Sunday, March 28, 2004

Following our money

And $77 million of it went to organizations for the purpose of promoting vouchers, according to Bill Moyers' NOW this last Friday.

The quick summary: $77 million of Department of Education money went to voucher promoting programs, the money from a discretionary fund called the Fund for Improvement of Education. Congressional approval was not at all required.

Some numbers on this show:
Education Leaders Council (ELC):$15.9 million (Former president of the ELC, Bill Hickok, is now the current undersecretary of the DOE; ELC helped form the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, ABCTE )

ABCTE: $35 million (teacher certification board, see below for more info)

K-12: $14 million (for-profit organization supporting online schooling, run by former DOE secretary Bill Bennett)

Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (CREO): $500,000 (Hispanic voucher promoting group)

Other organizations receiving federal bucks include: Center for Educational Reform, BAEO (Black Alliance for Educational Options, African American voucher group started by Milton Friedman).

Although it was mentioned in passing, I wished the program went a bit more into how the individuals of these organizations sit on each other's boards. A lot of inbreeding going on here, and it's quite mindboggling.
    The neo-conservative establishment mutates at an alarming rate: One think tank breeds another and it in turn breeds yet another and so on. Consider the following mutation as just one example. Jeanne Allen's (former official with the Department of Education under Reagan) Center for Education Reform (which has both Finn and Bennett on its board) used money from the Olin, Bradley, and Scaife foundations plus 3.5 million tax dollars from the U.S. Department of Education to generate the Education Leader's Council (ELC). The ELC supported the formation of Standards Work, Inc, a DC consulting group that created school "results cards." Additionally, the ELC joined forces with Chester E. Finn's Fordham Foundation and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ--Note that Finn sits on the board of the NCTQ) to form the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). Not surprisingly the board of ABCTE is made up of a "whose who" of the think tank network: Lisa Keegan, President of the ELC; E.D. Hirsch, Education Next Editorial Board; Fredrick Hess from Harvard's PEPG and editor of Education Next; and Abigail Thernstrom, the Manhattan Institute.
More pointed commentary about the ABCTE here.
    Founded in 2001, ABCTE has tested only 100 people, according to PFAW which is, in a perverse way, understandable since the rich right-wingers who created the entity fundamentally oppose certification of teachers!

    The fraudulent ABCTE is the offspring of the Education Leaders Council (ELC) and another wild misnomer the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Both owe their existences to the fantastically deep pockets of the Wal-Mart family and Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation, the parents and principal paymasters of the national voucher network. NCTQ is itself the mutant child of ELC the result of inbreeding among millionaire Republicans.
Color me naive. Are all discretionary funds this big? Maybe this is typical of all public agencies. But what a betrayal to spend so much money on anti-public education groups when basic funding for public education is getting squeezed at all levels and when NCLB requirements seek to suck more money, time and resources away from teachers and teaching kids.

What NOW doesn't mention directly is that the organizations above get ample funding by conservative foundations. And I would like to see more exploration of that. Next program on education?

For more info, NOW has a bit on vouchers on their website.