JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 21, 2011
Not long ago, Kevin Carey laid out the depressing possibility that Republicans would revert to their "local control" view of education, thus strangling reform. Today George Will reports, encouragingly, that John Kline -- the House Republican who chairs the education committee -- is trying to change the minds of Republicans in the House:
Their theory is that education in grades K through 12, which gets most of the Education Department’s attention, is a quintessentially state and local responsibility, so the department is inimical to local control of education. Created by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1979, the department was promised by candidate Jimmy Carter, who in 1976 became the first presidential candidate ever endorsed by the National Education Association, the largest teachers union.
Unfortunately, the stubborn fact is that local control means control by the teachers unions. Most school boards are elected, often in stand-alone elections in which turnout is low and the unions’ organization prevails. This, Kline says, “is exactly the conversation I’m having with my new members.”
"Local control" almost invariably means letting a policy question be dominated by the strongest local economic interest, with no countervailing power. In education, the only real economic interest with skin in the game is the teachers' union.