I used to feel like Velma Hart, who at President Obama’s town meeting the other day, stated to the President, “I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.” (See Video Here.) While she was expressing her frustration about the economy, I once felt the same way regarding the Obama administration and its education policy.
Today, President Obama’s Department of Education pushed ahead with providing grants of $442 million for merit pay programs, even after the much publicized study by Vanderbilt University has shown that a bonus-pay system had no overall impact on student achievement. I understand the need to experiment with different combinations of merit pay and other incentives. Who knows, there might be something that will work. But a half-billion dollar experiment in an economy that has been tanked for months, and with all the screaming about the deficit, it just seems at one-level indefensible, and at another level just plain politically dumb. If I were a Republican right now, I would have the biggest grin on my face, because the Obama administration has just painted another big, massive target on its own back. I would be screaming as loud as I could at this administration’s frivolous spending of tax payer money. Well, I know, they are already doing it. But does President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan have to make it so easy? Spending a half-billion dollars on any kind of merit pay program in these times is indefensible.
The reality is, I have moved beyond the exhaustion and frustration that Velma Hart feels. I have long since moved to resignation when it comes to President Obama’s education policy. As long as Arne Duncan remains the Secretary of Education, we’re going to continue to see the same misguided education policy. Secretary Duncan is a politician, but does not have the mind of a educator. For that we can expect the same education policy that we have seen.