In Part 4, found here http://www.dailykos.com/... , freelance writer Emily Pyle delivered the most extensively researched record of former White House senior education advisor Sandy Kress’s turn from public servant to corporate lobbyist, having crafted George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and now guiding his employers to the many spigots flowing with federal funds from it. Pyle’s report noted the sudden flow of money to several large corporations and their lobbyists, particularly to those corporations specializing in standardized testing and in "supplemental education services," the same ones now lining up to expand their profit margins during the next six years, as NCLB is being re-authorized by this Congress.
But while Kress was leading his corporate horses to the trough in 2005, what was the U.S. Department of Education doing? Pumping fresh water, of course.
(To review the series from the beginning, click here http://www.dailykos.com/... )
THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION released on June 13, 2005, a 55-page document providing what it called "non-regulatory guidance" for supplemental education service providers, found here http://www.ed.gov/... . This document’s preface says that it "updates and expands on" a similar one released in August 2003, but neither document answers this question: What is "non-regulatory guidance"? Since no definition is given inside the document, we may assume that "non-regulatory" is the opposite of "regulatory," a word that clearly indicates there is a legal authority to which someone must be held accountable. "Non-regulatory" means, then, that the "guidance" which follows is mere suggestion, and that those supplemental education service providers may adopt the suggestions contained therein, but there will be no legal authority to which they must be held accountable.
That sounds about right, given that no accountability model has been required by the USDOE of those corporations providing "services" and collecting large sums of federal funds.
In one example of this "non-regulatory guidance," the USDOE reasons that since corporate "supplemental education service" providers aren’t getting a check directly from the federal government – the check is cut to the state or local school district instead, which processes the funds and forwards the contracted amount to the corporate provider – then corporate providers aren’t subject to most federal civil rights requirements.
Read for yourself:
C-3. What Federal civil rights requirements apply?
Under Section 1116(e)(5)(C) of Title I, a supplemental educational service provider must meet all applicable Federal, State, and local civil rights laws (as well as health and safety laws). With respect to Federal civil rights laws, most apply generally to "recipients of Federal financial assistance." These laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination on the basis of race and national origin), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (discrimination on the basis of sex), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) (discrimination on the basis of disability), and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (discrimination on the basis of age).
A supplemental educational service provider, merely by being a provider, is not a recipient of Federal financial assistance. As a result, the above-referenced Federal civil rights laws are not directly applicable to a provider unless the provider otherwise receives Federal financial assistance for other purposes.
And this bit outlines what a church DOESN’T have to do in order to establish itself as a "supplemental education services" provider and still collect federal funding (an "SEA" is a state education agency, apparently the state department of education):
C-9. Are faith-based organizations, including entities such as religious private schools, eligible to be supplemental educational service providers?
Yes. A faith-based organization (FBO) is eligible to become a provider of supplemental educational services on the same basis as any other private entity, if it meets the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. An SEA may not discriminate against potential supplemental educational service providers on the basis of the entity’s religious character or affiliation. Additionally, a provider, including an FBO, may not discriminate against students receiving supplemental educational services on the basis of religion. An FBO is not required to give up its religious character or identity to be a provider; it may retain its independence, autonomy, right of expression, religious character, and authority over its governance. An FBO, for example, may retain religious terms in its name, continue to carry out its mission, and use its facilities to provide services without removing or altering religious art, icons, scriptures, or other symbols from areas where supplemental educational services are provided. See 34 C.F.R. §80.36(j) (http://www.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/fbci-reg.html) for more information.
ALL OF WHICH BOLSTERED the argument of Gary Ratner, the public interest lawyer and executive director of Citizens for Effective Schools, in 2005. In an interview with Michael Shaughnessy of EducationNews.org found here http://www.citizenseffectiveschools.... , Ratner sketched what he considered to be the ideological subtext of NCLB: the dismantling of public schools. Ratner said the department’s focus on "high stakes testing," as proposed by the Business Roundtable and shepherded into federal law by Sandy Kress, "is totally inadequate, and often, educationally harmful."
