"The Marble Jungle" is a euphemism for the layers
of bureaucracy in the federal government in Washington D.C.
which too frequently hide the truth. From time to time
will be presenting commentaries and analysis pieces whose purpose
will be to cut through the political policy rhetoric in order
to focus on what is really happening rather than what we are
told is being done.
those of you who thought the Bush Administration is "all
war, all the time," and that his domestic priorities are
getting short-changed, think again. In his most recent assault
on public education, and in particular, the education of children
of color, Mr. Bush is once again showing his true agenda: Leave
No Child Untested.
the most widely praised program to emerge from the Sixties War
on Poverty, is about to be sorely tested. Since 1965, Head Start
has been unparalleled in promoting the social, emotional, and
cognitive development, as well as health services, for children
in poverty. While Head Start has survived innumerable political
and ideological battles through both Republican and Democratic
administrations, the challenge from the Bush crew is unprecedented.
They threaten to test the program out of existence.
political guidance of Right ideologue Wade Horn, "the Bush
administration intends to require each of the 500,000 4-year-old's
in the federal Head Start program to sit for a standardized
examination measuring such information as how many letters and
numbers they can recognize, and whether they know how to hold
a book right side up," according to the December
4 New York Times.
singularly skeptical of the program's mission. Before being
named Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Horn headed
the National Fatherhood Initiative, an outfit that prescribes
matrimony as the antidote to most inner city ills. The full
skew of his views on issues educational and otherwise is available
in the archives of his columns for the Jewish
World Review. JWR is renowned for being the soapbox from
which a number of the better-known right-wingers proselytize,
including Ann Coulter, Thomas Sowell and David Horowitz. In
a March 2000 article, Horn questioned the essential value of
academics to Head Start-age children.
is to wait and then choose a part-time preschool experience
that emphasizes developmentally appropriate activities over
academics. Remember, 2, 3, and 4-year-old children learn more
by pretending to fix the pipes, build a house, cook dinner,
or be a policeman, doctor, mommy, or daddy than they will
ever learn from preschool reading lessons.
statements such as this can only lead one to challenge Horn's
commitment to the entire concept of Head Start. If his writing
is not enough, consider his resume: He has been a board member
for the Independent Women's Forum and a fellow at the Hudson
Institute, two of the most significant organizations in the
right-wing pantheon. The Independent Women's Forum serves the
Right by spinning women's issues into the service of white men,
while the Hudson Institute is one of the premier right-wing
think tanks (though, not quite as prestigious on one's resume
as the Heritage Foundation.)
the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), is currently headed
by Wharton MBA and Black GOP poster-child Roland C. Warren.
Before becoming the chief at NFI, Warren worked as a financial
consultant at Goldman, Sachs, and Co. helping wealthy folks
hang on to their money - which appears to be acceptable Bush
credentials for re-writing welfare law. One priority of NFI
and Mr. Warren is to make sure that the reauthorization of Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families "must explicitly focus on
reducing out-of-wedlock births and the
importance of marriage."
of "men's movement"
founder of the NFI, now serves as Deputy Assistant to the President
for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Eberly's rise from
marginal critic of federal policy to leading political bureaucrat
demonstrates that the Right's battle against the social safety
net has come full circle. As this article goes to press, Eberly
remains on the speakers list for the right-wing Intercollegiate
Studies Institute. Founded by former Reagan Secretary of Education
William Bennett, the ISI supports conservative college newspapers
and college-based Young Republican Clubs across the country,
and is partially responsible for the rise of such right-wing
emissaries as Dinesh D'Souza (who was on the ISI payroll before
he got his choice assignment in the Reagan White House.) As
overseer of a faith-based initiative that is "the centerpiece
of Bush's grand plan to reap political profit from the economic
and social devastation of Black America" (
2), Eberly mixes grassroots right-wing agitprop with bureaucratic
mischief making at the highest levels of the Bush government.
has been identified as head of the group that is designing the
"assessment" of Head Start. The co-director of the
Center on Health and Education at Georgetown University explained
his mission to the Washington
Post, this way:
we are bringing to Head Start is not different from what you
encounter when you go to buy a car,' he said, noting that car
buyers trust that companies maintain quality from plant to plant."
that the Bush operatives who selected Ramey would prefer that
Head Start be recalled and sent back to the drawing boards.
