Are You Listening Secretary Duncan?

“The problem here is not what the precise policy shall be but rather how shall decision on that policy be reached.” — Francis Keppel 1966

When the process of “reform” targets improving schools that need improving, it shouldn’t begin with a statement by Secretary Duncan that he stands firm on the idea of “competition” and that he is “holding the line” on what he has already set down for the nation. How does that work when he has also said he will listen? Listen, get people’s advice and input, but, proceed with what has already been decided? Is this how decisions shall be reached? This is a common on-going problem – nationally and in my state of Idaho.

In Idaho, voters turned down the “reform” ideas set by our legislature. So now, the governor is setting up a task force — but citizens need not apply. Only the “stakeholder groups” will be represented in the decision-making process. It appears all levels of government have forgotten their roles in education.

The U.S. Department of Education exists because there has always been unequal access to quality education and it was felt to be a national necessity that our citizens be properly educated. A highly-functional public education system is a proper and necessary function of our government. How does competition produce equal access when those most in need of assistance are dysfunctional when left to their own devices? The very existence of chronically low-performing schools is the proof.

And in a state like Idaho, where we underfund education and continue to document chronically low-performing schools, how can we think that putting the same warring factions together and excluding the public in the conversation will produce better policy? The process matters.

Are you listening Secretary Duncan?

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