Friday, August 31, 2007

Fred takes the plunge

It's official. Next Thursday Fred Thompson will be a stealth candidate no longer.

What does that mean for education? Not a lot, at least on the campaign trail. It's not an issue he raises. Abortion, taxes, national security -- those are the issues he chooses to talk about.

But that doesn't mean President Thompson wouldn't have a profound impact on education policy. Consider this excerpt on federalism from his website:


Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.
Between 1970 and 2005, federal spending on education increased nearly 150 percent without results to match. The No Child Left Behind law itself increased federal funding by some 26 percent, while creating 50 new educational programs nationally, imposing almost 7 million hours and more than 140 million dollars in compliance time and costs. The classrooms of America, where the learning actually takes place, receive but 61 cents out of every tax-payer dollar appropriated.
A little more federalist confidence in the wisdom of state and local governments might go a long way toward improving America’s public schools. The most encouraging reforms in education are occurring at the local level, with options like charter schools. And often the best thing Washington can do is let the states, school districts, teachers and parents set their own policies and run their own schools.
It is appropriate for the federal government to provide funding and set goals for the state to meet in exchange for that funding. However, it is not a good idea for the federal government to specifically set forth the means to be used in order to reach those goals. Adherence to this principle would make for fewer bureaucracies, fewer regulations, and less expense, while promoting educational achievement. There are bills pending in Congress that would move us in this direction, and I hope Congress gives them the attention they deserve.


It appears Thompson believes the federal government has overstepped its boundaries, which would indicate peeling back No Child Left Behind. If that's the case, the far left and right wings of each party have set similar goals (for different reasons).

But which "pending bills" does Thompson favor? Some would neuter NCLB, others would merely steer it in more sensible directions. Over the coming months we hope we'll find an answer.

Richard Whitmire

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