A Clear Plan: The Revolution in School Policy

The National Governor’s Association (NGA), corporate leaders, foundations and other special interest groups advanced a clear plan to use the rise of the Information Age to float the economy. Their vessel? Our public education system.

Necessary or not, the school policy revolution began.

1969 — 75% of parents sampled (PDK/Gallup) said they would like to see one of their children teach in a public school.

1979 — 86% of parents with children 13 years and older had no desire to send their children to a different public school.

1983 — Governor Lamar Alexander created TN’s “Better Schools Program,” which put a merit pay system (pay for performance/career ladder) at the heart of the plan.

The hook: the idea of “flexibility” in exchange for “results.”

The pretense of accountability in an outcome-based (pay-for-results) system was launched ahead of the Reagan administration’s report A Nation at Risk.

6-14-1983 President Reagan participating in a Regional Forum on the National Commission on Excellence in Education Report with Governor Lamar Alexander at the Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee

The Test-Based Accountability Ship Sailed

Demand for testing needed to be created but a couple of barriers stood in the way — local control and an established and effective education system. So a clear plan to take over school policy needed to begin with a strategy to undermine the public’s trust in the institution of public education. This was known:

Parents know a good deal more about the schools … than nonparents. They are heavily influenced by firsthand knowledge, whereas the opinions of nonparents derive more often from the media,… (PDK/Gallup 1984)

The larger voting block — non-parents — became the first target for an information campaign.

1986:

“When the Carnegie Forum Task Force began its work, we knew that the Governors were the key to the necessary revolution in school policy.”

Marc Tucker 1986— then executive director of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy

With Governor Lamar Alexander chairing the NGA, they released a report titled Time for Results.

The Reagan administration supported the clear plan to support the education industry.

“What 
is industry in a knowledge-based economy?” The answer is the education industry.

Lewis Branscomb 1986— IBM Chief Scientist, Head of  Carnegie Foundation Task Force on Teaching

The education industry would profit from two main concepts, outcome-based education and “school choice.” But the establishment of national standards were essential for industry “efficiency,” or to reach “economies of scale” (higher return on investment). National standards provided a national foundation for large-scale operations.

The Course was Set: “Education Reform.”

This project was under the direction of Secretary of Education William (Bill) Bennett with assistance from his political bedfellow, Governor Lamar Alexander.

1987 — With Governor Alexander navigating both state and federal policy waters, the governors floated projects in several states with 1991 as the target date for reporting the results. Supposedly “the results” would determine if these “real reforms” should be scaled-up nationwide. Trustworthy analysis was crucial.

It appeared that our national research and development system—Regional Education Laboratories— put in place under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — would be central to that research.

In addition to our Regional Educational Laboratories, the Research and Development (R&D) Centers are also part of our U.S. R&D system.

1988 — Before leaving office, Reagan signed the Hawkins-Stafford Amendments to ESEA.

Including: “requirements regarding accountability evaluation of programs conducted in accordance with national standards to be developed by the Department of Education.”

Boundaries Were Crossed

That policy change took ESEA from a law that prohibited any federal influence over curriculum and instruction to placing evaluation of programs associated with national standards under the direction of the Secretary of Education. Not just schools, but the whole governing structure of schools was to be restructured, not just reformed.

“Restructuring” Schools: Creation of the School to Workforce/Military Pipeline

1989—Marc Tucker advised President-elect Bush about the education restructuring efforts underway by businesses and the NGA.

Tucker’s own organization, National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), created the National Alliance for Restructuring Education (NARE) to promote Standards-Based Education. And…

… privately, an education summit was planned. New NGA chairman, Terry Branstad, hoped “the focus of the meeting would be on tailoring our education system for the workforce of the future.”

The first (invitation only) National Education Summit was held for the president with governors, business leaders, and a few representatives.

A joint statement confirmed that the setting of national goals and the development of “a system of accountability that focuses on results” had been agreed to.

1990— Tucker’s (NCEE) publication of “America’s Choice” continued the push for policies to focus on output measures (hear Tucker explain beginning at minute 33:30) as Governor Bill Clinton summarized …

“We need a national exam, measured by international standards, and the continued development of a quasi-governmental institution.”

A Quasi-Governmental Institution? As that sinks in, please keep reading.

 

1991 President George H.W. Bush appoints Lamar Alexander as his second Secretary of Education.

With Alexander in charge, and his Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) being the “lead agencyfor research, the nation should have heard results from Project Education Reform: Time for Results. Instead, the nation got a report card. 

The results? This New York Times reporter gives us some clues about Alexander’s strategies and the results.

