Reading Between the SOTU Lines

Earlier today, Eduflack was hopeful that P-12 education would garner three or four paragraphs in the State of the Union, just enough space to lay out a bold call to action and a focus on real, lasting change.  As the final speech was delivered this evening, P-12 got little more than a paragraph (while higher education and student loans got far greater attention).

Following is the full text of the SOTU P-12 focus:

“This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform – reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all fifty states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.”

Personally, Eduflack really likes that first paragraph (and will note that I made some similar recommendations in my previous post.  But there isn’t a lot to analyze here.  No mention of early childhood education.  No mention of Race to the Top or i3 or common core standards.  And we don’t even know that reforms we are expanding to all 50 states under ESEA reauthorization.  And we didn’t even go as far as to say, when we renew ESEA this year.  All we know is that school is important, community colleges are equally important, and we need to take steps to make postsecondary education more affordable and manageable.  

So what does this mean for ESEA reauthorization in 2010?  Hopefully, no one is holding their breath or has big money wagered for a quick bill.  President Obama made clear that a jobs bill is priority number one.  Then we need to get healthcare finished.  And if we can get to education, it is focused on student loans and affordability.  We only have so many months and so many priorities, and tonight’s speech makes clear that reworking ESEA is not a top priority right now.

Eduflack supposes it makes sense.  EdSec Arne Duncan and company can focus on Race and i3, using some of his executive powers to tweak portions of NCLB to make it a little easier to work with.  But at the end of the day, I suppose we are generally happy with the current parameters of NCLB, or at least can live with it for now.  Sure, there is that $1 billion performance bonus for getting ESEA passed (akin to paying our kids for earning straight As I suppose), but it looks like the 2010 era of reform without an overhaul to our national K-12 law.  I could be wrong, but I suspect I’m not.

136 thoughts on “Reading Between the SOTU Lines

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