Still, it's nice to hear that Quality is Job #1 for the Feds.
But it brings up an interesting point of clarity: The men charged
by Bush to lead this effort are solely focused on two things
- punishing children for not having fathers, and bringing a
capitalist sensibility to quality control. Which leaves at least
one question hanging: After we've tested Head Start out of existence,
what are we going to do with all those kids from single-mothers
who just plain refuse to get married?
pursuit of all things scientifically testable was again brought
to light January 30, 2003, when the Department of Education
the names of the individuals who will be guiding the assessment
of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or
as Bush re-named it, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The intent
of the Congress was that NCLB be grounded in "scientifically
based research." What this means in practice is that any
program that the Department funds is supposed to be able to
prove its validity using scientifically recognized methods.
However, Bush's bureaucrats have placed science at the service
of their own brand of politics. For example, Bush's lackeys
in Education recently decided that the Office of Educational
Research and Improvement (which had been around since the beginning
of the Department of Education) didn't focus enough on scientific
research. So OERI was axed - only to be replaced by the Institute
of Education Sciences, which does the same things OERI was doing
before. Only these guys are better at utilizing the language
of science to defund public education.
of No Child Left Behind begins with the section, "Improving
the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged." While there
are plenty of reasons to be angry at the passage of this bill,
our Report from the Marble Jungle is about what happens after
the legislation is passed, which is often the most important
part of all: implementation.
bill becomes a law, not only does the money have to get appropriated
to fund the implementation, but regulations must be written
so that the agency responsible for the implementation has guidance
for what's expected of it. The "regs" for No Child
Left Behind were accepted with little fanfare here in DC, for
the most part because the law itself is so scary that implementation
is hard to even imagine. But the other reason the Bush Tricksters
were able to slip their own agenda into the bill's implementation
regulations is because the nation has been preoccupied with
something else: Bush's so-called War on Terror. Fireworks are
great for distracting the masses.
the one appointed to address Title I of No Child Left Behind
are critical to getting business done in Washington. Their constituent
"experts" are assembled to perform the appointed tasks,
then return to their full-time vocations. (I've served on a
couple, myself.) But the problem at the Department of Education
is: no one knows what they're doing. In the real world, this
means that the "experts" on the Title I panel have
an opportunity to politically shape implementation of the legislation.
a few legitimate education leaders on the panel, among them
Christopher Cross, who currently works at the Center for Education
Policy. However, other appointees have no business serving on
a panel designed expressly to look at scientifically based evidence.
Two panelists in particular need to be scrutinized closely:
Kaleem Caire of the American Education Reform Council (AERC)
and Tasha Tillman of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS).
used to head the Black Alliance for Educational Options. BAEO
is the premier Black voucher front group bankrolled in large
measure by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John
M. Olin Foundation, and now partially funded by federal grant
moneys, as reported in the November
14 issue of .
Caire is now at American Educational Reform Council, an organization
that shares personnel, money, and funders with the voucher advocate
funder appears to be the Walton Foundation. As a 501(c)3 organization,
AERC can't spend money on political campaigns, but they can
spend millions on "issue ads." AERC played an important
role as propagandist for the anti-affirmative action initiatives
in California and Washington state. The American Education Reform
Foundation serves as the AERC's lobbying arm.
Education Reform Council has been in hot water in Washington,
DC before. In 1997, well-known Black activist Sterling Tucker
was on their payroll to support a voucher program designed by
GOPers on the Hill. Tucker was able to get the support of several
local Black ministers, until someone leaked where the money
was coming from.
the Right has positioned itself to take advantage of the $756
million earmarked for "choice" programs in the nation's
public schools. In Washington, the privatizers inch ever closer
to places of influence among charter schools where, they believe,
the money is.
is Director of School and Community Relations at Friends of
Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS). FOCUS is a relatively new nonprofit
in Washington, DC that supports the burgeoning charter school
movement. But its presence points to the maturing of the movement
here in Washington, and may in turn signal the future tactics
of the voucher movement. What's slightly different here is that
FOCUS is clearly not a "Black" organization (the BAEO's
membership and board are African American) and is not outwardly
focused on vouchers; it claims to represent the 35 charter schools
in Washington, DC. So why did they hire a pro-voucher activist
from Colorado, and accept at least $150,000 from the voucher
moneybag Bradley Foundation, the same deep pocket that virtually
invented vouchers as a public policy issue. (See ,
of the Poisoned Tree.")
