Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Budget Valentine: More Bitter Than Sweet

Amina writes on President Obama’s budget proposal and what it means for students of color.

February 14, 2011

Well, President Obama’s Valentine budget seems pretty faithful to his program for K-12. If you were hoping for some transformation in education for students of color via this proposal, well, you got a clear V-Day message that he’s just not that into you.

More Racing
More Racing to the Top. Now we’re competing between districts, one district competing against its neighbor. Great. If you thought there were local rivalries in the past, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Forget football and basketball throwdowns, now we’ve got real dollars at stake; well resourced districts against poor ones. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether the state-based Race to the Top competition will create great outcomes for students. Yes, Duncan and Obama have already taken victory laps. Yet, we don’t know if the winning states can fulfill the promises they’ve made to get the dollars. And for the losers (the cash strapped and dumped), their grant writing promises may be forgotten, undone, ignored or tossed away like Valentines from an ex.

Bittersweet for Teachers
There is a touch of sweet in this budget. Money to recruit and train teachers. But there may be an icky cherry at the center of this sweet treat. A great deal is being accomplished through consolidating existing programs, not necessarily new money. Also, some proposals may be working in opposition to others; like recruiting and training new teachers versus turnaround schools. Under the turnaround model teaching in the most underserved and underperforming schools could be a hazard to your professional health. A new climate is being instituted. Show some results and fast, or you could find yourself a casualty of a turnaround firing. So with the new incentives we may get more teachers, yet its not clear that they will offer the longterm teaching commitment we need in our most underserved schools.

Parents Still Scorned
And for parents awaiting a budget Valentine to seriously fund their engagement in schools; well, call it a night, it’s a no show. Though we can find community on the fringes of this budget; adult literacy, charter school choice, etc. It’s not going to get parents trained, informed and empowered as full partners in determining how their schools are run.

A Shift
What’s unfortunate is how our expectations have shifted. We are in a warped world; where tax cuts for the rich have been extended while extensive budget cuts are on the table. In this twisted environment, you just want to breathe a sigh of relief that education for K-12 didn’t get placed on the chopping block. (The same can’t be said for higher ed). Meanwhile, this shift right may dull the sharp eye we need to understand and improve what actually is being funded. In this game the new radical right has won because real transformative conversations will never take place. We’ll have to save that Valentine wish for another year.

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