From the Hill
I was able to go to the Senate this week and talk with some key education policy gurus. I asked questions about some recent education policy concerns between the parties, and inquired about how ‘realistic’ it is to expect both parties to agree on what the education system needs.
The response I got was pretty clear. It was said that both Democrats and Republicans see the need to improve education. (YAY!) Conservatives seem to agree that less spending on education from the federal government is key. With the turn over of the House, Republicans will make sure that less spending doesn’t necessarily mean cutting programs, but means consolidating programs and turning over more administrative duties to states. While Democrats don’t necessarily want to see less spending, they say that there need to be certain investments in maintaining and improving math and science education and other initiatives that will help keep the American economy strong. This is something both parties agree on. Regardless, with less involvement from the federal government, states and communities will now need to step it up in terms of providing what the community needs, something that both parties agree is crucial to the improvement in the economy.
From nonprofit and trade associations
Budget cuts affecting certain programs has posed a threat to the operations of many trade and nonprofit associations associated with education policy. Some solutions to these budget issues that these groups are spear-heading includes:
1. Community involvement. Now is the time for the communities to be involved with what they know best, their community. Some have asked for less government involvement in education…in fact, some conservative leaders fully support disbanding the entire Department of Education. Now with the economy being where it is, it is time for states and communities to really foster ideas about what they need and want. It is the time to be innovative, flexible, and create a market where old initiatives that have been proven to work, can still thrive even without the aid of government resources. Now is the time to prove ourselves. Community education organizations are stepping it up to make this become a reality.
2. Policy recommendations. Policymakers like to hear stories of how these efforts are advancing certain education initiatives. However, more than stories, policymakers love data and best practices developed around these data sets. Trades and nonprofits are providing recommendations that involve some very key principles, including what people should expect when the budget fails to appropriate money.
From anything I have learned over the past couple weeks, many of us agree that education for the future is important. While many of us have different values that affect how we think these problems in education need to be solved, one thing is clear. We need to work together to make this happen. It is time to collaborate, look at what other organizations are driving, and work together to develop systems that meet the demands of community.
If we really feel that what makes a difference in our education system is getting more resources for our education system, then that is what we will shoot for. If we feel that we need better teacher quality, then we need to raise our concerns with state education governing boards to make a switch in how our teachers can improve, and what we use to measure if these programs are effective. If we feel that smaller classroom sizes will give our students more capacity to grow and learn, then we need to discuss this option with superintendents, teachers, coalitions, and the state to see what kind of systems need to be in place to make this happen. Everything is so case by case. The one incredible thing about the responsibility to stimulate education discussion is the fact that we know what we need most and what would be best…and it may not always be that we need more money. It could be that we need a change in attitude.
Regardless, the federal government trend right now is to be less and less involved, giving an opportunity for education entrepreneurs and thinkers to bring what they have to the table.