NCLB would provide the leverage, then, to bring about school privatization, without anyone being asked to vote on the matter. All the folks at the sludge tanks knew this, including Finn, Ravitch, Jay Greene, Hess, et al. After all, school privatization had been the conservative centerpiece for their education policy agenda since Ronald Reagan, and in 2001, it looked to insiders as if the replacement of the "public school monopoly" was about to become reality.
Bush's voucher component, however, did not survive negotiations when Congress took up the bill in the Spring of 2001, and even though Repubicans in the House introduced voucher amendments two more times that Spring prior to House and Senate approval of their respective versions, both times vouchers were voted down. Privatizers did win, however, the private tutoring provision, which was promoted among angry and disappointed conservatives as "the foot in the door" for vouchers.
By the time Congress reconvened after the 2001 Summer recess, Spellings (LaMontagne), Kress, and and handful of sludge tank insiders had become advisors to the joint conference committee, which was working to neutralize differences between the Senate and House versions. In the meantime, statisticians had run the numbers on what would happen as a result of the demand in the legislation for 100% proficiency in math and reading by 2014. As Patrick McGuinn drily notes:
It had also become clear that the "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) language contained in the bill approved by the House set unobtainable expectations for improving student test scores. Research by committee staffers had indicatied that no state in the country would be able to meet the standard as it was written at that point. The accountability language in the Senate bill, meanwhile, was regarded as too complex to be workable (McGuinn, 2006, p. 176)It was at this critical juncture, when the underlying premise of NCLB's guaranteed failure had just been exposed, that we came to September 11, 2001. The reaction by the Congress following the terrorist attack, which would prove to be a truly bipartisan capitulation of responsibility for the future health of America's schoolchildren, was to choose the impossible over the unworkable. Both chambers would come together to approve some kind of domestic legislation before the onset of war, even though all the insiders knew the NCLB legislation was based on unachievable goals. And thus we came to inherit federal legislation that preserved the conservative cause of school privatization as an alternative to the soon-to-fail public system, even if charter schools would come to stand in for the more obvious, and odious, voucher solution.
So it is with some wee bit of consternation that I now see Finn's and Hess's Fordham Institute revisionist version of the facts surrounding NCLB's passage. Hess and Finn now pretend that the 100% guaranteed failure proficiency target was the result of naïve liberals blinded by their civil rights do-gooderism. They go so far as to proclaim that "today's NCLB amounts to a civil rights manifesto dressed up as an accountability system." In fact, the opposite is true: what NCLB has always represented is a phony accountability system dressed up as a civil rights manifesto, one originally proposed by the Party that regularly garners less than 10% of the African-American vote in national elections. Hmm.
Why am I not surprised to see Checker and Rick get it exactly backwards? And why am I not at all surprised to see Finn and Hess now feverishly working to disspell the melting myth of 100% proficency that they worked so assiduously to put in place just 6 years ago?
From Checker's and Rick's Desks:
Leave no (none, zero, nada) child behind?