On Margaret Spellings and the persistence of failed education policies


There is a method to their madness:

During the rising calls for bureaucratic education reform, revamping teacher evaluations and pay, and the Wisconsin teacher protests, former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (2011) weighed in about reauthorizing NCLB: “However, any new law must be a step toward stronger, more precise accountability.” And her audacity here is even bolder than what the new reformers have been perpetuating through film and popular media.

The first thing that everybody needs to understand: These folks aren't just trying to get their grubby hands on all those education dollars. There is a more fundamental (and dangerous) drive than mere greed, and it revolves around absolute power:

Calls for higher standards and greater accountability suggest that educational failure grows from a lack of standards and accountability—but where is the evidence those are the sources? Calls for changing teacher pay scales and implementing merit pay suggest that current pay scales and a lack of a merit pay system are somehow causing educational failures—but where is the evidence those are the sources? Charges against union influence and claimed protection of “bad” teachers also suggest that unionization of teachers has caused educational failure—but where is the evidence those are the sources?

The truth is that the new reformers are attacking teachers and unions because this is a question of power—maintaining power with the corporate and political elite at the expense of the ever-widening gap between them and the swelling workforce that is losing ground in wages and rights (Noah, 2010). De-professionalized teachers stripped of the collective bargaining are the path to a cheap and compliant workforce, paralleling the allure of Teach for America (TFA) as a cheap, recycling teacher pool—an essential element in replacing the universal public education system with a corporate charter school and privatized education system. From the perspective of the new reformers’ corporate lens for education, there is money to be made, of course, but better yet, the corporate takeover of education helps solidify the use of schools to generate compliant and minimally skilled workers.

You may be wondering why I'm referring to K-12 programs when Spellings is (now) running the UNC System. It's because she's trying the same old crap in that job (sorry for the paywall, the HeraldSun apparently doesn't grasp today's market), proving her to be a one-trick pony.

The long-term goal of Spellings and her cohorts, especially people like Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation, is to de-couple teachers (and professors) from their unions and other associations, so they will no longer have strength in numbers and must capitulate to the corporate reformers:

The Broad Foundation Mission Statement states that one of its goals is the transformation of labor relations. The Broad Foundation is not anti-union. Rather, it seeks to transform unions into a form of company union. A company union is a union located within and run by a company or a national government, and the union bureaucracy is incorporated into the company’s management. This opens up the workforce to unfettered exploitation for profits of the owners. Many right-wing governments internationally use company unions to suppress worker struggles against low living standards. In 1935, during the labor struggles of the Depression, the National Labor Relations Act was passed which outlawed company unions in the United States.

Merit pay, "accountability" steps, and other more intrusive methods for controlling behavior and curricula, are all part of an overall conquest of our education system. Some have said "Give Spellings a chance," but I'm pretty sure we can't afford to.