education Next; as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program; on the Review Board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education; and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University.
Alyson Klein is a reporter for Education Week. She covers federal policy and Congress and reports on stimulus programs and ESEA/No Child Left Behind, focusing on the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa and Mississippi. She is also the co-author of the popular Education Week blog “Politics K-12.”
Joe Williams is executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. He has built a reputation as one of the most effective strategists and coalition builders in the education reform community. He is a nationally recognized analyst and public speaker on education policy and politics, reaching thousands of listeners in audiences from coast to coast each year. Mr. Williams is also one of the most prolific writers and commentators in the education reform world, often tapping into his experience as a newspaper reporter and author to make the case for reform. He previously worked as an award-winning education journalist for the New York Daily News and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has written extensively on education politics nationally and has served as a nonresident senior fellow for the Washington-based think-tank Education Sector. He is author of the book “Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
David Winston is the president of The Winston Group, a Washington, D.C., strategy and message design firm. He has served as a strategic adviser to Senate and House Republican leadership for the past 10 years. He was formerly the director of planning for Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and advises center-right political parties throughout Europe. Additionally, Mr. Winston was a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where he did statistical policy analysis and econometric modeling. He has served in a senior staff role to four Republican National Committee chairmen and has lectured at the Wharton of School of Business, MIT, Harvard, Georgetown, William and Mary, George Washington, American University, Miami of Ohio, and the National War College. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Policy Review, International Wall Street Journal, Brookings Review, The Brown Journal of World Affairs and The Washington Post. He authored the chapter on strategy for the college textbook “Campaigns and Elections American Style” and is credited for originating the concept of the “security mom.” Mr. Winston is an election analyst for CBS News and frequently appears on cable and network news.