Ratner’s Citizens for Effective Schools has called for a "reframing" of NCLB, and he told Shaugnessy why, here http://www.citizenseffectiveschools.... :
...NCLB's central remedial approach--sanctioning schools for failing to make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP)--risks permanently and needlessly undermining public confidence in, and support of, the public schools as an ever-increasing number of schools predictably "fail." Such loss of support would be particularly dangerous to public education because it would not occur in isolation. There is already strong pressure in certain quarters--manifested by support for vouchers, private management and charter schools--to privatize public schooling. An NCLB-generated loss of support for public schools combined with preexisting pressure to privatize could lead to drastically reducing or abolishing America's system of public education. The damage that this would cause to our central institution for integrating individuals from diverse backgrounds into a single national identity, inculcating democratic values, and seeking to create equal opportunities for economic, educational and social advancement would be inestimable.
Ratner also drew connections between the 1983 report, "A Nation at Risk," issued by Ronald Reagan’s USDOE, and the development of the Business Roundtable’s education agenda:
After "A Nation at Risk" was published in 1983, hundreds of groups were formed at the state level to respond to it. In 1984, Southern states began a multi-year effort to raise standards, require high school graduation exams and take other actions intended to improve education. In 1989, President George Bush and the nation's governors agreed to adopt six national education goals, including Goal 3: that "all students ... will demonstrate  competency over challenging subject matter [and] learn to use their minds well..." And in 1994, President Clinton led Congress to enact these goals into federal law.
In the private sector, The Business Roundtable, an organization of about 200 of the largest U.S. corporations, responded with numerous initiatives. Of greatest relevance for NCLB, in 1990, it published a list of nine Essential Components of a Successful Education System. Then, it sought to get state legislation enacted on all components. But, when the Roundtable found that it was virtually impossible to get comprehensive legislation enacted, it decided to focus initially only on having states enact reforms embodying three of the components: standards, assessments and accountability. The Business Roundtable's initiative played a critical role in the states adopting "standards, assessments and accountability" legislation in the 1990s. This "standards, assessments and accountability" movement remains the principal state approach to school reform to this day, even though the Roundtable understood that those three components were only one piece of the necessary reforms.
NCLB was modeled on this very state movement. It was, in effect, the federal government's own approach to implementing these same three components. NCLB requires states receiving Title I grants under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to establish "standards," annually "assess" whether the "standards" are being met, and holds localities and states "accountable" by subjecting them to various sanctions if Title I schools fail to meet AYP.
Thus, NCLB ... was an intentional effort, in effect, to "federalize" the states' "standards, assessment and accountability" movement.
But I thought the first priority of the Bush-Kress plan was to eliminate "the soft bigotry of low expectations," to give all American kids a level playing field by minimizing the disparity between school funding in rich districts and poor districts. Wasn’t that the goal? Did I miss something?
Stephen Metcalf, writing in The Nation magazine in January 2002, says I did miss something, that the first priority of the Bush-Kress plan was NOT to ensure that all kids had an even shot at an education. In his article, Metcalf called the Bush-Kress re-write of Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 "the most ambitious federal overhaul of public schools since the 1960s. States will now test all students annually from third to eighth grade, while launching a federally guided drive for universal literacy among schoolchildren. Perhaps more strikingly, a political party that once called for the abolition of the Education Department has radically enhanced the federal presence in public schools."
"The Bush revolution in education is the culmination of a decade of educational reform spearheaded by conservatives and business leaders," Metcalf wrote here http://www.thenation.com/... .
The new Bush testing regime emphasizes minimal competence along a narrow range of skills, with an eye toward satisfying the low end of the labor market. All this sits well with a business community whose first preoccupation is "global competitiveness": a community most comfortable thinking in terms of inputs (dollars spent on public schools) in relation to outputs (test scores). No one disputes that schools must inculcate the skills necessary for economic survival. But does it follow that the theory behind public schooling should be overwhelmingly economic? One of the reform movement's founding documents is Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America's Public Schools, by Lou Gerstner, chairman of IBM. Gerstner describes schoolchildren as human capital, teachers as sellers in a marketplace and the public school system as a monopoly. Predictably, CEOs bring to education reform CEO rhetoric: stringent, intolerant of failure, even punitive--hence the word "sanction," as if some schools had been turning away weapons inspectors.
Metcalf says the feeling was captured at a reception for business leaders – who were interestingly billed as "education leaders" – on Bush’s very first day in the White House by businessman Harold McGraw, who announced, "It's a great day for education, because we now have substantial alignment among all the key constituents--the public, the education community, business and political leaders--that results matter."