“…disappointingly superficial on the issues…

“He resists detailed debate …”

“…and the program he’s got is not a winner, …”

The Alexander agenda included national standards and testing, teacher merit pay, change through competition, and “choice.”

The “Education Council Act of 1991” established a temporary 32 member council — National Council on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST) — “most of whom were appointed by the Secretary of Education.” 

1991 also marked the nation’s first voucher legislation (proposed by Secretary Alexander).

1992 —No surprise. NCEST recommended national standards and testing.  But it was without answering some important questions and …

NCEST does not explain why the proposed tests will not narrow the curriculum.” Daniel Koretz & Others

1992— President Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

Marc Tucker penned his infamous November 11, 1992 letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tucker’s plan would change the mission of the schools from teaching children academic basics and knowledge to training them to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards.Thinker, RealistNews

Presidents Changed: The Politically Powerful Continued the Policy Journey

“To remold the entire American system for human resources development.” Marc Tucker

1993— D.C. think tank “Empower America” was co-founded by former Reagan Education Secretary William (Bill) Bennett.

Empower America philosophy: “…opportunity, competition, ownership, and freedom—must be the framework for reform of century-old public systems such as K-12 education, the tax code, and social security.”

1994— President Clinton signed the “Improving America’s Schools Act” (IASA).

Clinton’s ESEA reauthorization -IASA;

  • mandated accountability based on grade-span (3rd,8th,11th) standardized testing,
  • called for content standards to be set by ALL states, and
  • added funding for charter schools into ESEA for the first time.

Meanwhile, Lamar Alexander became a co-director of Empower America.

“We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative.” Empower America

1996-2002 — The school policy revolution shifted to state efforts to expand outcome-based accountability mechanisms (exit-standards testing) and charter schools.

Remember, industries were counting on public education money and governors were always key to the “necessary” school policy revolution.

The role of the governors … was crucial because they mobilized the public and legislators in their states to support educational reforms.”

The Technology Industry Took the Helm

1996 — The Education Summit, as the story goes, gave birth to the Gates’ supported Achieve, Inc.

Keep in mind; setting “higher”content  standards was never proven to improve academic achievement.

1997 — Lamar Alexander & Bill Gates addressed the NGA. Alexander mused about how after all the years of governors “leading the charge” and pouring money into “their plan,” charters and standards had not improved education.

1998 — Tucker’s NCEE created the “America’s Choice School Design Program” (later purchased by Pearson Inc.).

1999 — Tucker’s NCEE launched the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) and Bill Gates launched the “Gates Learning Foundation.” 

NCEE was asked by Carnegie Corporation, joined by the Broad Foundation, the Stupski Foundation and the New Schools Venture Fund, to create a design for a new kind of national organization to train school principals to lead high performing schools.

 

Time to Drop Anchor on The Nation

2002: The Broad Academy was founded. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

2002 — The 2001 President George W. Bush’s ESEA reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) went into effect.

Among other things, NCLB:

  • expanded standardized testing to yearly (3rd-8th grade and once in high school),
  • required ALL students be “proficient” on state tests by the 2013-14 school year,
  • promoted and assisted states in “enhancing” achievement through technology,
  • expanded “school choice” through a variety of programs (Clinton era – $15 Million expanded to $214.8 Million by 2007. Now, FY2018 $1.4 Billion “for public & private school choice opportunities” ),and NCLB
  • allowed access to student data for military recruiters.

In addition to NCLB’s passage, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 changed the federal system of research, development and dissemination of educational practices by created Comprehensive Centers (Regional and Content Centers).

Failure to get results from standards (Outcome-Based Theory) and “choice” had been blamed on being “too timid,” the addition of federal CENTERS worked to more aggressively implement the agenda. Instead of functioning to meet regional needs like the Regional Educational Laboratories originally did, these centers are being used to “provide frontline assistance.” For example, they were used to implement the Common Core Initiative, an initiative designed and controlled by a quasi-governmental organization.

Last but not least of the 2002 policy anchors, the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 established the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS).

Full Speed Ahead

2003 — Lamar Alexander began his senate career.

2005 — Having been recognized as the most influential person in School Policy, Bill Gates co-chaired the National Education Summit.

2006 — The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) Launched at the Data Summit.

The campaign promoted the Gates’ “ten essential elements” of a longitudinal data system, which included the ability to match student records between the Pre-K and post-secondary systems.

2007 — NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND should have been left behind. (ESEA review & reauthorization IS required every 5-6 years, by law.) NCLB remained anchored in place while common standards and assessments were being “piloted.”

