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Reason.tv: 3 Reasons Obama's Education Vision Deserves an F

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President Barack Obama is making his bid to be "the education president." At the start of NBC's recent Education Nation summit in New York, Obama appeared on the Today Show and touted what he claimed were a wide-ranging set of reforms to improve America's K-12 schools.

Yet Obama's education vision deserves an F for at least three reasons:

1. Money Talks. Obama says that the educational system needs new ideas and more money. Despite a doubling in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending since the early 1970s, student achievement is flat at best. But Obama is placing most of his bets on the money part. While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $4 billion to fund innovative programs, he's spent more than $80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.

2. Choice Cuts. Candidate Obama said that he'd try any reform idea regardless of ideology. Yet one of his first education-related moves after taking office was to aid his Senate mentor, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in killing a successful and popular D.C. voucher program that let low-income residents exercise the same choice Obama did in sending his daughters to private school.

3. The Unions Forever. The two largest teachers unions, The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, overwhelmingly supported Obama with their votes and their contributions. Some 95 percent of the groups' campaign contributions go to Democratic candidates and the NEA, spends more money on elections that Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and the AFL-CIO combined. No wonder Obama's big talking point is that he wants to add 10,000 more teachers to public payrolls despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.

Reforming education may not be politically easy, but the solution is pretty simple: Give parents and students more ability to choose—and exit—schools. This works for every other sort of business and it works for higher education, too. There's no reason to think it wouldn't work for K-12 education.

And sadly, there's absolutely no reason to think that Obama will embrace that sort of change.

Written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts. Approximately 2.30 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for iPod, HD, and audio versions. Subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel for automatic notification when new videos go live.

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  1. Why no leather jacket?

    Great video otherwise.

  2. President Barack Obama is making his bid to be “the education president.”

    He’s already “the teachers’ union president”, and those two things are mutually exclusive, so…no dice, El Presidente.

    1. When was the last non-“education president”?

      1. I don’t think GWB was much of an edjukashun presudint.

      2. The sickest thing about it is that none of these people give a shit about failing schools and the terrible drop-out rates in inner-city districts. They just like pouring money into education to make soccer moms fuzzy.

        1. You got something against fuzzy soccer moms?

          1. I prefer mine smooth, and I’m pretty handy with a razor.

        2. They also like pouring money into education to pay off the teachers’ union.

  3. I would like to think he’s educating America on how horrible legislation produces horrible results. But I don’t think enough people are paying attention.

    1. Or maybe his method is just too subtle.

  4. your chart at the end showed employment vs enrollment but your monologue mentioned teachers vs student ratio. which is it? don’t confuse employment with teachers.

    1. The employment numbers (which include administrators and other staff in addition to teachers) capture exactly the same trend as straight teachers to students. We went with total school employment in the chart because many staff contribute to classroom activity. For data limited to teachers, go to http://nces.ed.gov/programs/di…..08_064.asp

  5. I’d already give the title of The Education President to Mr. Obama.

    After all, he’s proven himself as completely useless and counter-productive as my high school guidance counselor.

    1. Glad I could help, m’kay?

  6. The screencap from YouTube got me thinking. If Obama has to have the teleprompters, then why doesn’t he lower the displays so they are closer to the audience’s level? Constantly looking up like that makes him come across as more aloof because he literally looks down his nose at the people he is speaking to.

    That’s it. If I could give the guy one piece of advice, it’d be to lower the TOTUS displays. Oh, and if I could give him a second piece of advice it would be to resign and go live in a cave.

    1. “Lower.”

      “Lower…”

      “But if I go any lower, I won’t be able to read the speech.”

      “Exactly. Lower…”

      1. Lower, looower, looooooower…

        TOO LOW!

        Lower…

    2. Why would Obama live in a cave when he orders drones to blow up caves 24/7?

      1. To make it look like it was Bush’s fault?

    3. Meanwhile, when I heard he used telepromters in a classroom, I took it for a joke. This president is parody proof.

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  8. That’s part of his Evul Plann! Clear out all the caves so he can have them to himself.

    Crafty bastard…

  9. I want to be a teacher, and I can’t wait to see the horrified faces of other teachers as I tell them that I don’t like unions, don’t mind school vouchers, don’t mind privatization, etc etc.

    However, this is me assuming that I’ll teach at a public school. You never know, I might get lucky and get to teach at a private school.

    1. Be careful about declaring distain for unions in the work place. Depending on where you get a job teaching, that type of declaration can get you in a lot of trouble. When I first began teaching, a very kind, non union teacher warned me to expect all kinds of harrassment from union teachers. He ended up being my mentor but we literally met in secret so that I didn’t get labeled anti-union. He was a grand, old school teacher but he also knew which way the wind was blowing. They ended up forcing him into early retirement by taking away courses he had taught for years (upper level) and giving him all the troubled students and lower level courses.

