Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff on funding public education New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists this month donated $1.5 million to reinstate exams that had been victim to budget cuts. "It is disgraceful that essential components of our public education system now depend on the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens," write Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff in The New York Times. Parent-teacher organizations, foundations, and businesses contribute billions of dollars to replace cuts made by struggling school districts, they write, but still, some burden is shifted to the students themselves. "In Medina, Ohio," the authors cite as an example, "it now costs $660 for a child to play on a high school sports team, $200 to join the concert choir and $50 to act in the school play." Public education was founded on a philosophy of equality of opportunity for the rich and poor, but we are seeing that opportunity diminished. With teacher salaries and jobs already cut, school hours are being reduced, and the cuts are disproportionately affecting the poor. "Not every state will have a Bloomberg to step in, not every school has a P.T.A. with the resources to help out, and not every child has a family that can afford fees," they write. "Depending on private contributions is inequitable and unconstitutional; public financing should fully support public education." Most state constitutions do ban things like fees for mandatory textbooks and programs, and courts have struck down policies that instate them, but this litigation is slow and costly. Politicians must be accountable for upholding the laws and the principles of public education in the first place.
Peggy Noonan on Rick Perry's temperament This week, Rick Perry surged to the front of the pack of contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. "Mr. Perry's primary virtue for the Republican base is that he means it," writes Peggy Noonan of his conservative platform. "In this of course he's the anti-Romney." And unlike Michele Bachmann, he has executive experience to back up his principles. "His primary flaw appears to be a chesty, quick-draw machismo that might be right for an angry base but wrong for an antsy country," Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal. "Americans want a president who feels their anger without himself walking around enraged." Perry has made well-publicized gaffes, as when he suggested Ben Bernanke might be treasonous or when he contemplated Texan secession. Noonan sees these mistakes as more than slip-ups. They indicate "lack of reflection, a lack of gravitas, a carelessness," she says. "Why does this kind of thing matter?" she asks. "Because presidential temperament has never been more important. We can't escape presidents now, they're all over every screen, and they set a tone." In 1980, the nation took a leap with Ronald Reagan. They faced similarly large economic problems. Reagan would be the most conservative president since Calvin Coolidge. Jimmy Carter tried to paint him as "an angry cowboy with crazy ideas," a charge Americans took seriously. But when the nation heard Reagan speak and judged him to be a "benign and serious person," they took a chance on him. Rick Perry should keep this in mind before he speaks. "If there is a deeper, more reflective person there he'd best show it, sooner rather than later. This is the point where out of the corner of their eye, people are starting to get impressions," she writes.