From a letter by former assistant secretary of education Chester E. Finn Jr. in the Winter 2000 issue of the Wilson Quarterly:

After 30 years in the education field, I've concluded that nearly all policy issues can be distilled to this: whom do you trust to do right by kids? In the United States, there are five possible answers (and, of course, various combinations): (1) the children's parents, (2) teachers and other educators in individual schools, (3) local school systems, (4) state policymakers, and (5) federal policymakers. Liberals, for the most part, opt for (2) and (5), and sometimes (3), depending on who holds office in their states. Conservatives, for the most part, favor (1) and sometimes (3), again depending on who is making policy in their state.

I've also found that the better you know the inner workings of any of these options, the less faith you're apt to have in it. That's certainly my view of the federal policy scene after long immersion in it. Whatever drives all those interest groups, bureaucrats, and elected and appointed officials, it's not an unquenchable impulse to do right by children! Washington does only a few necessary things in education (e.g., statistics and assessments), and unfortunately does not do them nearly well enough. . . .

So whom to trust? As in arms control, "trust but verify" is probably the best maxim. No one level of the K-12 enterprise has earned blind trust or unmitigated confidence.