crossposted at dailykos,myleftwing,boomantribune, and teacherken
Toyota used to have  a slogan “You asked for it, you got it.”  Many in the progressive/liberal blogosphere have been demanding  that  our political leaders listen to what we at the grassroots have to say.  In education this has now happened.

As many here may know, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa began a process of soliciting ideas from the grass roots over at  My participation in this, and in a conference call, eventually lead to Governor Vilsack himself posting here at dailykos.

The results of this ongoing conversation about education has now been systematically compiled and is available for your perusal.   Below the fold I will explain more, and offer an overview of what is available.  I strongly encourage all who are interested in education (which should be all of you) to continue reading this diary.
Without recapitulating the entire history, for those who do not know, Gov. Vilsack established an organization to solicit ideas from the grassroots, whether identified experts or merely interested citizens.  He set up a website at which people could post their ideas.   The site also offered ideas that were currently being triedby Democratic Governors around the nation.

The first topic on which Gov. Vilsack wanted to focus was education.  As a result, his internet guy, Kevin Thurman of BlueStateDigital, sought to get a number of educational bloggers to participate in a conference call with the Governor.  I was one of the two participants in one phone call, and eventually I blogged about it, among other places at dailykos.  As you will see if you click on the link, that posting got a lot of traffic.

It also got a response from the Governor, as you can see at A Response to TeacherKen and the DailyKos Community.  

I also crossposted a response I made to one of the Governor’s postings at HeartlandPac, entitled A Response to Tom Vilsack.   This also got a fair amount of traffic.

I list these three item because they are among the sources of the ideas that Gov. Vilsack is now distributing.

If you go to HeartlandPac, you will see a link on the left-hand side to download a PDF of the 60 page report put together as a result of the dialog.  Kevin has assured me that it will also be available in html within the week, if you want to wait.

I am going to offer — with permission  — the table of contents to give a quick sense of what is offered, and the  the beginning of the Executive Summary, so readers can see how much input from the grassroots is involved. (WARNING – since I am cutting and pasting from a PDF, the formatting will have been slightly changed from how it appears in the actual document – and I apologize for html formatting problems).

Here’s the TOC:

Table of Contents    
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY                            3  
EDUCATION IDEAS                                  10
Early Education                                   11
Length of School Year                             14
Length of School Day                             16
K-12 Education                                   17  
School Construction/Overcrowdin               25
Curriculum                                        27
Testing                                         31  
Teacher Quality                                   34
Violence in Schools                              40
School Administration                             41  
Parental Involvement                              42
Higher Education                                  45
Global Competition                                 51  
Miscellaneous                                   52    
ONLINE EDUCATION RESOURC                    56
Online Education Resources: Organizations 56
Online Education Resources: Blogs              59    

And the Executive Summary:

Executive Summary    

The Heartland PAC website was launched August 1, 2005.  The mission of the PAC is twofold:  To elect governors and other state officials, and to create a virtual  marketplace of ideas to bring communities without borders together to offer ideas and best practices to candidates who want a different outcome on Election Day.   We believe the best ideas and practices come from communities engaged in problem solving.  The Heartland PAC website’s objective is to broaden the definition of community by offering a forum to those people who want to engage in problem solving.   In September, we launched the first single topic discussion on education. We challenged participants to submit their own ideas and best practices on education so that we may share them  with you.  The discussion ranges from a Japanese education program to a heated exchange about the length of the school year.   While there is no consensus or silver bullet, the document underscores both the importance of education and the shared yearning to solve longstanding problems.  Whether the discussion topic is early childhood, K-12 schooling, testing, curriculum or higher education, the discussion shows  real people in their own words, who cared enough to offer thoughts of their own to engage in the discussion.   Below is a summary of the ideas we recorded from participants. After the summaries, which are organized by category, you can read more about the ideas in the words of the authors.    

Early Education (Pg. 11)
   In this section, Gov. Tom Vilsack, joins former Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina, as well as  Sara Mead of the Progressive Policy Institute and Janet of Keokuk, Iowa, to discuss ideas on how to improve the quality of early education and pre-K child care:    
 – Gov. Tom Vilsack | Child Care Facilities and Education
Gov. Vilsack discusses a program that provides parents with detailed information about child care facilities.
 – Chris Correa | Brookline Education Project and Children’s Health
Chris Correa discusses a study showing how successful education programs improve children’s health.
 – Janet from Keokuk, Iowa | Child Care Licensing and Education
Janet offers an idea on how to ensure that child care programs complement investments in early education.
 – Gov. Jim Hunt | Smart Start
 Gov. Hunt discusses North Carolina’s Smart Start child care program and its many successes.
 – Sara Mead | Education Equity and Early Childhood
Sara Mead discusses how the quality of early education dramatically affects inequality in our communities.  


Length of the School Year (Pg. 14)  
   In this section, Gov. Vilsack joins two members of the DailyKos web community, Roddy and Amie Erickson, to discuss the merits of the American school calendar:    
 – Gov. Tom Vilsack | A Response to TeacherKen and Community  
Gov. Vilsack discusses different ways of increasing children’s instruction time.
Roddy @ | Origins of the School Year
Roddy argues that the structure of the American school year is out of date.
 – Amie Erickson | How to Make the School Year Longer
 Amie explains that it may be best to phase in any changes to the school year.


 Length of the School Day (Pg. 16)  
In this section, four members explain ideas regarding the length of the school  day:    
 – Transmission @ | Moving Back School Start Time  
Transmission argues that starting the school day later makes it easier for children to learn.
 – JHsu @ | More Efficiency, Not More Hours
JHsu argues that making the school day longer would fail to solve the problems that our  schools face.
 – Historys Mysteries @ | Making More Time for Creativity
Historys Mysteries suggests that the school day be lengthened to make more time for  creative pursuits and individual instruction for students.
 – TarheelDem @ | The Two Hours After School
TarheelDem argues against increasing the length of the school day, but says that kids need  to do more than watch television when they get home from school.

The foregoing should give a sense of how much the input is from the grassroots, including as you can see postings made by people at dailykos, for example.

Let me make clear that my posting of this in no way represents an endorsement of any future political aspirations of Tom Vilsack.  It does, however, represent an aknowledgement of and an appreciation for the endeavor he has made to listen and to make available more widely the ideas on various topics that those at the grassroots level are willing to offer.  That is not the only source for the material presented  –  there are inclusions from recognized experts such as Andy Rotherham of the Progressive Policy Institute, and from Governors of things they are already doing.  The inclusion of the Governors is important because they are in the main the target of this effort by Vilsack.  He wants to empower Democratic Governors and gubernatorial candidates with the best thinking possible on key subjects.  

Education was the first topic to be addressed in this fashion.  The Governor has also asked for the ten key words people would use to say for what the Democratic Party stands, and he is about to begin accepting ideas on medical and healthcare issues.  

I would hope that all who read this will take the time to explore the report.  I will not selectively quote further, because there are so many differing ideas offered, and because the report does not attempt to come to a conclusion — that is not its purpose.  While it comes in at 60 pages, the amount of text is actually far less, and the end, as one can see in the Table of Contents, includes a list of resources relevant to the topic.  Methinks this may prove to be a useful document to have, either maintained in electronic format on your computer, printed down so it can be marked up, or both (which is what I am doing).

Please, take the time to explore.   And also, consider going to and participating yourself.

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