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Hearts and Minds

By Hollice Fisher — September 29, 2006 2 min read

Come election time, politicians love to talk about investing in children and making schools a priority. Rarely, though, do they delve beyond sound-bite promises into the nitty-gritty of education policy. There are exceptions, of course, and below are highlights from this season’s more substantive education debates:

A school-funding plan called the 65 percent solution will play a role in elections in at least half a dozen states, including Florida and Ohio. Promoted by Overstock.com chairman Patrick Byrne, the idea is to require that 65 cents of every dollar spent on education go directly to the classroom. Four states have already adopted a version of the measure. But opponents, including the NEA and the National PTA call it “the 65 percent deception” and claim it will hurt other important services, such as transportation and counseling.

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Last spring, Maryland nearly became the first state to seize control of academically troubled local schools under the No Child Left Behind Act. Now the man behind that attempted takeover—Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich—is defending his job against the man who helped thwart the move: Democratic Baltimore Mayor and gubernatorial nominee Martin O’Malley. Since the Free State’s one-year moratorium on such expropriations won’t expire until spring, the fate of the 11 Baltimore schools at issue may depend on who wins the November election. Or it may not, says Johns Hopkins University political science chairman Matthew Crenson. “If Ehrlich wins, there will be much more pressure for a takeover,” he notes. But while O’Malley, as governor, would be more likely to make a deal with the city’s Democratic leaders, he might also move forward with the very takeover he opposed as mayor. The situation calls to mind an old adage, Crenson adds: “Where you sit is where you stand.”

82%

of registered voters say education is a priority, making it the Number 1 issue nationwide.

SOURCE: The Pew Research Center, June 2006.

Vamos a Cuba, a 32-page children’s book, became a hot button this summer in a school board race in Miami-Dade County, Florida, the country’s fourth-largest district. When board chairman Agustin Barrera, who was born in Havana, voted against banning the book immediately from school libraries without following the standard process for such decisions, an outcry ensued from Cuban exiles who claim the book paints a misleading picture of life in their home country. But Barrera, who later voted to remove the book (and even supported appealing a court ruling that it must stay in schools), ended up retaining his spot on the board in the September election.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Hearts and Minds

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