14) The Wrong Track on Education – President Obama has made useful changes in No Child Left Behind, by giving the states more control and removing the focus on failure as the predominant outcome; however, he has continued to support high stakes testing, with its attendant narrowing of the educational horizon for students.
Obama is also a strong proponent of charter schools, even though the evidence continues to accumulate that they don’t perform any better, in general, than traditional public schools; they are more segregated than the traditional public schools; and are more prone to fraud and corruption. Only about five percent of charter schools employ unionized teachers — a dagger aimed at his own party by Obama, because unionized teachers are among the most faithful constituencies of the Democratic Party.
As a general proposition, students from states with highly unionized teaching corps perform better on standardized tests than do students learning in right-to-work states. Students in industrialized nations with a heavily unionized teaching force also test better than do students from right-to-work states.
One of President Obama’s main educational projects is the Race to the Top. In order to quality, any cap on charter schools must be removed and teacher evaluations must be closely tied to student performances on tests. Race to the Top does not involve much of the public school population.
15) Relative Status Quo in the War on Drugs – President Obama has largely embraced the War on Drugs, increasingly seen as a colossal failure. Despite the expenditure of billions of U.S. dollars in Colombia, the nation remains a violent land for union leaders and other activists. Drug-related violence has actually increased in Mexico during the Obama years; and the “Fast and Furious” program to trace U.S.-supplied firearms to Mexican drug cartels has been a major fiasco.
The Obama White House has stepped up raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and users in those states that have liberalized their marijuana laws. These raids and prosecutions have created a terrible quandary for those following their state law, only to be hit with a federal prosecution.
The first drug czar appointed by President Obama spoke of the need to emphasize treatment over law enforcement; however, that called-for policy change has been mostly rhetorical in nature.
The next blog will begin a focus on the likely future foreign policy posture of the Obama administration.