GOP Blunders: Disability Rights and Education Reform

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Dana Goldstein has a great piece up about the Congressional Republican caucus’s inexplicably stupid blocking of the U.S.’s adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She links that decision – which came about because the far Right of the party said it was afraid of any infringement on parents’ rights for home schooling —  with the GOP’s inarticulate education platform and internecine divisions over the role of the federal government in school reform.

(Fun Friday distraction: check out Jon Stewart’s takedown of the block of the disabilities resolution, which he claims is the start of a new segment, “Please Tell Me This is Rock Bottom.”)

As Goldstein notes, the GOP’s education agenda (such as it is) has moved far away from the accountability movement, typified in No Child Left Behind and the national Common Core State  Standards. If an initiative has any taint of federal involvement, then it’s an affront, an infringement on local control and states’ rights and the “sacred parent-child relationship.” It’s the Ron Paul Republican Congress.

In fact, school reform has pretty much been co-opted by the Democrats. Says Goldstein, “[t]he intra-Democratic Party debate between traditional teachers’ union positions and standards-and-accountability reform was resolved over the course of the past 20 years mostly in favor of reform.” So where does that leave the GOP?

At the moment, painting itself into a tight corner awned by a shrinking tent. That won’t bother Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum (both fervent home-schoolers) but it’s a corner that leaves little room for  Republicans who sign on to education reform agendae, like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, yes, Chris Christie. Does the GOP really want to become the party of no-federal-involvement-whatsoever-in-education? Is local control so dear that it’s worth the price of irrelevancy and disregard?

It’s like the current silliness of Republican governors (Christie included), who are holding their breath until their faces turn blue in order to not get cooties from establishing state exchanges for ObamaCare.

That’s not a winning strategy. In fact, it’s a non-strategy. But what’s a Republican to do? Campaign to repeal NCLB? (No, wait, Diane Ravitch is doing that, and I think she’s a Democrat.) Repeal the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? Repeal the Common Core State Standards (approved by all governors except Rick Perry’s Texas and Alaska, late of Sarah Palin)? Home-schooling and state-run voucher systems fit neatly onto a platform circumscribed by local control. But most other aspects of education reform assume some degree of federal involvement. If that’s the hill the GOP is willing to die on, someone better make funeral arrangements quickly.

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1 Comment

  • kallikak, December 9, 2012 @ 4:58 pm Reply

    So when will the Feds match their obsession with rule-making with a comparable allocation of funding for local districts? (The same can be said, of course, for the Governor and NJ Legislature)

    P.S. NCLB is an unrealistic and punitive law; accountability is not its focus.

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