Education
June 26, 2015
Will dissatisfaction lead to change?

Everything seems upside-down in education policy right now. Ideas that were controversial a decade ago, such as expanded use of charter schools and vouchers, have gained broader acceptance. An idea that was widely embraced a few years ago — that all students should master a roster of more-demanding skills, known as the Common Core — has become one of the most contentious issues in education. Politicians from President Obama on down want more Americans to receive education and training beyond high school, but funding for higher education has declined steeply in recent years. Nearly everyone in Congress, meanwhile, is unhappy with the No Child Left Behind Act, the main federal law governing education. However, the House and Senate are moving in different directions, meaning that the status quo likely will not change.

A protestor waves a sign during a January 2015 rally in Jackson, Miss., opposing that state’s use of the Common Core educational standards. The standards, once widely backed as a way to improve U.S. education, have become a political flashpoint. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)   A protestor waves a sign during a January 2015 rally in Jackson, Miss., opposing that state’s use of the Common Core educational standards. The standards, once widely backed as a way to improve U.S. education, have become a political flashpoint. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

After years of heated arguments over standardized testing, merit pay for teachers and other reform ideas, the education policy debate is more at a simmer than a boil. Formerly controversial ideas such as charter schools and vouchers, while they still have their critics, are now well-established parts of the education landscape. The most politically charged debate in education today is over the Common Core set of standards, yet it appears to be mostly noise: Relatively little policy change is expected.

Charter schools — which receive public funding but are freed from local district rules and contracts with teachers unions — barely existed 20 years ago. Now they operate in 43 states and the District of Columbia. More than 6,700 charter schools serve 3 million students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 1

RELATED REPORTS