This reader says that federal intervention is appropriate on behalf of social justice: civil rights and gender equity. But it’s wrong when employed to close public schools and privatize them (charters and vouchers) or to impose curriculum (that orohibition is in federal law).
That is sort of unfair, to complain that only 2% of the Federal budget goes to Education. After all, education is a responsibility that, under our Constitution, has been delegated to the states and is under local control.
Also unfair, however, is leveraging that 2% of the federal budget — about 7% of education outlays overall — and forcing states to comply with unproven methods to transform our schools.
It is hardly a new thing — Title I and Title IX both do this and the Civil Rights acts passed in the mid-60s also used forms of leverage. But that was in the name of social justice, eliminating some of the most blatant forms of discrimination and at least reducing inequity.
But with the Bushes (and we have to include Jeb in this, since Florida pree 2000 was one of the prototypes for labeling a school as failing) this changed. There was talk of social equity — remember ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations”? — but the action was in testing and accountability presumably, once you looked at how difficult it was to not be a failing school, as a pathway to privatization via the dismantling of public education.
Never understood why Ted Kennedy was such a fan of NCLB, but at least at the beginning there was the promise of more money. And lest we forget, early in the W administration the Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control when Jim Jeffords did the same because of a lack of federal funding for special education programs. So you would think those Senators had figured out a way to make sure education would get funding. You’d be thinking wrong.
Of course, Ted supported Barrack, but is absolutely beyond me why the Obama administration has given lip service to criticizing NCLB and then continued with its substance. In some ways I think it is to show people how smart Arne Duncan is. Really. While we may not like the content of his plans, the way he has used that 2% — and esp. that 5 billion of RttT money as a lever to pry reforms from governor’s and state legislatures is perversely brilliant.
By the way, future DOE heads will never forget that.