Somewhat overlooked in Obama’s first press conference were his comments on education. Here’s my shorthand: 1) more reform; 2) more money; 3) higher teacher pay; 4) better teacher training; 5) fire bad teachers; 6) pro charter; 7) high standards.
Imagine the following being said by any previous national Democratic leader:
“Both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to think differently in order to come together and solve that problem [entitlement spending]. I think there are areas like education where some in my party have been too resistant to reform, and have argued only money makes a difference. And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said no matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let’s just blow up the public school systems.
And I think that both sides are going to have to acknowledge we’re going to need more money for new science labs, to pay teachers more effectively, but we’re also going to need more reform, which means that we’ve got to train teachers more effectively, bad teachers need to be fired after being given the opportunity to train effectively, that we should experiment with things like charter schools that are innovating in the classroom, that we should have high standards.
So my whole goal over the next four years is to make sure that whatever arguments are persuasive and backed up by evidence and facts and proof that they can work, that we are pulling people together around that kind of pragmatic agenda.”
Clearly the most striking and controversial is the proposal that presumably in return for higher pay and after better (not more) training, bad teachers should be fired. Although efforts will be made to pull individual pieces out and argue for some and not all of these, this is a full prescription regimen, and I think his sense is — in my view correctly — to have a chance at success, it has to be all done together.