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Notes from the September 26, 2010 broadcast of Meet The Press

September 26, 2010

Today’s show was broadcast live from the plaza at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. The set is part of a weeklong NBC News effort called “Education Nation,” but the program started with a political conversation featuring Congressmen Mike Pence (R-IN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Van Hollen wants to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans except the top 2% of wage earners. Pence says extend them for all. No new ground there. Both men said they expect to see a vote on this before the mid-term elections. Both agreed there will be no tax hikes to cut the deficit.

On the Republicans new plan called “Pledge to America,” host David Gregory played a clip from “The Daily Show” which shows side-by-side how nearly identical the new plan is to the one they issued in 1998. Following the clip, Gregory says that the GOP called this new plan “fresh and new,” but it doesn’t seem that way. He asks Pence, so what is new here? “Ending bailouts and cutting spending in Washington, DC is a new idea,” said Pence.

Really? Cutting spending in DC counts as a new idea? That was the GOP policy even when they were growing spending at the fastest rate in 50 years. Oh well.

Gregory pushes Pence on what exactly he would cut. Pence throws out some small ideas but won’t say if he favors the big savers like raising the retirement age.

The second half of the program focused on education with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, DC School Chancellor Michelle Ree, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Gregory starts with a clip from the new film “Waiting for Superman,” which looks to be “An Inconvenient Truth” type movie about American schools. It points out how much we have fallen behind other developed nations in education.

There was a lot of discussion about accountability for teachers and administrators… and the political fallout from this kind of accountability. The DC school system cut “ineffective” teachers and raised salaries for others. Much of this played a role in the election defeat of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty this month.

Randi Weingarten was really the most persuasive person on the show. She said schools need engaged, robust curriculums, a focus on teacher development, and an overhauling of the teacher evaluation system. Those countries that out-compete us make a huge investment in teachers in addition to accountability.

She said we must invest in teachers from the moment they go into teacher preparation and invest in development every day they are a teacher. She said the American Federation of Teachers has their own pilot teacher training and development program working successfully in a limited number of school districts.

Duncan mentioned the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” program a couple of times and emphasized how low cost it is. But he did not explain what it is.

In the end Gregory asked, so what can people do if they are inspired to action by the “Waiting for Superman” film? Ree said we need to foster a national movement around education. Gregory said everyone can offer to help at their local public schools.

(Note that there will be no Meet The Press next Sunday due to NBC coverage of the Ryder Cup golf tournament.)

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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