It has become
quite obvious that the Right is circling and penetrating the
public schools, using stealth as a tactic. In the same way that
the language of No Child Left Behind doesn't explicitly mention
vouchers, there's a mountain of money available for "school
choice" which they want you to believe means public schools.
Meanwhile, Tillman can toil away quietly behind a curtain of
public school choice, all the while working to promote the Bradley
Foundation's vision of what public schools should look like.
on the prowl
to the FOCUS website, Ms. Tillman used to be vice-president
of the Colorado Springs Chapter of BAEO, where she also received
an M.A. from Colorado Christian College and was founder/coordinator
of the Children's Tuition Fund for the Association of Christian
Schools International (ASCI). As recently as last year (2002),
while she was still in Colorado, she was appointed by the Bush
Administration to sit on the negotiating committee for Title
I. This is the body responsible for the bulk of the rule making
which we reviewed above. She was appointed to represent "student
interests." ASCI represents the interests of private Christian
of things need to be pointed out about Ms. Tillman's former
employer, and where she was living. First, there have been a
number of bills and ballot initiatives in Colorado around vouchers,
which is why Ms. Tillman would have been hired to work for BAEO
in Colorado Springs. I think it also curious that the headquarters
for ASCI happens to be right down the block from James Dobson's
Focus on the Family, another ultra-Right outfit. Colorado is
a good place to run a voucher campaign - there are significant
pockets of conservative Christians who don't want the government
to run their schools (but it's OK if the government pays for
their schools). Given Ms. Tillman's background, I'm surprised
that FOCUS doesn't have a more explicit conservative Christian
agenda. Then again, maybe they do, and they're just not talking
President/CEO of BAEO, was a featured guest at the September
24, 2001 launching of the ASCI Children's Tuition Fund, the
organization that Ms. Tillman used to head. But the "vast
right-wing conspiracy" gets deeper. Ms. Tillman's former
boss at ASCI, Vernard Gant, executive director of what they
call "Urban School Services," serves on the editorial
board of one of those ominously named, Trojan Horse entities
known as the Urban Education Journal. The editorial board for
this flack publication reads like a who's who among black pro-voucher
conservatives, with prominent representation from BAEO and AERC.
The current issue includes a column by none other than Tasha
Alliance for Educational Option's spot on the journal's board
is currently filled by Barato Britt who, as best as I can tell,
does whatever Ms. Tillman did in Colorado Springs when she worked
for BAEO, only he's in Indianapolis. Remember that name. Britt
has been communications director for an outfit called Greater
Educational Opportunities (another one of those bastardized
names) in Indiana, but given that he's now got a board seat
in one of the national network organizations, I'd wager that
he's a rising Black star in the Right's stable of racing steeds.
If you combine
the Bush administration's reward to BAEO of a $600,000 grant,
reportedly to pay for pro-voucher marketing in the Black community,
and the prominent panel appointments to individuals clearly
not qualified for them, the broad outlines of the Republican
agenda become visible. Bush will continue to thrust his band
of Voucher Tricksters into positions of influence over public
education policy, while pursuing schemes to test venerable
programs such as Head Start out of existence.
Public Law 107-110, also know as No Child Left Behind, begins:
purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a
fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality
education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging
State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments."
language sounds impressive, it in fact serves as a smokescreen
for the Bush Junta to push for the legalization of segregated
schools, and the privatization of public education.
S. Johnson-Lewis is an education consultant living and working
in Washington, DC.
To see who
else is on the Bradley payroll and what other kinds of activities
they fund, go to: http://www.mediatransparency.org/funders/bradley_foundation.htm
details on the American Education Reform Council and the American
Education Reform Foundation can be accessed through People for
the American Way and their report on the voucher movement, go
Who's Behind It All?
American Association of School Administrators
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