Progressives always want conservatives to “move beyond ideology” but never budge from their own.
Last week, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often opponents on major policy issues, held a joint four-hour conference on the importance of investing in early childhood education initiatives proposed by President Obama.
The panelists were Harriet Dichter from the progressive Delaware Office of Early Learning, Reyna Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education, Dr. Phyllis Hudecki of the Oklahoma Business & Education Coalition, and Lori Connors Tadros of Institute of Early Learning.
The progressives and liberals outnumbered the conservative by 3-to-1, but Hudecki gave them a run for their money. In her state’s privatized program, students and parents can opt-in to early childhood education. Oklahoma’s OKCEO (a business leader-driven policy effort) came up with a data-driven evaluation system called the “School Readiness Risk Index,” or SRRI, to measure education and social indicators for each county, she asserted.
Hudecki went on to say that, unlike several states, Oklahoma refused federal education funding because when “you live by federal funds, you die by federal funds.” Without this additional Race to the Top and Common Core funding, they still perform admirably well in accordance with their SRRI measures and continue to improve, she argued.
Tadros emphasized how “budget cuts” are threatening the future of education and especially early childhood education (or pre-K child care and education). She contended that research and science back up her claim on how crucial pre-K education can be to a child’s future. Yet, a common theme in the conference was how research was mentioned but not cited. Tadros said that the Great Recession makes this issue even more important today, but claimed that this issue makes it “important to move beyond ideology.” Nevertheless, the majority of panelists pushed federal funding and liberal education policies.
Hernandez spoke of a new and renewed “focus on diversity” for Illinois, but she did not mention how Illinois and especially Chicago are struggling with poor education policies coupled with bad fiscal management by the state and the city. Instead, she spoke about the importance of closing the achievement gap and the “huge disconnect between” teachers and their students. She talked about “building bridges early” in childhood. “We’re in the business of people,” she argued.
A part of this renewed focus on early childhood education is reaching out to the business community, which Hernandez flatly said that her state of Illinois is having a tough time doing. She did not mention that Illinois regulations and politics may have contributed to this disconnect, along with failed early childhood education initiatives. She recognized that Illinois and educators do not “speak the same language as the business community” and it “drives us apart.” “This is not a partisan issue,” said Hernandez, adding that there are “higher standards in Common Core,” which is a top-down federal education policy  that has not been tested and is being enacted in America’s classrooms.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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