"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
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.
Start, 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.
the 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.
appears 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
advice 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
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.)
baby, 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
importance of marriage."
of "men's movement"
Eberly, 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"
Eberly mixes grassroots right-wing agitprop with bureaucratic mischief
making at the highest levels of the Bush government.
Ramey 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."
suspects 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?
purported 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.
I 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.
a 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.
like 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.
are 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).
Caire 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
primary 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.
American 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
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
Tillman 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 ,
"Fruit of the
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 schools.
couple 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 about it.
Caire, 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 Tillman.
Black 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.
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.
I, 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."
the 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
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
more 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 to http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=1411].
Who's Behind It All?
American Association of School Administrators
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