James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

A storm is coming

Mar 8, 2010 17:00 UTC

Looks like British civil servants are striking over budget plans to cap severance pay (via Clusterstock). A sign of things to come in the United States, where tight government budgets are going to force spending cuts and layoffs. The dissatisfaction over American education plays into this, too. The political impact of this will be fascinating since the public employee unions may be the most important Democratic interest group.

Obama picks a great battle

Mar 8, 2010 16:26 UTC

As welfare was for Bill Clinton, education could be for Barack Obama — an issue that shows independence from his liberal base and allows for compromise with Republicans. Obama’s decision to support the authorities at the poorly performing Rhode Island school that fired its entire faculty has enraged teachers unions, as this NYTimes story documents. But it is hard to argue with the president’s reasoning: “If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability.”

Also on the education front, please read this NYTimes mag story on how to improve America’s teachers. You will be amazed at how little effort goes into instructing teachers on how to manage their classrooms or how to specifically teach various subjects. If these skills were improved, one expert concluded, “we could close the gap between the United States and Japan on these international tests within two years.”