Posts Tagged ‘American Federation of Teachers’
October 2nd, 2015 at 12:18 pm
Arne Duncan Takes His Leave
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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday announced he would be stepping down after seven years of service to the Obama administration. In a letter to department employees, Duncan said he wished to return to Chicago to be with his family. Duncan’s wife and two children moved back to their hometown earlier this year. He plans to leave by the end of the year.

President Obama has already selected John B. King, Jr., the current deputy secretary of education, to replace Duncan.

Duncan’s announcement is a bit out of the blue. From the Washington Post:

Even after Duncan’s family relocated to Chicago at the end of the summer, and their home in Arlington was put up for sale, Duncan insisted that he would stay until the end of the Obama administration.

In an interview with The Washington Post in June, Duncan said he planned to stay put because he felt he had a long list of unfinished business and felt an urgency to keep pushing toward unmet goals. He called his job the dream of a lifetime. “I still pinch myself some days,” he said.

Duncan’s announcement came as a surprise, even to some people who are close to him. Just two days ago, after a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Duncan artfully declined to answer when he was asked whether he planned to stay until the end of the administration’s second term.

Duncan’s tenure at the Education Department was a curious one. Conservatives in Congress weren’t fans, which could be expected. But the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers denounced him regularly, as well. Last year, he rejected calls by the NEA and AFT to resign. The NEA’s resolution blamed Duncan for a “failed education agenda” of policies that “undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.” The AFT, meantime, demanded — among other things — that Duncan do away with the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top “test and punish” model, and replace it with a “support and improve” system.

Yet in most respects, Duncan has acted as any down-the-line Democrat would. He has opposed every meaningful effort to rein in federal education spending. He opposed Congress’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, for all the wrong reasons.

Along with President Obama, Duncan used Race to the Top — a $4.35 billion grant competition that was included as part of the $787 billion stimulus in 2009 — as a way to strong-arm states into adopting the Common Core standards.

And, of course, he opposes school choice. As I wrote in July:

Although it’s true that Duncan has supported charter schools throughout his tenure at CPS and the U.S. Department of Education, he is no friend of public school choice.

Last week, when the House of Representatives passed HR 5 to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, Duncan made a point of denouncing the bill’s “Title I portability,” which would allow a portion of federal dollars to follow low-income students to the public school of their choice.

Again, this isn’t even a question of sending tax dollars to private schools, which most Democrats and a fair number of libertarian-leaning Republicans oppose. Duncan labors under the widespread misapprehension, born of a career spent toiling in the government-school bureaucracy, that tax dollars are best distributed to institutions. Institutions are wise. Individuals are not. (Never mind individuals run those institutions.)

To change the way the federal government funds school districts would mean to deny special interests their due. But Duncan says Title I funding portability would be “devastating” to poor children—as if poor children and poor school districts are synonymous.

Duncan will leave office with “a long list” of items left undone. But insofar as the federal education apparatus has expanded to heretofore unimagined powers, Arne Duncan has been a smashing success. And the republic is much poorer for it.

October 11th, 2011 at 11:13 pm
A Scintilla of Sense from Occupy Wall Street?
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Well, sort of. One of the most common complaints from the unwashed masses gathered in urban centers throughout the nation has been the astronomical cost of their student debt. And they have a point. As Jenna Johnson notes at the Washington Post:

Two-thirds of the Class of 2008, graduated with debt and an average of $24,651 in student loans. Since then, graduates have faced some of the worst job markets in recent history. In August 2010, the amount of student loan debt ($829.785 billion) outpaced credit card debt ($826.5 billion) for the first time.

The cost of a good college education is probably never going to be cheap. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be as expensive as it is now. The dilemma for the union-backed, government-expanding protesters, however, is that it is precisely those two forces — organized labor and big government — that have driven the inflated costs of a college degree. As Conn Carroll writes at the DC Examiner

[The] University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is doing all they can to make it harder for the state to lower tuition by blocking the development of online courses:

“We believe that if courses are moved online, they will most likely be the classes currently taught by lecturers,” reads a brief declaration against online education on the website of UC-AFT, the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, “and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.”

More convenience, less cost, better professors (otherwise you’ll just take a different course with a more capable instructor), and theoretically limitless access. What’s not to love? Plenty, if you’re tenured mediocrity is on the line. No word yet on any concern for the students from the AFT.

October 15th, 2009 at 11:26 am
Nobel Laureate Got Big Federal Bucks
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Last week, two Americans were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics.  Thanks to our friend Paul Krugman, it was recently revealed that one of the winners, Elinor Ostrom, received a massive amount of federal funds during her career, in addition to her $167,018 salary at Indiana University.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), an organization tasked with promoting the progress of science, has given over $16.7 million in inflation-adjusted grants to Professor Ostrom.  This figure includes a hefty $9.8 million (inflation-adjusted) grant in 1971, when Professor Ostrom was just six years removed from her Ph.D.

Obviously, given her recognition and achievements in the fields of political science and economics, she put this $16.7 million to good use, but with that much money one could only imagine what else could have been achieved.

With lobbying heavyweights like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, there are plenty of voices lobbying for more education funding.  Everyone is trying to get a piece of the $3.6 trillion federal pie, and these groups are effective at ensuring more federal dollars go toward education funding.

Senator Tom Coburn has seized on NSF funding and has recommended the elimination of political science grants.  With over $147.7 billion in endowment wealth for the top ten Universities alone, there is plenty of higher education money available.  If Harvard dedicated just 1% of its endowment to research funding, it could provide life-time grants to 22  “Elinor Ostrom’s” every year (over $365 million in total).

Senator Coburn often likes to make the point that you don’t practice charity through the federal government.  You practice politics and favoritism.  With so much private wealth already accumulated in the nation’s universities and other foundations dedicated to promoting education, has the market really failed to invest in education?  If universities are as esteemed as they are in this country, couldn’t they afford a small investment in research grants?