Is Obama Still for Merit Pay?

There’s a piece in the New Republic attempting to work out Obama’s views on education reform, and particularly whether he’s still for merit pay. It’s an important topic, but I find it a smidgin frustrating that the author spends so much time looking at who his policy advisers are. In the case of a smart policy wonk like Obama, the assumption that advisers’ views equal candidate views doesn’t make much sense.

[HT: Rocco Weglarz]

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1 Response to Is Obama Still for Merit Pay?

  1. Molesworth says:

    I take the point that adviser views don’t always necessarily equal candidate views. The article talks about Obama having a number of educational ‘traditionalists’ on his education team but also draws attention to repeated statements, going back many years, showing an openness to incentive or competition-base reform. There is obviously some discrepancy here, if it is true that many of his education wonks are traditionalists.

    I’d agree with Andrew if the point is that you are more likely to find Obama’s true views on this issue in what he has been saying over time than in who he staffs his education team with. Obama is, after all, in the middle of an extremely close primary fight where, for him, there are probably more undecided votes to be lost than won on picking a fight with the unions. And what better way of picking a fight than to staff your education team with people they know and hate. In this case, his staff may simply be a signal to the unions, who are more than aware that his views differ from theirs, that he is not about to rip into them if he wins the nomination (although I suspect he might, for reasons outlined below).

    Having said that, I think a candidate’s key advisers are usually a very good indicator of where they actually stand. Usually a better indicator than whatever public nuancing is being done for the news cycle. If I was asked to judge Obama’s true views on NAFTA or the timing of withdrawal from Iraq, I would guess, based in large part on things his advisers have said when they thought people weren’t looking, that they are more centrist than Democratic primary voters might like to hear.

    If Obama wins the nomination, there will inevitably be a rapid shift back to the centre. I strongly suspect that he will use his longstanding education policy views as part of the evidence that he is not the contemporary McGovern. A fight with the teachers’ unions would probably do him a world of good at that point, and I suspect he will pick it.

    But we will need to wait until the primaries are over to see this happen, unless he makes the tactical decision that signaling to the pundits and superdelegates that he is not a mad kumbaya lefty is now more important than the Democratic traditionalist primary votes he would lose.

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