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Education and Economic Policy in an Age of Political Polarization: Is There a Good Way Forward?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | 12:00pm

Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education Conversation Series
555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Observers from across the political spectrum increasingly agree that American politics is dysfunctional, mired in a state of polarization and paralysis.  But there is still considerable disagreement on the causes – and thus, the remedies – of that condition. To what extent is the problem one of increasing political partisanship on all sides? How much is attributable to the Republican Party’s move to a radical and uncompromising conservatism, fed by the rise of the Tea Party? Is the problem more one of a poisonous politics of personal attack and destruction, fed by massive amounts of money in politics? Has the politics of the permanent campaign undermined our ability to conduct a politics of governing?

In the realm of education policy, efforts to fix the flaws of No Child Left Behind have been torpedoed by partisan feuding, year after year. To the surprise of many, the Senate HELP Committee recently voted unanimously for a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While that is a positive start, significant hurdles still lie ahead. Will the approach of the Senate HELP Committee provides a model of how to move beyond our dysfunctional politics, or will it prove to be an anomaly in a bleak political landscape?

Our panel will discuss the different explanations for the current state of American politics, and offer their own prescriptions for a way forward.


Danielle Allen, UPS Foundation Professor, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute

Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress


Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, this conversation series is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. We deliberately invite speakers with diverse perspectives, including views other than those of the AFT and the Albert Shanker Institute. What is important is that these participants are committed to genuine engagement with each other.