      Sad that they let that type of experience and knowledge go but that was the union way!

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  12. Oh man, the sight of this guy in a grade school classroom with TOTUS is at once sad and revealing. There is noting in there.
    It is instructional the American statists have learned nothing from the education European socialists have provided. From the great collectivists models of the Bolsheviks, to the Fascists and then the National Socialists, these models all imploded with quite a spectacle and yet the lessons provided were ignored. The U.S. then rebuilt Europe so they could again go down the same socialist road, this time a bit more cautiously, and we see again these same outdated centralized models are falling like a failed souffl?.
    With so many real life lessons ignored by the same government which purports to know how run schools, how can we believe them?
    This is yet another 78 year old institution of society which belongs in the hands of society and not in the hands of the social engineers.

    1. Good, but don’t forget the social engineers of Team Red heritage. They, along with their Team Blue counterparts, need to be kept out of our state capitols and D.C. – at gunpoint, if necessary.

  13. Throwing money at educational initiatives does not “stimulate” the economy. There is little to no return that would help the economy. For this 80 billion to be part of a “stimulus” program is laughable and shows just what kind of disconnect this administration has regarding economics
    Some facts about dollars spent on education:
    The average spent, in 2008, on secondary education nationally, was almost $12000 per student (that is up from $7000 in the year 2000). How does that compare to the rest of the world?
    Finland-$7500, South Korea-$6,700 (First and second in math literacy), Slovak Republic-$2700 (Cmon people, the Slovak Republic did better in math and science literacy than the land of the free and the brave and spent ? that we did), Hungary-$4,000. In fact most countries that do better than us in education literacy spend considerably less on education than the US. http://www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp-025.html
    Among industrialized nations our children were rated 33rd in math literacy and 12th in math overall (in science literacy we were rated 27th) and we spend about 7% of our GNP on education whereas Korea spends 4.5% and is ranked 1st. Even Spain, who spends only about 3.2% of their GNP, is ranked higher (8th) in math than American students. I might also add that, in many countries, higher education (college) is paid for by the government thereby making the amount of their GNP spent on basic education actually quite a bit less. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa126.html
    As usual throwing money at the problem is not the answer. lets just keep doing the same thing year after year and hope for a different result.

    1. The President gets blamed for a down economy. His opponents whine “where are the jobs?” But we all know the President doesn’t create private sector jobs. The private sector does.

      In the short term, which is the relevant range for stimulus, there is almost nothing the President can do about private sector jobs. Much of what can be done has been done… some tax cuts, efforts to unfreeze the credit market (started under Bush), legislation aimed at restoring faith in the financial markets, small business lending bill.

      On the jobs front, the only thing available to the president in the short term is public sector jobs. So he acted to shore up state governments including teachers, and there was a short term injection of infrastructure spending.

      He is doing what he can.

      1. Apologists are so cute. Especially when you apply different standards to your examples: Can’t blame the President for the economy, he’s doing what he can VS The credit freeze (started under Bush) *cough cough cough ahem*

  14. So, if education dollars go to the NEA, and the NEA gives heavily to Democrats, how many cents on each new dollar of education spending are returned to the DNC or Democratic candidates or spent on pro-Democratic ads?

    1. Public education dollars do NOT go to the NEA….dues are what fund them.

      1. Dues which happen to be paid with Government Education Dollars…

      2. Public $$$ => Schools => Teachers => NEA.

        Simplified: Public $$$ => NEA.

  15. Very good presentation, nice visuals and facts. Also I commend you on attackingthe actions and policies – not the man. Sadly others react with “look what so and so did…” As American’s we need to get past what has been done in the past – finger pointing could go on forever. Let’s focus on what is going on now – like this video/report. Time for new solutions. The conservative solutions may seem bitter to some – but we need the medicine (trim expenses) for what ails (economic recession/depression) us so the patient (US economy and individual opportunity for prosperity) can get healthy again.

  16. The reason we have poor public schools is because of the “public”.

    Government must get out of the education business – it’s killing education and promoting unions.

    But Imam Obama wants dumb little Dummycrats growing up so they can pull the Dummycrat lever in the voting booth.

    Can we just be honest here?

  17. Choice is one strong answer but only part of the answer. Stronger charter schools and alternative schools with high standards need to be encouraged as well.

    For all the criticism of Obama, at least he has actively been pushing charters. Vouchers should be part of the mix, but only part.

  18. Spending per pupil hasn’t doubled since 1970, it’s almost quadrupled going from $40,000 per pupil to $150,000 per pupil. Re-read the graph shown in the video.

