Education Insiders on Obama and Romney

by Reihan Salam

Whiteboard Advisors, a consultancy focused on education, regularly surveys a small group of influential education thinkers, practitioners, and lobbyists. These education insiders are skeptical of both President Obama and Mitt Romney, though somewhat more skeptical of the former Massachusetts governor. Interestingly, the consensus is that a second Obama administration would be unlikely to challenge the interests of the teachers unions. One respondent offered the following observations:

The unions have successfully convinced Democrats that their members are essential to effective implementation. Although this assertion stands to common sense, it does not prove the point that union engagement pays off. In fact, because unions don’t deliver their members in support of reform very well, it is misleading and regrettable that Democrats have become convinced that they need unions to create conditions for reform. Nevertheless, the need to engage unions is treated as a fact in the idea space at the Department and, more so, the White House. It is a belief not well served by the facts. It neglects that in some of the most interesting locations of reform (TN, FL and LA), the union has been bypassed and reform is a direct engagement with teachers and principals. It also neglects that reform is slow and disorganized in MA, IL and other states with high degrees of union involvement. Even more interesting states like DE and CO have traded slow progress for union involvement. Therefore, the unions, especially the AFT, should be very concerned about their failure to develop proof that involving their leaders has little to show.

This, of course, implies that teachers unions won’t successfully stymie data-gathering efforts that would allow critics to make their case. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.