Why Is Reform So Hard?

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date
Education Next
Many people find it hard to believe that student performance has been flat for four decades when we have more than tripled funding for schools and when we have put into place a number of reform measures. Those facts are clear, but the explanation is less clear. The recent discussions in Congress, however, shed some light on this. The discussions of teacher layoffs have led Congressman Obey to try to find money to avert any dismissals of teachers. In order to be revenue neutral, however, he must come up with budgetary savings. Where does he look? Why, to reducing funds for Race to the Top, teacher incentives, and charter schools. In other words, a simple trade is proposed: sacrifice innovation and reform when there is a threat to maintaining the status quo of current hiring. When push comes to shove, it is appears that it is not about the kids–it is about the adults. More charitably, we might conclude that just slowing down the pace of innovation is appropriate in the face of the potential job losses. But that brings us back to history. There never appears to be a time for real reform.