Thursday, July 1, 2010

Support Obey's Amendment

I hate the whole idea of school funding being attached to a war spending bill. It's obscene and degrading to educators. But here we are.

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, is pushing an amendment to the bill that would cut Race To The Top and related programs like "merit pay" by a modest $800 which will be used instead to prevent more layoffs and keep class size increases within reason.

Obey is a long-time school reformer (in the real sense). He is also a critic of the massive troop build-up in Afghanistan. He was the force behind the Small Learning Communities initiative in Congress and helped save that program year after year in the face of Republican assaults during the Bush years. Ironically, it looks like it will be tougher to rescue SLCs and most other progressive funding under under Obama/Duncan and the Democrats.

Obey's amendment has plenty of support from educators, but is coming under fierce attack by some House Republicans as well as from Duncan. Corporate reformers like former Gates honcho Tom VanderArk, right-wing think tankers like Checker Finn and Fordham Institute as well as the National Alliance for Public [lol] Charter Schools are joining in the attack.

Race To The Top funds are the only lever they have to force resource-starved states to go along with their top-down, test-and-punish reform agenda, which includes mass teacher firings, merit pay, and single-minded support for privately-run charter schools.

FairTest's Monty Neill writes on the Rethink Learning Now Partners blog:
It is important for you to weigh in with Mr. Obey: You can call the committee office at begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 225-2771end_of_the_skype_highlighting. As usual, no email is provided for the committee  - phoning is better anyway and takes about the same amount of time. At least as important is to tell your own Rep. Go to, search for your Rep, call her/him (or email - they ususally have a form on the site). If your rep is on the Committee, it is very important to call her/him. And I am told by a knowledgeable lobbyist that Republicans and conservative Democrats esp. need to be called. (202) 225-2771.

I am told by several sources that Obey dislikes the Dept's preference for competitive grants (he told Ed Week some time back that the time for such grants is when funding overall is solid, not in a crisis - the opposite of those such as Fordham's Checker Finn who want to use the crisis to attack unions, cut the number of teachers, lower wages of
educators, etc.). Gary Orfield is one of those weighing in, in favor of Obey's approach, noting the great devastation the recession/depression has wrought in CA, where he lives. Educators generally favor this approach.
Let your voice be heard.

More irony. Yesterday Obama traveled to Obey's home state, which has higher-than-average unemployment, to give speech blasting Republicans for opposition the extension of unemployment benefits and his job creation programs. NPR calls it, "a preview of what is likely to be his 2010 campaign speech." But he didn't explain how putting 300,000 teachers on the unemployment rolls would be good for the economic recovery.

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