Rick Perry’s heavy anti-federal government rhetoric has the head of one prominent think tank wondering if the Texas governor is the right guy for the White House, at least when it comes to education policy.
In an essay in the National Review Online, Chester E. Finn, Jr., the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says that Perry’s words and deeds suggest that, if elected to the White House, he would ignore the powerful levers the federal government has to prod low-performing states to set higher standards and, in general, take school improvement seriously. Perry, who has said he’s contemplating a White House bid, has voiced a proud dislike of Race to the Top, common standards, and the federal stimulus aid (even though the Lone Star state has accepted billions of that money).
Finn is a widely respected figure among education-policy types, and he was a top education official in the Reagan administration. He’s been supportive of the common-standards effort, dispute some misgivings. Finn writes:
Perry is plainly a 'states' rights' Republican and that may be what Americans want in the Oval Office. ...But will pulling way back on federal efforts to reform education— most likely by putting the money on a stump and letting states do whatever they like with it—benefit the other 49? How about gravely ill jurisdictions like Ohio and Michigan where Uncle Sam might help reformers duke it out with entrenched unions? Or seriously poor places like Mississippi and Alabama, which may need some outside bucks to leverage change? Or educationally inert states like Nebraska and South Dakota that may just need a kick in the pants?"
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.