2008 — Idaho was the last state to complete a statewide longitudinal data system with all the elements required by Gates’ DQC

Meanwhile, unofficial “reports” declared an educational crisis in cities while the Great Recession disrupted the nation.

For me, this map represented the War Plan. I watched as city schools and family’s lives were disrupted with school closures. This “report” was prepared with support from America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Race Begins

2009 —Oh what a year! 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.

In the Education Reform Toolkits by The Broad Foundation.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 went into effect and the quasi-governmental institutions went to work on spending those funds.

 Race to the Top began: “And finally, for the first time in history, we have the resources at the federal level to drive reform.”

Bill Gates explained at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) that a thorough data collection system is the best way to track student success.

2010 — Common Core became a common problem.

The Workforce Data Quality Initiative began granting federal money to connect education and the workforce data.

2011 — The undercurrent of revolt against outcome-based policies —high-stakes testing and the “accountability” systems based on them— began to surface. The resistance organized; we marched and we met.

2012 —The Obama administration called for Congress to “reform NCLB” but instead the nation got accountability waivers in exchange for adoption of “more honest standards.” Honestly, “college and career ready standards” meant the Common Core standards.

2013 — The NCLB replacement the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act” was introduced by Senator Alexander.

2014 — Revolts against the college, career and military ready Common Core National Standards grew.

2015 Lamar Alexander took over the chairmanship of the Senate education (HELP) committee and introduced a new name for the NCLB replacement, “The Every Child Achieves Act,” which later became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) we now have as our ESEA reauthorization. Is ESEA better than NCLB? You decide.

The flaws in No Child Left Behind remain. The funding for testing, technology and school choice are increased.

 

Clear Sailing to the Finish Line of the Revolution in School Policy

?

The finish line? A quasi-governmental organization controlling common national standards and testing with all data collection and consolidation in a single office for use in the Workforce Placement System.

A “computer-based system for combining this data” was always central to the Tucker Education-Labor System Plan.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking passed as HR 4174 (sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan) but its identical sister bill was sponsored by Gates’ Washington State Senator Patty Murray.——–2019——–signed into law by President Trump.

This “honestly” is a bipartisan revolution in school policy

The Outcome of the School Policy Revolution?

54% of Americans say they would NOT want their child to become a public school teacher, a majority for the first time in a question initially asked in 1969.

70% of parents still give their oldest child’s school an A or B grade.

The Republic? Creeping or Leaping Towards Totalitarianism.

Lamar Alexander has consistently claimed to support “local control,” but what is left to control?

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For those requiring more proof of these historical events, more detailed of educational results, or the references not already provided, please review (and download for free) the journal article Assessing the Cornerstone of U.S. Education Reform.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Spoken by Martin Luther King and repeated often, do the words “the fierce urgency of now” no longer stir our souls? Did they ever?

Why the Urgency NOW?

The urgency is the need for all of us to filter out the divisive political language coming at us from all sides. In this moment, we need to look back at what was once only a theory. Now our reality is that economic theory fostered a political strategy to supplant our constitutional republic with “a private governing elite of corporate power.” *Those pushing corporate control understand how essential it is for them to …

“…kill public education because it tend[s] to foster community values…” *

And market-based education reforms became the weapon of choice. But the role of political economist James M. Buchanan is only now being closely scrutinized. Buchanan’s theories explain much about the divisiveness destroying our schools and our nation.

“…[Buchanan] observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly ASSUMED that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. …[T]hat was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to ‘tear down.’ His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as ‘public choice.’” *

Public Interest vs. Public Choice

Public interest is defined as “the welfare or well-being of the general public.” It is a national goal clearly stated in the Constitution’s preamble — “in Order to … promote the general Welfare…”.

To “tear down” our assumption that officials are acting in the public’s interest is one thing. To destroy our union is another. That goal does NOT appear to be one of the aims of Buchanan’s original 1986 Nobel Prize winning work on “Public Choice Theory.”

In its announcement of the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted, “Buchanan’s foremost achievement is that he has consistently and tenaciously emphasized the significance of fundamental rules and applied the concept of the political system as an exchange process for the achievement of mutual advantages.Tennessee Encyclopedia (James McGill Buchanan)

His “research program” ** centered on the belief that people make purchases (market choices) based on value. He saw the public making political choices they believed would benefit them. He viewed us as making choices based on our own “venal self-interest.” *

So he and his ilk developed what they called “non-market decision-making.” Finding that name “awkward” and not as appetizing to “free-market” thinkers, the groups’ organization and publications took on the name “Public Choice.” **

Choice or Coercion?

