Want to know why spending on public education has mushroomed?
Look no farther than the booming education industry that federal dollars have created through No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, are siphoned away from schools to pay for consultants and services that have no track record but promise the moon. Private contractors will train your teachers, train your leaders, create teacher evaluation systems, sell you new technology, turn your school around with minimal or maximal pain, your choice.
As soon as Congress opens the door to the education industry, the industry returns the favor with lobbyists and campaign contributions.
Our tax dollars at work!!! Al the while, class sizes grow larger, the arts are eliminated, and basic needs go unmet because “we can’t afford it.”
Consider NCLB’s requirement that low-scoring students must receive tutoring. A sound idea, no? Unfortunately, it encouraged the creation of thousands of inexperienced, incompetent tutoring companies that recruited students by promising rewards to students or principals. The results: Nil.
Consider this story from the Texas Tribune, republished in the New York Times:
“Under the No Child Left Behind tutoring program, underperforming schools had to set aside a portion of the federal financing they received for economically disadvantaged students to get outside tutoring. In Texas, with minimal quality control at the state level, it resulted in millions of dollars in public money going to companies that at best showed little evidence of their services’ academic benefit, and at worst committed outright fraud.
“The program has been suspended in Texas, as the state secured a waiver from the federal law’s requirements last month. Education officials have said that, for now, there are no plans to continue the program at the state level.
“But as No Child Left Behind awaits Congressional reauthorization, the tutoring industry is energetically pushing federal policy makers to preserve public financing for tutoring, either in the updated law or other legislation — lobbying efforts expected to be duplicated at the state level in Texas, where over the years tutoring companies have cultivated powerful political ties.
“I have no doubt that the next legislative session, they will lobby for this way of spending dollars to be decided in Austin instead of the neighborhood school level, and I think that would be a real disservice,” said State Representative Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat who passed legislation during the 2013 session tightening regulations on the federal tutoring program.
“The law resulted in a booming industry that created an unprecedented role for commercial tutoring companies in public education. At the time, the program’s proponents said such private-sector involvement would fuel innovation in public schools while offering top-notch instruction to students who needed it.
“Instead, it flopped, bringing years of complaints from school districts, which detailed practices like the use of incentives like iPads to recruit students into programs as well as significant concerns about instructional methods and falsified invoices.”
But the lucrative tutoring industry will not let failure for kids get in the way of profit, no-sir-see!
Here is more:
“Texas has taken a “shortsighted, irresponsible approach,” Stephanie Monroe, a former assistant secretary for education in the United States Office for Civil Rights, wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in response to The Texas Tribune’s series on the program.
“Without the tutoring program, Ms. Monroe said, the state’s poorest students will “no longer have access to the services they need to succeed and otherwise are unable to afford.”
“She said her organization acknowledges that stronger oversight of tutoring services is needed. But Ms. Monroe, who left her government post in 2009 to found a lobbying firm, added that “allowing states like Texas to arbitrarily eliminate them altogether due to a few bad actors is just reckless public policy.”
“Tutor Our Children, which describes itself as a group dedicated to preserving free tutoring for economically disadvantaged students, has spent almost $900,000 in federal lobbying expenses, including on contracts with Ms. Monroe, since it began in 2010. An additional $500,000 has gone to marketing, public relations and fund-raising costs, according to the organization’s tax filings.”
The lobbying was intense in the governor’s office and the legislature:
“In the last two years, the company has spent an estimated minimum of $240,000 on lobbying teams in Austin and Washington. The company’s founder, Charles Young, has given more than $140,000 in political contributions to state Republican lawmakers, including $20,000 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and $26,000 to Mr. Perry.
“Mr. Young served on a 2013 Texas Education Agency committee that developed recommendations for the state’s school accountability system — a panel that also included Sandy Kress, a former Bush education adviser who has lobbied for Tutors With Computers. The company’s own advisory board has included Rod Paige, the former United States secretary of education and Houston Independent School District superintendent, who helped put No Child Left Behind into place.”
This is called “leaving no child behind,” or “students first,” that is, as long as there are federal dollars attached.