"Substantial alignment," McGraw called it. By the end of that year, Bush would only need, ultimately, the acquiescence of Senator Ted Kennedy, chairman of the Senate committee approving his re-write, to turn the 20-page outline of his goals into a statute surpassing 1,100 pages. And he got it, apparently by promising Kennedy that the funding would follow in the next budget bill. Talk about "substantial alignment."
And of course, at the new statute’s core was standardized testing, which the Business Roundtable already anticipated would draw criticism from real educators. Metcalf quotes a Business Roundtable position paper on the topic: "voices of opposition to these policies...emanate from parents and teachers."
"No matter," Metcalf observes. "Testing is a ‘bedrock principle’ for the Roundtable, and the ‘leadership and credibility of the business community is needed’ to make sure standardized testing becomes a reality." Do you wonder if the business community’s definition of leadership includes telling Ted Kennedy that the check will be in the mail?
But we digress.
Metcalf hits the nail on the head here:
Why the infatuation with testing? For its most conservative enthusiasts, testing makes sense as a lone solution to school failure because, they insist, adequate resources are already in place, and only the threat of exposure and censure is necessary for schools to succeed.
And, not surprisingly, the Bush legislation has ardent supporters in the testing and textbook publishing industries. Only days after the 2000 election, an executive for publishing giant NCS Pearson addressed a Waldorf ballroom filled with Wall Street analysts. According to Education Week, the executive displayed a quote from President-elect Bush calling for state testing and school-by-school report cards, and announced, "This almost reads like our business plan." The bill has allotted $387 million to get states up to speed; the National Association of State Boards of Education estimates that properly funding the testing mandate could cost anywhere from $2.7 billion to $7 billion. The bottom line? "This promises to be a bonanza for the testing companies," says Monte Neill of FairTest, a Boston-based nonprofit. "Fifteen states now test in all the grades Bush wants. All the rest are going to have to increase the amount of testing they do." Testing was already big business: According to Peter Sacks, author of Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It, between 1960 and 1989 sales of standardized tests to public schools more than doubled, while enrollment increased only 15 percent. Over the past five years alone, state testing expenditures have almost tripled, from $141 million to $390 million, according to Achieve Inc., a standards-movement group formed by governors and CEOs. Under the new legislation, as many as fifteen states might need to triple their testing budgets.
In the "feeding frenzy" that followed passage of NCLB, Metcalf writes, "The big educational testing companies have thus dispatched lobbyists to Capitol Hill." (And Metcalf was writing in January, 2002!)
Metcalf quotes Bruce Hunter of the American Association of School Administrators: "I've been lobbying on education issues since 1982, but the test publishers have been active at a level I've never seen before. At every hearing, every discussion, the big test publishers are always present with at least one lobbyist, sometimes more."
And who are the big test publishers?
Metcalf tells us: "Both standardized testing and textbook publishing are dominated by the so-called Big Three – McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflin and Harcourt General--all identified as "Bush stocks" by Wall Street analysts in the wake of the 2000 election."
McGraw-Hill? Could McGraw-Hill be connected to Harold McGraw, the businessman who captured the happy feeling in the air on Bush’s first day in office, the Harold McGraw who announced, "It's a great day for education, because we now have substantial alignment among all the key constituents--the public, the education community, business and political leaders--that results matter."
That same Harold McGraw is, indeed, "the publishing scion and current chairman of McGraw-Hill," Metcalf reports.
But Metcalf goes much further than that:
While critics of the Bush Administration's energy policies have pointed repeatedly to its intimacy with the oil and gas industry--specifically the now-imploding Enron--few education critics have noted the Administration's cozy relationship with McGraw-Hill. At its heart lies the three-generation social mingling between the McGraw and Bush families. The McGraws are old Bush friends, dating back to the 1930s, when Joseph and Permelia Pryor Reed began to establish Jupiter Island, a barrier island off the coast of Florida, as a haven for the Northeast wealthy. The island's original roster of socialite vacationers reads like a who's who of American industry, finance and government: the Meads, the Mellons, the Paysons, the Whitneys, the Lovetts, the Harrimans--and Prescott Bush and James McGraw Jr. The generations of the two families parallel each other closely in age: the patriarchs Prescott and James Jr., son George and nephew Harold Jr., and grandson George W. and grandnephew Harold III, who now runs the family publishing empire.
