Submitted By Todd on March 10th at 6:44pm
by the week.
President Obama today sharply criticized America's public school system, and he outlined a strategy to reward good teachers and fire bad ones, establish uniform academic achievement standards and increase spending on the first and final stages of a person's education.Today, to make sure that everyone knows he has no interest in calming the nerves of a jittery nation, Obama went to war with one of his party's most important partners, the teachers unions.
"For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralyzed progress and perpetuated our educational decline," Obama said. "Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though it can make a difference in the classroom. Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance."Perhaps the President thinks he has the leverage now to bring the unions, the major impediment to improved education across the nation, to their knees.
Obama's speech, his first devoted to education since he became president, had a tone of urgency at a time when the public education system is scheduled to receive about $100 billion of new federal money under the recently passed stimulus plan. The money might give Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, more power to change a public education system traditionally guided more at the state and local levels than by the federal government.One hundred billion or not, the unions are unlikely to lay down as their partner attacks their most cherished value - that bored, miserable teachers just going through the motions receive compensation equal to the vibrant ones.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union with more than a million members, said in a statement that "teachers want to make a difference in kids' lives, and they appreciate a president who shares that goal and will spend his political capital to provide the resources to make it happen." "As with any public policy, the devil is in the details," Weingarten said. "And it is important that teachers' voices are heard as we implement the president's vision."Read that: "Over our dead bodies, Mr. President." But maybe times are changing, and it's important to remember to whom Mr. Obama was speaking.
Obama chose the venue, senior administration officials said, to emphasize the growing proportion of Latinos entering the public school system. Obama said a quarter of public-school kindergartners are Latino, adding that they "are less likely to be enrolled in early education programs than anyone else." He said the stimulus plan includes $5 billion to expand the Early Head Start and Head Start programs.Perhaps Hispanics want better schools, and the President is ready to throw the unions under the bus in order to pander to that fast growing population - one that will grow even faster if he chooses another distraction soon - a fight over amnesty for the 30 million illegal aliens living here.
Roughly one-fifth of all K-12 students—and one-fourth of all kindergartners—are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census Bureau tables released last week. And if the pace of minority children in this country keeps up, they will become the majority by 2023.What's that? Hispanics will be the majority in our public schools in 14 years. Does that include the extended family members who will be welcomed into the country when amnesty is granted?
You can be sure that David Axelrod has figured out the politics on this one, and plugged it into a pattern that is becoming familiar. Before pursuing business as usual, the President gives an inspiring speech that rekindles the sense that he's here to change the way Washington does business.