Rep. Glenn Thompson Visits Educational Leadership Students
by Joe Savrock (May 2011)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) recently paid a visit to the College of Education and met with graduate students in the Educational Leadership (EDLDR) program. Thompson and a member of his staff visited the EDLDR 597A Education Policy seminar classroom of Erica Frankenberg, assistant professor of educational leadership, on April 20 to discuss current education policy issues and the policy making process in general. Thompson also answered questions posed by the students.
Thompson, who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, touched on a number of topics, including the federal government’s role in education, public education funding, and specific programs such as school vouchers.
Frankenberg stated, “Throughout our class we discussed the unintended consequences of federal policies, and it was helpful for students to be able to speak with someone who has an important role in designing future education policy.”
“The session meshed extremely well with the course that Dr. Frankenberg designed for us this semester,” said Tammie Burnaford, a D.Ed. candidate pursuing a degree in educational leadership. “[Thompson] was very down-to-earth yet quite informative. He has a vast amount of experience in community service, the health field, and education.”
Burnaford, who is principal of Pleasant Gap Elementary School in the Bellefonte Area School District, added, “I was struck by his take on vouchers—he supports vouchers, and the reasons he gave seemed appropriate for certain localities and situations. He seemed to have a great deal of faith in the public schools, which may be due to his familiarity with local rural schools that are excelling.”
Brian Griffith, also pursuing a D.Ed. in educational leadership, said he was struck by Thompson’s perspective on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Thompson stated that ESEA probably will be reauthorized, but there needs to be a shift in funding. “He provided very few particulars, but shared that he valued local control over governmental intervention,” observed Griffith.
Griffith noted that Thompson spoke in “broad terms” in his support for accountability and school choice. “As I reflect upon this,” said Griffith, “I wonder if he was being general and non-specific because he either believes it is government's role to promote more localized control, or he wanted to avoid an engaged debate about the topic. I think the broad statements used to promote policy change that are made by legislators should be based on a combination of ideology and research. This provides the best foundation for effective policy change most likely to yield intended results.”
Christen Clemson, who was completing her master's degree in educational leadership and will be a doctoral student in the same program next fall, reflected on the visit, saying, “While he seemed closer to the situation than most other senators and Congress men/women, and his sister teaches at a local school, he still seemed very far removed from the reality of what educators in public schools and students in college are facing.”
Frankenberg commented that one of the ways in which the congressman’s visit was informative is that he asked students several times what their opinions were on certain policy topics—and recounted that he was trying to listen to those in school districts about their experience with the No Child Left Behind Act as Congress considers reauthorizing ESEA.