Obama’s $4 billion ‘school reform’ agenda

Everyone remembers Obama’s plan for education reform, right? Uh, actually, no. Never mind that. Does anyone remember when $4 billion was a lot of money?

The rush is on for $4.35 billion in “Race to the Top” grants, targeted to leverage historic reforms in US public schools.
“This is one of the largest investments in education reform in American history,” said President Obama at the US Department of Education on Friday. “And rather than divvying it up and handing it out, we are letting states and school districts compete for it.”
The high-stakes grants are targeted to reward states and school districts that are “ready to do things that work,” the president said. “That’s how we can incentivize excellence and spur reform and launch a race to the top in America’s public schools.” . . .

(Note strategic deployment of the magic words: “incentivize,” “excellence” and “reform.”)

For the past two months, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been telling education groups that if they want to have an edge going into the competition for these grants, they must demonstrate four key reforms. These include:
• Reversing a pervasive dumbing down of academic standards and testing.
• Establishing better data on student achievement, including linking teacher evaluations and pay to student outcomes.
• Improving or replacing teachers who aren’t up to the job, especially in high-poverty schools and hard-to-staff subjects.
• Turning around failing schools, including replacing school staff and changing school culture.
“For the first time in history, we have the resources at the federal level to drive reform,” Secretary Duncan said as he released draft guidelines for the competition on Friday.
“We cannot continue to tinker in terrible schools where students fall further and further behind, year after year,” he added. . . .

To summarize in three words: Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Another throw-money-at-it giveaway to the teachers’ unions, with “goals” and “standards” that are vague and arbitrary, the primary purpose being to give the president sufficent rhetorical coverage for that (mandatory) paragraph about “education reform” in his next State Of The Union speech.

In other words, it’s No Child Left Behind, Part Deux.

The problem with the public education system is the system itself. Parents who send their kids to public schools are constituents of the world’s largest welfare program. Whatever the total federal expenditure is on K-12 education, every dime of it is “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a stupid idea with stupid consequences.

You cannot defend public education and call yourself a conservative. The entire history of public education shows that it has been, from Day One, a liberal project aimed at achieving liberal policy objectives that have nothing to do with actual education.

More than anything else, public education is a propaganda vehicle for teaching American children falsehoods, including the belief that government can give you stuff for “free.” Let the government give people something for “free,” and you automatically guarantee two things:

  • It will be ridiculously expensive.
  • Whatever it is, will suck.

As Newt Gingrich once famously observed, high school nowadays is nothing but “subsidized dating.” It’s a colossal waste of time and money. Kids learn more playing hooky than they do when they go to class. “Public school reform” ought to be done the same as “public housing reform”:

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