- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Have you ever wondered why we don’t see President Obama wearing seersucker suits and straw hats, or hoodies and doo-rags?

Think he wears Hickey Freeman?

Who cares, right?

But pay attention to when, how and where the president tailors his messages about education, since looks can be deceiving.

The Obama campaign has had nothing new to say about education reform in a long time.

In fact, even as parents, governors and other power brokers continue to push for tying education dollars to student and teacher achievement and expanding school choice, Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, continue to weave the rotting threads of the No Child Left Behind Act with the president’s own Race to the Top initiative.

Recently, especially since Rep. Paul Ryan sidled up to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the Democrats’ shoo-in has been timing his school messaging to visits in key battleground states and special constituencies in local school districts.

On Thursday, by way of example, the Obama camp begins airing a TV ad simply called “Children,” in which a man, a woman and a voice-over artist advocate smaller class sizes and the “very best public education” system.

The ad targets Virginia, which Mr. Obama turned blue in 2008, and Ohio, which no winning Republican presidential candidate has ever lost. The ads also are running in Nevada.

The overall theme of the ad takes a seam ripper to the Romney-Ryan ticket on education spending.

Team Obama likely is using campaign funds to pay for his radio and TV ads, but his education IOUs are paid for with federal dollars tied to Part II of Race to the Top.

Where the original $4.35 billion Race to the Top program targeted the District of Columbia and the states, the current $400 million offshoot targets school districts.

“Applicant districts must agree to implement the four core components of [Race to the Top] (common standards, teacher evaluations, data systems, and the Administration’s school turnaround model), and must secure school board and teacher union buy-in for their application,” Lindsey Burke explained in a succinct Heritage Foundation blog post.

But check this out. Before school board buy-in was stipulated, the administration actually wanted school districts to evaluate the performance of their school board members.

If that doesn’t make you shudder, consider the long-term implications of increased federal involvement in our local schools if local bureaucrats were to evaluate elected school board members on behalf of “educrats” in Washington.

Shades of Machiavelli, eh?

“Since most school board members are elected officials, there is already a process for them to be evaluated before they are placed in their positions and there is a transparent process for the public to express pleasure or displeasure with their leadership,” said Lucy Gettman, director of federal programs at the National School Boards Association.

The process, in a word, is called voting.

And you know, the Democratic ticket should be running a bit scared because Democrats are trying to sustain the very Jim Crow practices that hurt blacks for far too long with federal monies and policies. More on that in my Monday column.

For now, pay very close attention to the president’s messaging.

His proposals are tailor-made with expensive bells and geographic whistles, but they are distractions.

His bottom line is federal government control of public schooling, and you needn’t be a “Dixie” whistler to understand as much.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.