Education reform policy has become hackneyed. Particularly in legislative chambers where elected officials craft policy based on their not-so-great educational experience. The landscape of education policy is replete with unfunded mandates, discredited imperatives, incentives based on deficits, and punitive dictates.
Examples include the privatization of public education, vouchers for access to marginal private and parochial schools, retention of students in the early grades, taking over of schools and LEA’s by feeble state agencies, incoherent access to and use of big data, the avoidance of policies that mandate universal access to Pre-K and Kindergarten, and policies that fail to modernize the infrastructure of public education. Such policies retard accelerated achievement and nourish achievement gaps. Sound bites and rhetoric abound about the importance of education to the democracy.
Thomas Jefferson, despite being a slave owner, had it right regarding education. And, the international stature of the U.S. confirms that access to a high quality education is essential to the economic status of nation states—historically, American public education is a model of success. Except, of course, for those disenfranchised from its promise because of race, class, and or gender.
What is required is a strategy of compensatory investments akin to the G.I. Bill that accelerated achievement for White men returning from W.W. II and strengthened the higher education institutions that served them. No school or district should have to hustle or compete for the elements necessary for a high quality education. The federal budget for education should be equal to the defense budget—highly educated citizens is a matter of national defense. Every state legislature and local municipality should enact reform policies that empower practitioners to do the work essential to economic growth. Anything less is, indeed, hackneyed.