I read Josh Pasternak's new article about Barack Obama's school reform credentials ( Reform School)
with mixed feelings, not just because I'm working on my own Obama piece
about his work in Chicago on education but also because I'm not sure Pasternak's analysis is altogether compelling.
In essence, we're being told that Obama is reform-minded underneath
it all and stands a strong chance to implement a reformist education
agenda ("the best hope for real reform in decades"). About the first,
there's no argument. About the second -- whether Obama will be able to
make change -- I'm not so sure. No, check that. I'm pretty doubtful.
As Pasternak notes, in recent weeks Obama has slowly boxed himself in
further and further on education issues -- crapping on NCLB, renouncing
vouchers, etc. What he did or said in 05 or even 07 doesn't matter
much. Nor does it really matter how many campaign advisers he sends to
Canada reformistan to tell us that he doesn't really mean to get out of NAFTANCLB. If he wins the primary as a traditional Democrat he's always
going to struggle to go back to the middle if and when he's elected.
Part of Bush's big success on NCLB was that it was part and parcel of
what he'd run on from the start -- not an approach that veered and
swayed depending on the month.
Sure, teachers unions are a little weaker than they once were. But
they're still pretty damn powerful. Sure, the young folk think about
schools differently than their elders. But they're not usually in
charge. Sure, DFER is chomping at the bit. But it's still a tiny part
of the fundraising machine.
The best part of the article is its description of how Obama has
wavered and waffled on education in recent months -- part of him hoping
to stay true to his own ideas, another part of him really wanting that
NEA endorsement. Well, the NEA has decided not to endorse this year
-- call that a victory if you want. The AFT is already with Clinton.
And thus far, at least, school reform is not nearly as sharp or
prominent a part of Obama's campaign as it would need to be to generate
big changes in 2009. In fact, things are going the other way.
Filed under: Campaigns & Clout