  19. As a teacher of 50 years, look at union thug leadership in the NEA and in my state, Ca.,The CTA. Next, inspect Arne Duncan,the Sec.of Ed. Please tell me what ever happened to local, family,state control of education. Duncan is simply a liberal who wants control and deals with curriculum which alone is very dangerous as our pupils are brainwashed about American eco, soc., cult. truths. Federal Control came after WWII and one wonders just why parents have put up with it so long? Even minorities ,who are clones for Dems, should now know that choice would give them better education in the horrid areas of America.

  20. No mnetion of the last 25 billion for teachers some financed by stealing money from the food stamp program. Approx 1 to 1 1/2% of it went to teachers unions dues which went mostly to Democrats for their campaigns. Good way to fund a campaign. Guess poor people don’t rate with Demcrats.

  21. The NEA encourages it’s representatives to read Saul Alinsky to be more effective. http://www.nea.org/tools/16507.htm

    1. So do Tea Partiers. Effectiveness in organizing is hard to argue with.

  22. The solutions to education is not to just dump in more money, or to attempt a free-market type of reform. Educating ALL students does not allow for a free-market solution. It requires the highest quality people across the societal strata, which requires pay that is competitive with the free-market. If, as a people, we give a shit about the future of our country, then coughing up the resources to compete globally shouldn’t be a problem. Funny that it is.

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  24. Let’s think about this. If the teachers are paying their Unions so much money, that the Unions are the biggest contributors to Dems elections…maybe the teachers should get out of the Unions, give back that portion of their wages to the school system, so they can hire more teachers without raising the taxes of their community?

    I’d say, let’s try that.

  25. It is waste of time to blame any one person. The blame game is boring and a waste of time.

    In order for a child to learn everyone involved in the process must do their job. The parent must send them off ready to learn with a pencil in their book bag and homework checked, the teacher must teach and the student must listen and work hard in order to learn.

    Public education must deal with every parent and every demand. When that stops and true professionals make professional decisions, kids will learn. This includes assisting students who are having difficulties learning with evaluation and extra help. Parents should not have to agree to this. They want educators to do the teaching job so they should allow us to do it. We have too many parents later blaming the system for not providing their child with an education. Look in the mirror and realize who was responsible for this.

    Education begins at home. Children need nurturing, attention, readiness activities and practice listening and thinking. Parents AND teachers must be respected.

    Comparing mandatory education with higher education is ridiculous.

    Higher education is optional. If standards are not met they don’t get in or they are later removed. No one storms in and makes inappropriate demands, or fights with the teachers.

    Everyone must do their job!

  26. The “extremely popular” Federal takeover of school funding with the Congressionally designed DC Voucher system was so popular it had repeat business of about 40% – fewer than 60% of the first year students started the second year in the program, and only about 40% lasted two years into the third year. Most of the people using the vouchers attended the Catholic schools that had been taking students in the District for more than a century, with most of the others going to the other long established Christian schools. In both cases, these church affiliated schools offered many forms of aid to needy students, from trading parent labor in the schools for tuition to fund raising for scholarship aid to outside scholarship programs.

    So, it seems the only people who find the DC Voucher program popular are those political pundits who condemn Congress dictating the way schools are funded using Federal money in the name of local control of education by the parents paying their own money to private schools after the public schools are eliminated.

    By the third year of the DC Voucher program, a hundred times more students were going to charter and magnet schools with only 60% of the students in the traditional public school system Michelle Rhea was shaking up by closing a hundred community schools. The reason for closing these schools is the loss of students to the charter schools.

    In the name of local control of schools, conservatives have been criticising Congress for not taking control with its DC voucher system, and not giving more support to ensure Rhea continues have the power to close local schools over the objections of the parents sending their kids to the local schools.

    The real agenda of the conservatives is to finish off the unions in order to finish off the middle class, restoring the true ideal of England when there were the Lords with the lands and wealth, and then there were the commoners who were the tenants and serfs of the lords. This is the conservatives road to serfdom and their rise to rule from the House of Lords.

  27. For stories on what international Libertarians are doing, page down http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  28. Most Chicago Public Schools and Charter Schools in the African American community are up against a culture where education is not a top priority. The average African American parent feels it is the responsibility of their children and the public schools to make sure their children do well in school.

    Marc Sims
    Chicago

  29. All this talk about underperforming students without even adressing students. Of course Chile outperforms us. Their education system doesn’t have to compete with BET, Jersey Shore, Lil’ Wayne, and Halo. I’m going with our students are uninterested and incompetent. How hard is it to figure out that some kids really REALLY don’t care about school?

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