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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Funding Opinion

That’s Really All He’s Got

By Rick Hess — September 09, 2011 1 min read
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When I heard the makeup of the President’s double-secret, anxiously awaited plan to create millions of jobs and make America happy again, I unaccountably found myself flashing on the scene in “Knocked Up” where Seth Rogen meets Katherine Heigl. The overmatched Rogen is on the dance floor, shimmying and pumping his arm in his “rolling the dice” move. Watching the sorry spectacle, one friend notes, “Dude, I think he’s doing the dice thing too much.” The other thinks for a moment and nods, then notes, “That’s really all he’s got.”

What to make of Obama’s call for a third round of emergency, stopgap school funding (with tens of billions of funds for slapdash school construction and repair, a request that he couldn’t even get through the heavily Democratic Congress of 2009)? What to say about the President’s call to help school districts again put off dealing with the fact that, during the bubble years, they allowed cost structures to exceed their real resources?

I could repeat what I wrote last year about “Edujobs,” explaining how it undercuts supes, school boards, and union leaders who are trying to rationalize outlays and benefits. I could repeat some of the concerns I raised when ARRA was being debated in spring 2009. I could explain how this is merely another push to kick the can down the road on hard but important choices, meaning schools and districts will just delay the day of reckoning, while locking in another year of problematic benefit obligations. I could point out that it means treating schools as a jobs bank rather than organizations that stand to benefit from streamlining (hard for me to think of anything less likely to breed professional respect for teachers than treating schools as a make-work jobs program).

But, ultimately, this all seems like too much analysis for what sure felt to me like a transparently political move that’s unlikely to go anywhere. Mostly, I found myself looking at the well-intentioned guy making the same pitch I found so lacking in 2009 and 2010 and thinking, “Sheesh, that’s really all he’s got.”

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.