Public Education and the Bully Pulpit
At a recent briefing at the U.S. Department of Education, Peter Cunningham, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach, interviewed Rick Hess and Andrew Kelly from the American Enterprise Institute on the role of the federal government in K-12 public education. The conversation was structured around a recently released book that Hess and Kelly co-edited entitled Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from a Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America’s Schools.
While I found some of the verbiage typical and maddening (considering the source), there were some statements that resonate and provide food for thought and areas where we can all work together. Early in the briefing, Hess stated that one challenge with the federal role in public school improvement is that there are so many actors in working in the “space”. Indeed, 14,000 school districts each with a locally elected community-based school board funded primarily with local tax dollars definitely precludes national rule-making that will change and/or improve all schools. And, as Hess also stated, too often “Good politics makes for bad policy,” in that elected officials will mollify a constituency in order to keep their job with policy that proves problematic at the implementation level. This is especially true with public education since implementation is so far removed from national decision-making.
Two other observations also resonated: First, that the federal government is effective in leading change when it uses the “bully pulpit” to state and support priorities, but less so when it tries to pick “winners and losers” in local implementation. Second, that at the federal level we spend pennies on the dollar in basic research on what works in education compared to the national investment in health care research. The federal government could be more effective in providing national leadership with its “bully pulpit” if it invested more robustly in research that informs practice and then ensured the research was widely disseminated.
But for me, the most important statement of the morning came when Hess pointed out that the teacher and school leadership voice has been absent in national policymaking; that practitioners need to help solve the problems we all recognize; and that unions should be partners in education reform.
The members of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) are in strong agreement with that sentiment and are not interested in defending bad practice or low student achievement. Rather, the individual and collective knowledge and experience represented in the sixteen education leadership organizations comprising LFA are committed to solution-oriented conversations and initiatives. That can only happen when the “bully pulpit” recognizes the talent and natural resources represented by education professionals who, like all of us, want the very best education for our nation’s young people.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- 2013 Digital Principal Ryan Imbriale
- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
- Family Engagement Expert Dr. Maria C. Paredes
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
- Transforming Learning
- The EDifier
- School Board News Today
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- PDK Blog
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- AACTE's President's Perspective
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Angles on Education
- Lily's Blackboard
- PTA's One Voice
- ISTE Connects
What Else We're Reading
- Advancing the Teaching Profession
- The Answer Sheet
- Edutopia's Blogs
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach