Reformist president, meet status-quo chairman

Education Week is reporting that funding for President Obama’s education reform agenda, which includes pay-for-performance and charter schools, will decrease if Rep. David Obey, D-Wis, gets his way.

Obey, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, wants to cut funding for those initiatives and divert it to sending money to school districts that would otherwise layoff teachers.

Say what you will about the problems of federal involvement in education (see yesterday’s book note), give President Obama credit for understanding that the same-old policies in public schools need some shaking up. Neither incentive pay nor charter schools dotting the land will solve all our problems, but they’re useful.

If the U.S. government doles out money to help school districts retain staff, that may produce some much-anticipated relief among district administrators, not to say the households with public school teachers. But, to borrow a cliché, a crisis is sometimes an opportunity. If Congress hands out money without getting reforms, it will have missed an opportunity to bring U.S. schools out of the industrial age, in which seniority rules.

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