Archive for December, 2008

Governor Paterson’s Washington Wish List

December 30th, 2008 by Robert Lowry

Governor David A. Paterson has joined other governors in writing to President-Elect Obama to ask for direct aid to states and federal support for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects.

The Governor’s letter asks for $250 million in a “flexible education block grant” to “provide governors with much needed fiscal relief, and mitigate the need for cuts to vital education programs.”

The letter also says that the state has 737 “ready-to-go” school modernization and renovation projects totaling $966 million.

The $250 million for the flexible block grant appears to be a nationwide funding request.  It is unclear how much of the $966 million in school construction projects — if any — would offset costs already reflected in the state budget.

A desire to preserve the stimulus effects of school construction may have contributed to the Governor’s decision to spare Building Aid and EXCEL from cuts in his proposed budget.

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Commentary on Obama’s choice as Education Secretary

December 30th, 2008 by Robert Lowry

During the national campaign, education policy analysts noted an apparent divide within the Democratic Party — between “reformers,” some strong supporters of charter schools, and teacher unions and their allies.

Barack Obama was credited with skillfully managing the tensions throughout the campaign.  It was thought, however, that he would have to choose one side or the other when picking a new U.S. Education Secretary.  But his choice of Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan has won praise from all sides.

In an insightful column last week, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne quoted an Obama advisor who dismissed the supposed division as a “false dichotomy,” adding “There are a lot of school superintendents around the country who are not anti-union but know how to drive a hard bargain.”

Dionne sees Duncan as more than just a shrewd, “split the difference” choice.  His column concludes, “Instead of taking sides in the education argument as its stands, they [Obama and Duncan] want to change the debate altogether.  How Duncan fares will be central test of Barack Obama’s philosophy of governing.”

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