Race to the Top is the Best of 2010, Shutdown of DC Voucher Program the Worst

I just voted for the best and worst education developments of the year from the list just released by the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force (KTF).

For the best development I chose Race to the Top, because the initiative, the key reform effort of the Obama Administration, demonstrated broad political support for charters, merit pay and data-driven education reform. KTF said it was both the best and the worst, because it liked the idea but not the way it was executed.  Although I am a KTF member and helped put the list together, that’s not my own personal view. It’s true that not every state which received funding deserved it, and not every state that deserved funding was one of the winners, but that is in the nature of politics.  Much more important is that Race to the Top shifted the reform movement from the right to the middle of the political spectrum.  Overall, and taken as a whole, it was clearly the best thing that happened in 2010.

For the worst of 2010, my top candidate is the shut down of the DC voucher program by the Obama Administration and Congress. What a calamity, for no reason other than the most disgusting of partisan reasons—political pay-off to the teacher unions and the Democratic left! On the merits, an excellent congressionally mandated evaluation convincingly showed that the voucher program dramatically increased the likelihood that kids will graduate from high school. That the president of the United States sends his own children to private school, while celebrating the denial of that privilege to poor children in his home town of Washington, D. C., is extraordinary, almost beyond belief.  And there are many on Capitol Hill who are tagging right along behind him.

For second worst, I voted for the assistance provided in the second stimulus package that adds to the national debt while helping states and school districts perpetuate inefficient policies that contribute to their own current fiscal distress.  Here was a clear case of “more is less.”  Until states and districts face severe fiscal stress, they won’t take corrective action. The more the federal government stands ready to bail them out, the more entrenched the wasteful practices become.

Those are my views. But what do you think the “best” and “worst” of 2010 were?  Click here to vote.

– Paul E. Peterson

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