My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Schaffer and Udall on Education 

Since I've been spending a lot of time over the last several nights on educational issues, I decided that tonight's post should examine how our two would-be Senators would address the issue. For that purpose, I will be looking at statements from the two man's websites (Udall's Congressional one here, and Schaffer's Board of Ed one here)

A sound public education system is the cornerstone for a strong, modern society, and our children deserve the very best we can provide in order to secure their successful future. The world is changing before our eyes, and the demands of an increasingly globalized economy are higher than ever before, with new competition coming from China and India. Our students must have the tools to be innovative and competitive if we want our economy to remain the strongest in the world.
Education is America’s top civic priority. A well-educated citizenry is absolutely necessary to maintain the Republic. The reason I have been such a strong and consistent supporter of public education is because I believe it is Colorado’s primary obligation to assist parents in the transmission of knowledge, values and skills to their children in the most direct and effective way possible.

The differences here are subtle, but important: notice Udall talks about what "we can provide," while Schaffer talks about how to "assist parents." Again, a subtle difference, but would you rather rely on the state to "provide" for your children, or would you rather provide for them yourself, with help from the state?

On No Child Left Behind
In 2001, I voted for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act because I felt it was an important bipartisan step toward the establishment of higher academic standards and accountability. Unfortunately, I believe it must be acknowledged that NCLB has fallen short of our expectations. . . .In the 110th Congress, I introduced the CLASS Act (HR 2070) to help achieve these goals. In addition to creating a more accurate measurement for student achievement, my bill would allow schools to better target groups with higher needs by offering transfer opportunities and supplemental resources to those groups alone instead of entire age groups.
After having helped draft the initial NCLB proposal while serving in Congress, I was ultimately compelled to vote against it. I did so for reasons of principle that today educators in Colorado and former colleagues in Washington say have proved sadly prophetic.

The goals of NCLB - lifting educational achievement for all children, particularly the most vulnerable - are admirable beyond question. However, the mechanisms of implementation have seriously undermined state and local authority and imposed undue burdens and needless confusion upon educators across the land. . . .Fixing NCLB cannot degenerate into a simple flight from accountability. Colorado's education community must demonstrate that we have a better way to advance the worthy goals of NCLB.

Again, a subtle difference. It sounds like Udall wants to simply move the goalposts while adding to the federal dole, but Schaffer wants to decrease the federal role but leaving the goal in place.

On the Role of Parents
Udall: silent
Schaffer: It is the responsibility of parents to educate their children. It is the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.

The contrast here couldn't be more stark. The fact that Udall doesn't even acknowledge the role that parents play speaks volumes about what he thinks is really important.

But the really important thing here is completely inadvertent on Udall's part. Read this statement very carefully:

Lower-income children in America are not keeping pace with their peers who come from more advantaged families. Studies have shown that this is largely due to the fact that many of these children come to school ill-prepared to learn. The years from birth to eight-years old are critical in a child’s cognitive and social development, and our investment in education should emphasize these formative years. High-quality, comprehensive early-childhood programs like Head Start have been proven to help with cognitive development, socialization and long term performance. Head Start has served low-income children and their families since 1965 and currently serves over 900,000 children and families annually. I will continue to work to fully fund Head Start and support early childhood programs.

Do you see the problem?

"Head Start has served low-income children and their families since 1965", but "Lower-income children are not keeping pace with their peers who come from more advantaged families."

Huh? So . . . .

"I will continue to work to fully fund Head Start."

In other words, as a Senator I will FULLY embrace and FULLY fund programs that have never proven to actually work.

This is the line of offense for the Schaffer campaign: Democratic policies DO NOT WORK, but they continue to embrace them and think that all they need is more funding.

NCLB pumped more than $10 billion in new federal funds into education, but it seems that almost nobody thinks it has accomplished anything. Why should we think additional funding will make any difference in any other aspect of education?

I hope the Schaffer campaign embraces an offensive strategy with regard to education. Udall's a tool of Big Education, and Schaffer has a long track record of support for and reform of public schools. Which one will serve Colorado better?

[cross-posted at Schaffer v. Udall]

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