"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Petrilli, Finn and the Sludge Tanks' Revival of Federalism, or Why Does My Carrot Feel Like a Stick?

Now that the Dems have taken charge of the Congress once more, there is at least a small chance that the ascendancy of the new fascism (corporate socialism) may be temporarilly put on hold. And now with The Decider deciding to make more war just as the people are demanding much less of it, it looks like 2008 might even bring the neo-liberals back into the White House as well. With Power in real flux, then, it is no surprise to see the sludge tank reps like Petrilli and Hess, Finn and Rotherham start to backpeddle on their recent wild enthusiams for federal powers to shape education policy. We are witnessing nothing less than the beginning of a great awakening among backslid states rights federalists in Washington. Imagine that. See Petrilli's murky blather in NRO, "Leaving My Lapel Pin Behind: Is No Child Left Behind’s birthday worth celebrating?"

Now, in fact, that there appear to be votes to end some of the more egregious abuses of power and abuses of children in the NCLB Act, such as the idiotic pretenses and impossible test performance targets that NCLB is built around, No Child Left Behind no longer seems like the great idea it once did to the sharks in the ed policy tanks whose job it has been to figure out how to crush public education.

Now that there could be a movement away from the test-teach-test corporate model that is stupidifying America, and toward something ever-so-slightly more humane, maybe NCLB is not such a great idea after all. Now that there are signs of a commitment to get some of the $56 billion to the public schools that were promised to them five years ago when the Texas Miracle became America's Nitemare, maybe NCLB is not such a great idea. Now that there are clear indicators that some technical assistance to teachers and some help for the poor could truly be on the way, Petrelli and Co. have begun to conclude that a federal role will never suffice to reach the "lofty ideals" of reformers like himself who once embraced NCLB. Surely he must be referring to the lofty ideal of privatizing schools and turning teachers into Walmart employees.

With a real possibility on the horizon that the Department of Education under a new President might cast out its cast of edu-business crooks and privatizers come '08 (can you imagine ED without a Paige or a Spellings?), the Petrillis of the world are about to re-dedicate themselves to the old-time religion of states rights federalism that had been cast aside in favor of a federal treasury feeding frenzy that their sludge tankers have lapped up for the past five years. But, alas, all good things must come to an end.

Now as Petrilli and the other policy prostitutes for the Business Roundtable start to envision at least 4 blue Christmases in Washinton, they are in the process of doing a complete 180, which in prior times was known as a flip-flop. Where under the right-wingers, ED functioned as the the big stick, Petrilli and Finn are now imaging an ED that only carries a big carrot. They are asking the Feds to create national tests that will be "optional" to the states who want to use them. If the states "choose" to use the new national tests and create the data systems to make the data public, then there will be big financial rewards. The Feds at ED will become the scorekeepers in the National Test Score Derby. Will Vegas carry the line on Montana vs. New Jersey?

Where once there was enthusiasm for Federal power to force states into a particular educational mold, now with Democratic control looming, there is only a call for incentivizing by ED. Instead of using federal accountability demands, federal Title 1 purse strings, and paid thugs to force states to enact the the crackpot reading pseudo-science of Bush cronies, Lyon, Carnine, and Good, now there is a desire for each state to control its educational destiny. Instead of using federal sanctions to destroy the public schools, now there should only be big federal checks available for states to do it themselves, as they develop the Tucker Model of statewide corporate welfare charters. Instead of crafting federal timetables so cramped that states are forced to buy educational "solutions" from the testing corporations that have bankrolled the right wing takeover of educational policy, now there should be free-rein for states to choose privatization on their own time schedules and to be rewarded for it.

And guess what? The Business Roundtable has already found the nuch-needed neo-liberals to help make it all possible in a way that the cheap suits for the NEA will accept. Check out the "bipartisan" Dodd-Ehlers Bill to get the ball rolling for just what Petrilli is calling for. In short, Plan B is already underway before Plan A can be knocked down. Note that the BRT has allowed liberal relic, Ted Kennedy, to throw the usual bone to the progressives, one that will be quickly snatched away as the Congress gets down to real Business. From Ed Week:

As Congress moves to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act as early as this year, at least one topic will be high on the list: increasing the rigor of state standards and tests by linking them to those set at the national level.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the new chairman of the Senate education committee, introduced a bill late last week that would encourage states to benchmark their own standards and tests to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often known as the "nation's report card," but would stop short of calling for the development of national standards.

And on Monday, Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, the committee's second-ranking Democrat and a potential presidential contender, introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., that would go a step further by providing incentives for states to adopt voluntary "American education content standards" in mathematics and science, to be developed by the governing board for NAEP.

About 40 organizations have endorsed the Dodd-Ehlers bill, including such Washington-based groups as the National Education Association, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Council of the Great City Schools. The sponsors have just begun circulating the bill on Capitol Hill in an attempt to gain additional congressional sponsors.

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