Arne Duncan’s policies have yet to match his rhetoric

In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rejected “either-or” approaches, saying support was essential for both in-school reforms, and for improvements in the social and economic conditions that bring so many disadvantaged children to school unprepared to learn. For example, Duncan said he is a “huge fan” of programs like school-based health centers.

Yet his rhetoric has not been supported by his policy. To qualify for Race to the Top funds, and for waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements, states have been required by the Obama administration to change laws and policies so that teachers could be evaluated by their students’ test scores, and so that more charter schools would be authorized. States faced no similar requirements to change laws and policies to remove impediments for school-based health centers.

This can be fixed. Duncan can rescue his reputation as a “both-and” leader by using his powers to leverage an increase in children served by school-based health centers. For example, states could remove requirements for children to get pre-authorization from managed care organizations for routine and preventive visits to their school clinics. States could permit school-based health centers to bill Medicaid directly for services. Some states already have such policies, so it not unreasonable to expect all states to have them.

For more, read my commentary from yesterday morning.