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Why Republicans Should Embrace Obama's Education Agenda

The old GOP playbook on education won't work today, say two conservative education experts.

As Liz Dwyer mentioned in her post earlier today, tonight's election results are likely to include a Republican surge that, at the very least, carries the GOP back to power in the House. And she rightly asserts that federal education reforms instituted in the first two years of the Obama administration could be threatened by "new political agendas that are focused on local control."

Two right-leaning education experts are warning Republican lawmakers not to rely on their education playbook of the past. In an Op-Ed that demonstrates how nonpartisan education reform has become, Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli, the top men at The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggest that Republicans "should sieze much of" the Obama administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as No Child Left Behind in its current incarnation).

Finn and Petrilli write that should the predicted GOP landslide materialize, the new crop of legislators shouldn't rush to dump federal oversight for conservative hallmarks, like states’ rights, local control, and parental choice. No Child Left Behind basically obliterated the states' rights argument (with states like Massachusetts holding their students to world class, whereas states like Tennessee expect far less). Local control has also led to uneven results, and parental choice, the pair write, isn't really ready for prime time since there aren't enough good options to choose among.

The authors, being conservatives, did find the Obama administration's Race to the Top overly forceful and they are wary of the Common Core State Standards, but they see an avenue for compromise:

The goal is to make the federal government a force for change, but with much greater humility about what it can actually accomplish from afar. Our reasoning, then and now, is to move toward a “tight-loose” approach to education governance: “tight” as to the results we want our schools to achieve but “loose” as to how schools, districts, and states get there.


Via The Washington Post's Class Struggle blog; photo via Republicans in Congress.

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