Republican attack on public education

On Margaret Spellings and the persistence of failed education policies

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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:

Phil Berger may have an opponent come November

Eric Fink from Elon Law is looking for signatures:

“The fact that Phil Berger is running unopposed, the more I thought about it and talked it over with friends, it struck me as something that was not good,” Fink said during a phone interview from his home on Wednesday morning. “Given my views, the fact is that he’s been a leader for things that have happened in Raleigh that I think are going in a bad direction.”

Eric is not only a solid supporter of many progressive ideals, he's also as sharp as a freshly-stropped razor. If you live in Senate District 26, make sure you and your neighbors sign his petition. 5,000 signatures might not seem like that many compared to what's needed for a state-wide race, but it's no walk in the park for a candidate.

A history lesson about Margaret Spellings

She wants people to get to know her, so let's do that:

The U.S. Education Department certainly found this to be the case in 2004, when reviewers there wrote a scathing report about how the corporate bosses at the University of Phoenix pressure and intimidate their recruiters to put "asses in the classes," including those of unqualified students.

Meanwhile, a commission, appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, to critique higher education singled out for-profit colleges for praise, without acknowledging the serious charges that have been leveled against some of these companies.

This article was written in early 2007, and the formal complaints and lawsuits dealing with the University of Phoenix were already legion. But Margaret Spellings didn't just want to boost for-profit colleges, she wanted to radically alter the way the Federal government managed higher ed, and awarded tuition assistance:

Spellings making changes based on report funded by anonymous donor

So much for transparency and collaboration:

“We need the right structure and the right people doing the right things,” Spellings said. “We must break down silos and encourage collaboration, transparency and effectiveness.” A $1.1 million study by the Boston Consulting Group is analyzing the university system’s staff organization and will have a final report in the coming weeks.

A preliminary update on the report, which was funded by an anonymous donor, on Friday showed 15 general recommendations, including expansion of external affairs, a lean strategy and policy unit, and a strengthened data and analytics function.

This is a public University System, built with literally billions of taxpayer dollars, and we're supposed to be meekly satisfied this anonymous donor has the best interests of tens of thousands of students and a healthy chunk of our annual budget in mind? Either the name of the donor or the specifics of the contract (what the donor asked for), or both, need to be made public immediately. I'm also not sure it's a coincidence that Art Pope is in California testifying on the need to shelter Koch donors from public scrutiny, especially considering his history of attempting to manipulate UNC System curricula.

GOP's newest attack on UNC System: 2 + 2 = 4

Forcing freshmen and sophomores into community colleges:

Speaking to a UNC Board of Governors committee, a key legislator hinted that a “guaranteed admission program” is ultimately intended to channel up to a quarter of the system’s undergraduates into community college.

He didn’t elaborate, except to say the attempt isn’t likely to come in this year’s session of the N.C. General Assembly. But such a move would almost certainly involve giving UNC campuses less of a per-student subsidy for freshmen and sophomores than for upperclassmen.

There are probably some (many?) reading this who think this might be a good idea. Heck, both of my UNC System graduate children took this route. But that transition from one institution to the next was far from easy, and ended up costing each of them an extra semester in the process. The General Assembly needs to keep its hands out of this situation, and let the students and their parents decide the best route for a degree. Aren't they the ones harping about "choice" anyway?

Misplaced priorities in NC GOP's education spending

Cutting their way to systemic failure:

The benefit of last year’s economic recovery to our public schoolchildren was nowhere near what it could have been. Changes to the state’s tax code “shrunk the pie” and left significantly less money available. How much less? Reductions in corporate income taxes alone reduced available resources by $450 million this year and $700 million next year. Even modest changes would have made it possible to fund many of the worthy education priorities that were instead left on the cutting-room floor.

Had a prolonged discussion yesterday with a young, professional Wake County father, and when NC's amazing population growth came up (we added a million residents in less than ten years), that led to a discussion about education spending, investments in infrastructure, etc. This guy was pretty sharp, yet when I brought up the possibility of a Taxpayer Bill Of Rights being passed (or put on a ballot), he had no idea what I was talking about:

While Obama ponders free community college, NC raises tuition rates

Maybe the President should have pondered higher tuition:

The State Board of Community Colleges Finance Committee discussed a local tuition surcharge proposal Thursday afternoon. That proposal would give colleges the option to charge an additional amount on top of the state's tuition rate, but not greater than 10 percent.

"Our colleges, many of which feel like they are struggling to meet those student needs, and feel like this would be another tool for them to consider to better meet the needs of their communities,” said Haygood.

Bolding mine. In what twisted reality is taking more money out of students' pockets meeting their "needs"? If anything, it's just the opposite, especially now that single food stamp recipients are required to find a job or classwork for 20 hours per week. As far as "needs of the communities," those extra tuition dollars would have been spent locally, which means this will actually put a burden on local economies. This is just one more chapter in the Republican bible of shifting costs down; down to the local level, and down to the people who are struggling to survive.

Conservatives dodging responsibility for tuition increases

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It's always somebody else's fault:

“You add all those things together and it’s a recipe for difficulty if not disaster for some of the institutions that serve populations of students from less privileged backgrounds,” Leonard said. Some conservatives agree that rising tuition costs are a problem but say the remedy is that the universities should reduce administrative and management costs and become more efficient.

“The cuts from the General Assembly should have been a signal to the university system to make internal cuts rather than pushing it to students in tuition increases,” said Jenna Robinson, the director of the conservative John W. Pope Center for Higher Education. “There are a lot of places within the administration where cuts can be made.”

But apparently not at the top tier, where the GOP-dominated Board decided (behind closed doors) to lavish huge salary increases to chancellors, many of whom were already being paid hundreds of thousands per year. I'm sure the irony is lost on this particular Pope Puppet, but it isn't lost on the rest of us.

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