The Senate passed an education bill this month to replace No Child Left Behind. An amendment to continue tracking the test scores of low-performing schools pitted civil rights groups, who were in favor of continued tracking, against teachers' unions, and was ultimately defeated. The Deseret News spoke with TCF fellow Halley Potter about the amendment's failure and why those groups responded in the way they did:
Potter says she understands why teachers are concerned. "We haven't had a good track record of healthy alternatives to punishment," she said, "and teachers have been too often blamed for school and societal failures that lie wholly outside their control.
"Regardless of what you think of the NEA's advocacy on these issues," Potter said, "if you care about the future of education you have to ask why they are reacting this way."
The full article is available here.
With the United States and Iran reaching a nuclear deal this month, some have voiced concerns about whether the deal really has the ability to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In The National Interest, TCF's Lauren Sukin and Selim Can Sazak write that even if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, there would be little need to worry:
Even today, Iran is already overstretched in terms of both funding and military resources—it has no incentive to provoke yet another fight. No matter the strategic relevance of its current wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, Iran cannot indefinitely sustain its adventures abroad. And, to put it mildly, none of its current fights will be easy wins to start with. In sum, Iran is simply outgunned, outspent, outflanked, and overstretched. Deal or no deal, nuclear weapons or none, there are only two outcomes: either Iran makes the smart choice, and avoids conflict, or it loses to the Saudis and their American allies.
The full column is available here.
This month, the Obama administration announced a new effort to fight segregation in housing policy. In an interview with Salon, TCF fellow Paul Jargowsky, who has studied residential segregation extensively, discusses the new initiative.
Think about it for a minute: At the beginning of the big wave for suburbanization, if there had been in that point in time a concerted effort to make sure that all these new communities that developed had a wide range of housing types, we could have in the process of suburbanizing really achieved a remarkable amount of desegregation. At that time, going back to the 1970s, cities were highly segregated, so all you had to do was desegregate the suburbs at that period of time, and you would’ve seen a lot of progress. Instead, we’ve perpetuated segregation by creating mostly white, mostly wealthy suburban enclaves around the major metropolitan areas. It was a real missed opportunity.
The full interview is available here.
The case of Sandra Bland, who died under uncertain circumstances in her Texas jail cell, has sparked outrage across the country. TCF fellow Michael Cohen writes in the Boston Globe that regardless of whether Bland committed suicide or foul play was involved in her death, she never should have been in jail anyway:
Why not just step back? Bland hardly represented a threat. The reason, says Bueerman, is “a culture of policing that says we don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We don’t want to be perceived as weak.”
That’s not always an unreasonable position. But the state affords police officers awesome power, including the right to take a human life. With that authority comes the responsibility not only to keep it together, but to act more responsibly than ordinary citizens. Even if Bland was surly and uncooperative, that’s her right. It’s the officer’s job to de-escalate the situation.
Cohen's full column is available here.
Following last week's agreement on a nuclear deal with Iran, some members of Congress have expressed frustration with the United Nations Security Council for passing a resolution supporting the deal. In the Huffington Post, TCF fellow Stephen Schlesinger argues that this ignores the role the Security Council has played in the past—for instance, when it approved the United States' plans for the first Gulf War:
If it is alright for a Republican leader to send legislation on critical global matters to Congress following a UN edict and get approval, why is it not equally fine for a Democratic president to do so? In both cases, the determination concerned matters of war and peace, though, it must be said, in the Iranian case, it was to avoid war while in the Kuwait case it was to go to war—a huge difference.
The full post can be found here.
New York approved a $15 minimum wage for its fast-food workers this week. The decision has prompted some concern that prices will rise as a result—but, as TCF policy associate Mike Cassidy tells the Washington Post's Lydia DePillis, this has an upside:
Besides, if prices do go up, there could be a health-related silver lining, said Mike Cassidy, a policy associate at the research-minded Century Foundation. “It’s like a tax on fast food that we don’t want people eating anyway.”
DePillis's full article is available here.
With the Supreme Court set to rehear Fisher v. University of Texas, which concerns race-based affirmative action policies, a new report from the American Council on Education shows that the previous ruling did little to change colleges' admissions policies. TCF senior fellow Richard Kahlenberg writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the report's findings may help lead to a different ruling this time around:
In short, colleges didn’t take the ruling very seriously. The headline finding is that "when asked directly whether the Fisher ruling affected their admissions or enrollment management practices, only 13 percent of institutions responded in the affirmative."
This new information is deeply problematic for supporters of affirmative action because the nonchalant response to the earlier Fisher decision may well embolden conservative justices — including swing vote Anthony Kennedy — to make a more definitive statement about racial preferences in the Fisher II case.
The full column is available here.
The recent nuclear deal with Iran is one of Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievements. In World Politics Review, TCF fellow Michael Cohen writes that it is one of many examples of the more hands-off approach the U.S. has taken with the Middle East during Obama's term.
The days of U.S. immersion in the problems of the Middle East have surely reached an end point. As Marc Lynch writes in an upcoming article for Foreign Affairs, “Obama came to office with a conviction that reducing the United States’ massive military and political investment in the Middle East was a vital national security interest in its own right.”
And over the past six years, with plenty of fits and starts and some detours along the way, Obama has by and large successfully executed that strategy. The Iran deal is merely the coup de grace, and it lays the groundwork for a shift to Asia that goes beyond rhetoric.
Cohen's full column is available here.
The recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States marks the end of an era in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In Foreign Affairs, TCF fellow Thanassis Cambanis argues for a shift in the American approach that prioritizes focusing on one Middle Eastern country at a time to a more ad-hoc strategy focusing on specfiic issues:
After years of myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program, the United States will have to take an unsentimental and cleareyed inventory of its dysfunctional allies. It can only expect so much from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey — but with these sorts of friends, it behooves Washington to lower its expectations and take a more transactional approach to enlisting cooperation, whenever possible, on a single issue or subsets of issues. A disappointed Saudi Arabia, for instance, might play ball with the United States on Syria — even as it opposes Washington’s policy in Iraq.
Cambanis's full column is available here.
Egypt has recently seen violence and repression that suggests its government may be unstable, but Eric Trager contends in Foreign Affairs that the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi looks to remain stable for the foreseeable future. He cites this month's TCF issue brief, "Egypt's Next Phase: Sustainable Instability," by senior fellow Michael Hanna:
Intraregime tensions haven’t entirely dissipated, of course. As Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation noted in a recent report, the leaked phone conversations of top military officials, resurgent media criticism of the Interior Ministry, and the security establishment’s open antipathy toward former air force general and presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik are all signs of elite division. Yet in every instance thus far, the tensions have dissipated quickly, because the regime’s various components are ultimately more unified in their desire to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood than they are divided by anything else.
The full article can be found here.