I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Exactly is Conservative Education Policy?

I've received some comments to earlier posts on this blog about what the definition of "Conservative" Education policy is. Here is one:

"Mr. Bergosh—I have many issues with your view of educational reform, but there is one thing in particular that really makes me swear out loud: you refer to your view as the “conservative” view. Baloney! Real conservatives support smaller government, local control, and less regulation. SB6 and President Obama’s “Race to the Top” oppose all three of those things. As far as RTTT in particular… Are you aware that—according to the US Constitution—the federal government has no legitimate role in public education? Many of the problems in education today stem from the federal government’s involvement in the process and the strings attached to its less-than-benevolent grants—shouldn’t real conservatives fight federal control of public education, not embrace it?

I am a real conservative and I don’t appreciate you or Jeb Bush or John Thrasher dragging the name through the mud. Call yourselves what you really are—big government statists. I guess that old saying about framing the debate being the most important part of winning the debate really is true…"

My response was the following:

"What is conservative enough for you? Total virtual education? backpack funding and elimination of free lunch and transportation? I mean, how mercenary do you want to get?

When I say conservative approach, obviously I’m referring to that within the context of today’s nanny state environment that has been created and perpetuated by both of the major political parties. Like it or not, we are in a box of federal and state policy intrusion—you and I both know that.
It’s quite simple to say “the real conservative approach would be to blank, blank, blank, blank, and blank—that would be the REAL way to apply a conservative approach to education policy. “How dare you call yourself a conservative!”

Problem there is-- that line of thinking is simplistic and unrealistic. It’s along the lines of saying this “Here’s the way you solve the drunk-driving problem in America, do it like they do it in Hungary, first offense ten years in prison—second offense is the death penalty” or this gem “Here’s what you do to thieves, you do it like in Saudi Arabia—you cut off their left hand” Yeah, ideas like that are popular at the back yard barbeque, but are never going to be a reality within the American system unless we totally devolve into anarchy or grow the cajones like some states and refuse the federal [Fill in the blank policy] money. At nearly 10% of our Education budget—that ain’t likely to happen in Florida-- unless you want a pay decrease.

Chris, you are a history teacher so you know this--the ship called local control set sail many years ago, beginning with Jimmy Carter’s creation of the ED in 1979, and continuing as American policymakers continue to watch Education expenditures rise and American student achievement in STEM subjects compared to countries like Greece, Poland, Chile, and many of the Asian nations DECLINE. Add to this mix the untitled unspoken political correctness doctrine precluding discussion of personal responsibility, parental accountability, etc. etc.—and Shazam-you’ve got today’s heated environment. This toxic bromide of spending, political correctness, non-accountability, intransigent special interests, and public apathy has created today’s urgent need for reform. This environment spawned documents like “A Nation at Risk”. Next came the BIPARTISAN NCLB (Ted Kennedy loved Bush’s NCLB) act of 2002, and Federal education spending and influence has increased dramatically ever since.

Bottom line-if I was like the DiCaprio character in Titanic and I was “the king of the world”-yeah, under that circumstance I could pull out my real conservative education policy. Problem with that is, the current system would be gone and we would return to an EDUCATION system that lived within it’s means and did not attempt to do more than just educate."

But I’m not the king of the world-so I stand by my statement that (under the existing American political environment) Barack Obama and Arne Duncan have essentially adopted the conservative approach (a la Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and John Thrasher) to education reform—merit pay, charters, meaningful teacher evaluations with student achievement factored in, and data driven policy. That is a fact—you can wear a red shirt and scream at people like me all day long, but your real anger should be directed at BOTH of the national political parties—they are driving this train and we’re in the caboose!

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