Some researchers believe that Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory began as an “optimistic conception” based on “unanimous consent of the people.” But he later adopted a more “pessimistic view” about “social organization” and people’s “intolerance” to entering into the discussions necessary to reach consensus on issues. Thus Buchanan’s emphasis morphed from “individual freedom” to the need to “enforce order.” ***

As Buchanan explained “Public Choice” to an audience (2003) …

Public choice, in its basic insights into the workings of politics, incorporates an understanding of human nature that differs little, if at all, from that of James Madison and his colleagues at the time of the American Founding.” **

Buchanan wrote that for public consumption. It’s a distortion of history, which is likely being perpetuated through institutions such as George Mason University in Virginia.* And in misrepresenting the American Founding Principles, Buchanan opened himself up to being viewed as a major manipulator in our historic fight against corporate control.

James Madison vs. James Buchanan 

As a key author of the Constitution, Madison left a record of discussions about our nations founding principles. Therefore, a better understanding of the American Founding political views can be gleaned from Madison’s correspondence with a colleague who Buchanan also admired. ***

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, ed., vol. xiv, pp. 18-21) …

“With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. … Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions.”

Madison went on to express his doubts about a government takeover by monopolies being skeptical …

“…that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may be gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. … Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Government than in most others? … with the power as with us is in the manyIt is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many …”

It appears the expressed sentiment of that last sentence was taken to imply that corporations are the ones in need of constitutional protection from the masses. But Buchanan obviously took Madison’s words out of their historic time and context. Regardless, Buchanan did communicate to the public an association of his “public choice theory” with our nation’s founding principles.

****This quote is from the blog of libertarian economist, Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell who believes Buchanan’s ideas are being misrepresented.

Same Old Fight: Big vs. Smaller Government?

Not Quite! Think about the following in relationship to the privatization of public education through “school choice” models. The allure of choice is deadly.

With our political choices being analyzed under market-based economic theory, it is assumed people make choices based on their own self-interests — first and foremost. We shouldn’t deny that as a truism. But when market forces through privatization of public services or goods come into play, competition for a limited supply will result in winners and losers. Always does.

We risk having children lose, or never develop, the safe and secure sense of belonging that defines “community values.” When all of us are seen as “self-interested players in the marketplace,” **** we are vulnerable to division. Competition for public services runs the high risk of destroying community values, but, that part of the equation didn’t seem to garner much consideration.

Instead, Buchanan saw the need to bring his vision to life by NOT focusing on who rules because who the public chooses doesn’t matter since elected officials don’t act in the public interest anyway. Therefore, this brilliant political economist focused on the rules themselves.

“… the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.” *

Buchanan found many willing partners.

“Subversion of Liberty”? Translation: Sabotage of Authority

What Madison saw as improbable under our constitutional republic — “a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” changing the balance of power — is exactly what is happening. Our federal government IS under the control of special interests. Many state governments are no different because too many of our representatives ARE no longer serving in the public interest.

The toxic divisiveness of party politics is permeating our communities. The principles of localism and populism, which formed the fabric of our founding documents, are being replaced by corporatism. Thus, when we can no longer reach consensus on the issues that matter, the authorities will step in and set the rules “to enforce order.” ***

This scenario should sound familiar to Baby Boomers. It was a shared American experience on many college campuses during the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. Martial law was declared in many places, which Buchanan supported (at Berkley***). And not to be forgotten were the killing of students by the National Guard. That’s about the time Buchanan’s vision of “unanimous consent of the people” *** seemed to change.

Now? Consider this.

“[historian Nancy] MacLean details how partnered with [Charles] Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to …  promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.”

“… MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’” *

Supreme Urgency?

Think about the urgency demonstrated during the confirmations of both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Ask yourself, why the fierce urgency?

Think about it. When changing the Constitution is still out of reach, CONTROL of the U.S. Department of Education and having corporate-minded allies on the Supreme Court are a handy pair of tools. Then it requires pushing appeals through the court system to the level of the Supreme Court. Once there, having enough justices interpreting our Constitution and rules in ways that favor corporations and the wealthy is almost as good as a “constitutional revolution.” *

This is no longer just theory and we knew this day was coming. Now …

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK

Vote, of course.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

References

* FROM THE LEFT ⇒ Lynne Parramore, “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America”

**ORIGINAL SOURCE ⇒ James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, George Mason University, “What is Public Choice Theory?”

***STUDY OF BUCHANAN’s EDUCATION SPECIFIC WRITINGS ⇒ Jean-Baptiste Fleury THEMA, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Alain Marciano MRE, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, Franc. “The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education”

**** FROM A LIBERTARIAN VIEW ⇒ Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell, former senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan”