Monday, August 10, 2009

The Political Economy of Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark:

Team Obama is winning on education and losing on health. One difference between the health care food fight and the coherent education agenda is a mostly unified eight year policy push by the new money foundations.

The debacle we’re watching in health care is, in part, sponsored by competing foundations. Heritage is supplying talking points on the right, Kaiser Family Foundation is pushing the president’s agenda.

Centerpiece of Team Obama’s education strategy is the Race to the Top grant program. The RTT criteria—particularly requirements for a school turnaround strategy, strong charter law, comprehensive data system, and links between student achievement and teacher evaluation—are the new education reform agenda. They represent a consensus of centrist foundations that simply doesn’t exist in health care...

If health care had benefited from a decade long push by a unified group of foundations, we would already have broader coverage and lower costs.

This is so weird, wrong-headed and self-serving it is hard to figure out where to start. Never mind that money and power are pushing in both health care and education for less public and more private governance, and are thus against Obama in health care (mostly) and with him in education reform. And thus have poured money into congressional coffers to oppose, slow, and block health care reform.

And lets not forget how much more ambitious the health care/insurance reform is than the education reform agenda. If comprehensive health care reform fails, we should still get a bill providing better data systems in health care and some stronger standards, transparency and regulation of private insurance companies. Pretty much equivalent to the ed reform agenda and equally weak tea.

And of course there is only unanimity between a small cadre of neo-reformers in education which excludes the vast majority of practitioners.

And it is hard to imagine the inverse equivalent of TFA, Broad Academy, etc. in health care. Can George Soros start a program to train and place socialist nurses on the board and management of insurance companies to promote reform?

Later... just in terms of generic scale of reform, an education bill as sweeping as the more ambitious of the health care proposals in congress would call for, say, fundamentally changing the balance between local, state and federal funding to provide an equal playing field for all schools and students. We're thinking much smaller in education.

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