The amount of cross-pollination and mutual admiration between the Administration and that empire is striking: Harold McGraw Jr. sits on the national grant advisory and founding board of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. McGraw in turn received the highest literacy award from President Bush in the early 1990s, for his contributions to the cause of literacy. The McGraw Foundation awarded current Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige its highest educator's award while Paige was Houston's school chief; Paige, in turn, was the keynote speaker at McGraw-Hill's "government initiatives" conference last spring. Harold McGraw III was selected as a member of President George W. Bush's transition advisory team, along with McGraw-Hill board member Edward Rust Jr., the CEO of State Farm and an active member of the Business Roundtable on educational issues. An ex-chief of staff for Barbara Bush is returning to work for Laura Bush in the White House--after a stint with McGraw-Hill as a media relations executive. John Negroponte left his position as McGraw-Hill's executive vice president for global markets to become Bush's ambassador to the United Nations.
And over the years, Bush's education policies have been a considerable boon to the textbook publishing conglomerate. In the mid-1990s, then-Governor Bush became intensely focused on childhood literacy in Texas. For a period of roughly two years, most often at the invitation of the Governor, a small group of reading experts testified repeatedly about what would constitute a "scientifically valid" reading curriculum for Texas schoolchildren. As critics pointed out, a preponderance of the consultants were McGraw-Hill authors. "Like ants at a picnic," recalls Richard Allington, an education professor at the University of Florida. "They wrote statements of principles for the Texas Education Agency, advised on the development of the reading curriculum framework, helped shape the state board of education call for new reading textbooks. Not surprisingly, the 'research' was presented as supporting McGraw-Hill products." And not surprisingly, the company gained a dominant share in Texas's lucrative textbook marketplace. Educational Marketer dubbed McGraw-Hill's campaign in the state "masterful," identifying standards-based reform and the success of McGraw-Hill's "scientifically valid" phonics-based reading program as the source of the company's eventual triumph in Texas.
Three generations of familial ties with one of the largest publishing houses in America. Lucrative government publishing contracts and cross-pollination of staff support. It’s no wonder, then, that Metcalf tells us, "In Texas and California, McGraw-Hill literacy products have been adopted by school districts on the basis of their purported scientific validity."
Or that Metcalf tells us Bush "tripled funding for early literacy, bumping it up to approximately $1 billion a year over the next six years" and that Bush "tapped Christopher Doherty to be in charge of spending that money."
Who is Doherty and how’d he get such a plum role? Again, Metcalf: "As head of the nonprofit Baltimore Curriculum Project, Doherty brought DISTAR--McGraw-Hill's other literacy product--to Baltimore's public schools. ‘The bill stresses that the federal government must focus in early reading on those programs that have been scientifically proven to be effective,’ Doherty told the Baltimore Sun. ‘My job will be to help identify those districts and states that show they are going to implement K-3 reading programs based on that scientific research’."
You’d think they were family, except that if they were family, federal anti-nepotism regulations would prevent this kind of backscratching.
Wasn’t "No Child Left Behind" supposed to iron out the inequity in American public education, to ensure that every kid had just as good a chance to learn as every other kid? Not to put too fine a point on it, but wasn’t "No Child Left Behind" supposed to guarantee that we left no child behind?
Metcalf has a comment on that point, too, saying the disparity between rich and poor districts isn’t resolved by the Bush-Kress plan. Far from it. "But that disparity isn't going anywhere soon. The big players now at the education table, some with a considerable financial stake in the new regime, believe that money is best spent on testing and textbooks, rather than on introducing equity into the system over the long term," he concludes.
So it never was about giving kids an even chance, or at least guaranteeing that no kid got left behind. Instead, the Bush-Kress plan was always, from beginning to end, about diverting public funds to private enterprise, about letting big business circumvent federal anti-discrimination laws, about blurring the legal boundaries separating public schools and private or parochial schools – churches themselves, for that matter – or, to make a long story short, about making a profit.
Sadly, while Bush’s longtime friends like Sandy Kress and Harold McGraw have made a killing from the implementation of Bush-Kress’s "No Child Left Behind," they’re not the only ones, by a long shot. The story of NCLB’s most amazing success story didn’t begin in any school building, anywhere in America; it began with the failure of the Silverado Savings and Loan of Denver, Colorado, in 1988.
(Stay tuned for part 6.)