By Frederick Hess & Michael Petrilli
For about two years now, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have been co-opting much of the GOP playbook on education. They support charter schools. They endorse merit pay. They decry teacher tenure and seniority. On alternating Thursdays, they bracingly challenge the teachers’ unions.
But on one key issue — spending — they have acted like traditional borrow-and-spend Democrats, only more so. The 2009 stimulus bill included over $100 billion for schools, most of it designed to simply save teachers’ positions. A 2010 “edujobs” bill showered another $10 billion in bailout bucks on K–12 systems to forestall hard choices. And Duncan’s insistence last summer that school districts had already cut “through . . . fat, through flesh, and into bone” only served to undermine the state and local leaders who had been inclined to swing the budget ax by making their efforts seem mean-spirited.