The Public Interest

Washington versus school reform

Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Michael J. Petrilli

Fall 1998

"PROMISCUOUS” is an overused word in Washington these days, but it aptly describes the trend in federal education policy—both at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill. The 1990s have seen the wanton transformation of innumerable education fads into new government programs.  Since inauguration clay, 1993, the Clinton administration alone has embraced dozens of novel education schemes, including subsidies for state academic standards, tax credits for school construction, paying for teachers to be appraised by a national standards board, hiring 100,000 new teachers to shrink class size, ensuring “equity” in textbooks, collecting gender-sensitive data on the pay of high-school coaches, boosting the self-esteem of rural students, establishing a Native Hawaiian Education Council, connecting every classroom to the Internet, developing before-and after-school programs, forging mentoring relationships between college students and middle schoolers, increasing the number of school drug-prevention counselors, requiring school uniforms, and fostering character education. “’Superintendent Clinton” has also supported the Family Involvement Partnership, the America Reads Partnership, Lighthouse Partnerships (for teacher training), HOPE Scholarships, Presidential Honors Scholarships, Americorps, Voluntary National Tests, Education Opportunity Zones, and Comprehensive School Reform Grants. 

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