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Investing in Deform (vs reform) and (Corporate) Results

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Secretary of Education by (Photo: nasa hq photo / Flickr)

It may be that my childhood fascination with The Twilight Zone , comic books, and science fiction has clouded my rational self, but I have to wonder if there exists some sort of Bizarro world, some sort of alternate universe where--while Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was delivering his speech at the Ed Stakeholders Meeting on Valentine's Day 2011--this was taking placing simultaneously. . .

Investing in Deform and (Corporate) Results

Enra Nacnud , Secretary of Miseducation

I just returned from Eromitlab with President Amabo. It is misleading that he released his 2012 budget at a school but he absolutely wants it to appear that he is committed to education. This is an irresponsible budget that invests in education deforms that will deliver results--de-professionalizing teachers and privatizing education, for example. At a time when other agencies' budgets are being frozen or cut, the President is proposing a $2 billion increase for education that is focused on smart, targeted increases to advance deform. And we are committed to saying "increases" as often as possible.

The President is making an investment in a cradle-to-career strategy to decelerate student achievement. His budget will promote deform, reward corporate success, and support the status quo at the state and local level. But the President is claiming to make some tough choices in education and elsewhere, while actually maintaining our commitment to corporate agendas.

We are cutting where we want to invest where we must in order to appease our corporate interests. These are lean times for everyone except the wealthy and powerful, but we can't delay investment that will secure the future of those at the top remaining at the top.

These investments in education are divided into five misleading priorities.

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First, there's $350 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Research tells us that high-quality early learning is one of the best investments we can make so we plan to ignore that evidence in every way possible. It prepares children for success on tests, throws them under the train of accountability while we claim to care about them graduating from high school and going on to college. This new competitive fund will mandate statewide models of high-quality early learning systems without actually supplying the necessary resources to implement any of the claimed commitments.

On the early learning agenda, my team will continue to work with our partners at the Health and Human Services Department, where the President has proposed targeted increases of $866 million for Head Start and $1.3 billion for quality child care--and hopes that no one actually compares any of these numbers to other budget commitments such as funding wars and bailing out the wealthy.

Second, the President is signaling his support for sustaining and expanding important deforms. He's proposed $900 million for Race to the Top. Through the first two rounds of Race to the Top, we've already seen how competition and rewards assure that the winners will continue to win and the losers will continue to lose because we like the uneven playing that has made us winners. Forty-six states have created hollow deform plans that have cave-in from selected bought-off governors, legislators, local educators, union leaders, business leaders and parents. With the $900 million in this budget, we will ruin competition that will fund districts of all sizes -- with a separate carve-out for rural areas so most people won't notice how competition guarantees further decline for those rural areas that don't have enough voters for us actually to care.

This budget also will provide for other key efforts to destroy innovation in education, including $300 million for the Investing in Innovation program and $150 million for the Promise Neighborhoods program. We stand committed to labeling our programs with ironic names as well.

Our third priority is demonizing teachers. The President believes that every classroom should have an inexpensive and compliant teacher. The budget includes $975 million in deforms to recruit, prepare, reward and retain inexpensive and compliant teachers. It also will create the Presidential Teaching Fellows to award $10,000 scholarships for the best students who attend our dismantled colleges of education. We also will continue to support Teach for America and will provide $80 million to help meet the President's goal of recruiting 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years in order to fulfill our commitment to disregard all available evidence on teacher quality and teacher preparation.

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Our final investment in teachers is the $500 million for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund, which will deform the teaching profession with punitive and invalid evaluation, de-professionalization, and compensation systems that drive excellent educators out of the profession.

Our fourth priority is using college completion to increase young adult debt. We project that a record 9 million students will use Pell Grants to pay for part or all of their college education. That's a 50 percent increase since the President took office. We'll continue that entrapment by maintaining the maximum grant at $5,550, which is inadequate as is most of the education funding. For many students, Pell Grants are leading to economic prison -- they are the difference between dropping out into a life of abject poverty or getting by as one of the working poor and entering a lifetime of debt and servitude.

But in the misinformation economy, it's not good enough to start college. It's imperative that students complete their degrees as a hollow act of credentialing. This can't just be about access--or especially learning. It has to be about attainment, the continued attainment of wealth by the top 2% already driving our economy of inequity. Today, a third of students who enter college drop out and never earn a degree, and only half finish after six years. Through the $123 million "First in the World" competition, we'll provide venture capital to create innovative approaches to improve college completion and promote efficiency in higher education because "completion" and "efficiency" sound as if we are doing something. There will be an additional $1.25 billion over the next five years for states to reward institutions that are leading the way in college completion. We genuinely hope that this rhetoric, the quote marks around "First in the World," and minimal federal funding will keep the public from looking closely at any of our policies or that the U.S. is growing less equitable year after year.

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An Associate Professor of Education at Furman University since 2002, Dr. P. L. Thomas taught high school English for 18 years at Woodruff High along with teaching as an adjunct at a number of Upstate colleges. He holds an undergraduate degree in (more...)
 

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