Jonah Edelman of Stand For Children (they’re a BW client) penned an op-ed for The Daily Beast arguing that rolling back federal accountability rules in a new ESEA law would harm minority kids and other disadvantaged populations. This prompted Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli to respond that Edelman was playing the “race card.” Hess and Petrilli accuse him of saying that any effort to reduce the federal role is a, ” surrender to racism, politics, ignorance, or indifference.” Actually, Edelman used those words in a historical context and Hess and Petrilli take them way out of context.
It doesn’t really matter though because more generally…c’mon. It’s not race-baiting to point out that policies or their absence are going to have an adverse impact. Rather than all the happy talk about how states will handle it the intellectually honest conservative position on federal education policy is that, yes, getting rid of federal rules will lead to more inequity but will help improve educational quality in other ways. It’s not my position. But it’s not indefensible or racist. And the entire education sector would be better off it policy leaders would talk more candidly about the trade-offs of various approaches (Hess and I have done some writing together on that issue).
On ESEA/NCLB policies, pointing out that these policies benefit minority kids isn’t race baiting but neither is opposing them inherently racist. The world isn’t that simple but Hess and Petrilli’s reflexive reaction was.