Foundation Fix: New America Foundation Tries to Find Its Way in the Education Debate

Education has never been the strong suit of the New America Foundation, started in 1999 as an effort to find the ever-elusive "radical middle" on key policy issues. Can they upgrade their efforts through a new early childhood initiative? It's not so easy.


There's hope that the (recent?) arrival of Michael Dannenberg as their education policy director will change things. But Dannenberg is mostly a budget and higher ed guy, and Shelley Waters Boots, director of the early childhood initiative, seems like more of a child care and welfare guru than anything else.

From where I sit, NAF has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the debate -- much less win their own turf and create momentum around new ideas.

Thus far, at least, nobody seems to be paying much attention to their first major proposal -- early childhood education (PDF) -- or to a pretty random-seeming list (PDF) of "new" education ideas. (If there's something new or interesting in there, let me know.)

While I'm probably ruining my chances of ever getting work from them (or that NAF fellowship I dream about) by saying this, they're going to have to do better than that.

I certainly hope they will.

In the meantime, here's something via Education Week for all of us who thought that all EC advocates had to do to get more money these days was ask for it: Early-Childhood-Education Advocates Turn to Ballot Measures for Impact


Anonymous eduwonk said...

New Face At New America...But Frowns At This Week
This Week's Russo notes that since its inception the New America Foundation hasn't been much of a player on education policy. True enough, and it's in no small part because their "big idea" for schools was a ridiculous proposal to nationalize education funding and distribute it through universal vouchers -- a facile Frankenstein of Third Way thinking where two lousy ideas are melded together and called a grand compromise. It's been a frustration for many eduphiles because NAF has a stable of really interesting thinkers and a lot of good stuff on a lot of issues comes from there.

But as Russo notes they're bulking up their ed policy shop and as Eduwonk said back in June he's more confident that the addition of former Kennedy aide Michael Dannenberg portends good things than Russo apparently is. Already Dannenberg floated a provocative and interest-group enraging compromise idea on the whole Katrina voucher debate and now that he has his 1st Amendment rights fully operational Eduwonk expects good eduideas to start flowing out of NAF.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

Eduwonk deserves credit for noting Dannenberg's arrival and the past history of dumb education ideas from NAF despite their top-notch talent in other areas.

However, I'm not sure that the foundation can lay claim for having been that much of a big player on the hurricane vouchers, and it's current pushes -- on universal preschool and whatever those 10 new ideas are supposed to be -- don't seem that impressive.

As I noted in my original post, finding and defending engaging and new territory on education issues is a mighty challenge, one that NAF, the Center on American Progress, and other ed policy groups struggle with.

2:18 AM  

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