Eli Broad and Bill Gates plan to spend $60 million on moving schools up the US political agenda. Here’s what the NYT has to say about it.
Under the slogan â€œEd in â€™08,â€ the project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers and a national network of operatives in both parties.
â€œI have reached the conclusion as has the Gates foundation, which has done good things also, that all weâ€™re doing is incremental,â€ said Mr. Broad, the billionaire who founded SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and who has long been a prodigious donor to Democrats. â€œIf we really want to get the job done, we have got to wake up the American people that we have got a real problem and we need real reform.â€
Mr. Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, responding to questions by e-mail, wrote, â€œThe lack of political and public will is a significant barrier to making dramatic improvements in school and student performance.â€
The project will not endorse candidates â€” indeed, it is illegal to do so as a charitable group â€” but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures.
While the effort is shying away from some of the most polarizing topics in education, like vouchers, charter schools and racial integration, there is still room for it to spark vigorous debate. Advocating merit pay to reward high-quality teaching could force Democratic candidates to take a stand typically opposed by the teachers unions who are their strong supporters.
I’m interested in merit pay, though more sceptical about longer school days and standardised curricula. But regardless of the particular policy proposals they choose, a serious push to improve the educational achievement of low-income Americans is long-overdue.