The five Star Trek captains, making a joint appearance at a Philadelphia convention last week.
Chris Pine was busy shooting the new movie, we assume. :-)
Mitt Romney declared something recently that I actually agree with: education as the civil rights issue of our time. He says he is especially concerned with educating low-income and special needs kids. This is something I can get behind, as education is my number one policy priority. How does he plan on solving the problem of mass-educating the kids who need it most? His campaign came out with a white paper on Wednesday highlighting his plans. He focuses on school choice as the golden path, noting that Massachusetts leads the country in international math and reading scores.
That’s nice and all, but wait…school choice? The idea of parents being able to take their funding with them to any school has never jibed with me. It creates all kinds of logistical nightmares. It destroys neighborhoods as parents flee local schools. It turns charter schools into regular schools, diminishing what makes them special. And it allows for private schools to receive public funding without the required accountability. So summarize, I don’t like school choice. My question became, did his plans really cause the improvements in Mass., or is Romney leading us down a false path?
Turns out, while Romney was still leading Bain Capital, the state was already in the middle of Education Reform. In 1993, the state passed the Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA.) The law served primarily to reform school financing, creating a means to equalize spending across all districts in the state. State aid to school districts doubled under the law. It also put in place rigorous standard to meet in the classroom.
The results of MERA were studied in 2009 by MassINC, a state public policy organization. Their report, Incomplete Grade, shows that 15 years after the bill was passed, significant gains were made in student performance. Districts that were previous low spenders enjoyed statistically significant gains in student test scores. The white-black achievement gap, although still wide, would have increased further but for the policies enacted. It’s a long read, but the summary is at least worth looking at.
In all, it shows that Massachusetts enacted significant reforms 10 years before Romney took office there. More importantly, the report shows many reasons for success, none of them involving school choice. Indeed, many of the results and recommendations show the need for a prominent urban education policy. Economic integration, consolidating districts (but not schools,) increased charter schools, and a more rigorous learning environment for low-income schools are all great ideas. Many are already being implemented in cities across the country.
The fact that Romney’s main idea for improving education (urban in particular) involves methods not used in his own state shows that he is not the one who will solve this problem. He doesn’t get that the culture of learning and the value of community drive education success. I strongly commend him for bringing up education this early, but his policies don’t convince me to look his way.
Rest in Peace
(This sign is on I-10 immediately after crossing the state line from Louisiana.)
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