Conspiracy to end public schools?

Does the Bush administration want to undermine and eliminate public education?
To my amazement, I was told today that many people in education would emphatically answer yes.
What are the thoughts of people who post on or read
Ed Blume

15 thoughts on “Conspiracy to end public schools?”

  1. This is nothing new. Ever since Bennett was the Sec. of Education under Reagan, it’s been apparent that the Republican party wants to privatize education so that their big donors can monopolize the system and make a tidy profit. Just look at how Wisconsin Republicans have gutted funding for public schools while they push for vouchers in the private sector.

  2. David,
    For decades, many public schools have not performed as well as they should. The causes, offered up by the educrats: not enough money, rotten parents and rotten kids. A short time ago, relatively, competition and freedom were injected into the system. (If history were taught properly we would know that the competitive spirit and freedom got us our Constitution, the railroads and cool moonrocks in the Smithsonian).
    What the left fails to realize is that the money spent on education does not belong to the public school system, the WEA or the NEA or the DPI. It belongs to the kid that will be educated. I’ll repeat that….It belongs to the student!!!
    So a system is put in place to allow the kid to spend his money where he wants to. It’s called choice. You demand choice for a 15 year old who wants an abortion….don’t you.
    To suggest that private and public systems can’t exist side by side is ridiculous. Harvard, Yale Marquette, etc., are private. Do they detract from the quality of state schools?
    The left’s playbook argument on this issue needs revising.

  3. Reed: Don’t go making assumptions that I DEMAND a choice for a 15 yr old wanting an abortion or anything else, for that matter. You don’t know me, so don’t go putting words in MY mouth. FYI, I’m a product of a private school, chump.

  4. My reference to 15 year old choice was directed toward the left in general, not you specifically.
    It all depends on what you mean by “you”. By “you” do you mean you specifically or you in general as in “you guys”.
    No offense was intended, Mr. Cohen.
    BTW, I would like to see the state or federal budget figures you used to support your claim that republicans have “gutted” public school spending.

  5. Ed:
    My view is that Bush himself, and the Bush administration’s chief education architects (Spellings, others), don’t want to “dismantle” public education. That’s the equivalent of dismantling the interstate highway system — unlikely, given its breadth and scope. (Some folks, Milton Friedman among them, endorse something like a 100 percent voucher system, in which all public K-12 dollars go directly to families of children, who use them to educate children in any way they so desire. But that’s an extreme take on what is, currently, a fairly limited use of vouchers nationally.)
    But, I do think Bush (mainly through NCLB) wants to inject some notions of competition and accountability perceived as previously lacking in public schools. Is that best done through federal legislation? One wonders; my own view is that NCLB has all manner of problems wrapped around a central thrust with which I agree — accountability for how schools educate children.
    To take exception to Dave’s point, education spending in Wisconsin has overall been going up, not down, in the past decade (at least, since Thompson and the Legislature passed two-thirds funding back in the mid-1990s). Does Wisconsin’s school financing system need some kind of fix? Probably. Does it adequately address the needs of a district like Madison, with declining enrollment and a disporportionate share (relative to the rest of the state) of what’s viewed as hard-to-educate children? I’m guessing, from Dave’s point of view, no. But funding for education in Wisconsin, in the aggregate, has not declined. Whether it’s good financing system, is another thread.
    To take exception to one of Reed’s points, comparing public K-12 school systems to our nation’s higher education system is a pretty significant apples-and-oranges argument. I know of no legislation that requires children to be educated past the 12th grade; attending college at any level (vo-tech, UW campuses, the Ivies) is a privilege bestowed upon students who meet certain requirements. Attending K-12 public schools is a right given to (I think) every child in the country; it’s written into our state constitution. That makes a huge difference in the ability (and restrictions) of those education institutions — colleges vs. public schools — to do certain things. Public schools HAVE to educate everyone who walks through their doors; colleges do not. Can public schools learn from some of the approaches of colleges? Sure; the entire specialized charter school movement is largely a reflection of the specialized nature of many higher education institutions. Can public schools benefit from some kind of competition being injected into K-12 schools? Sure, but that competition exists now, and has for more than a century.
    The central question is: how much competition should public authorities (school boards, legislatures, the Congress, Bush) proscribe, and to what extent should public money be used to foster that competition?
    As for dismantling — no, I don’t think you can make the case for that. But, take a few steps back. Public schools operate — largely — the same way they did in the 19th century. Classes of children sit before a teacher, who instructs them. Children go to school nine months a year, with summers off. Know of any other major institutions in our country with such an enduring model? I don’t. Has it served our country well? In the main, undoubtedly. Is it a model that serves our country’s children well, given the nature of the world today? Discuss…
    But I’m not surprised that an activist president like Bush (and I use the word activist in neither a positive nor negative way, just a way to characterize his approach to many, many things) would look at our public schools and advocate changes.

  6. Hmmmm…let’s see..locally, Republican Gov. Thompson changed how public schools are financed, removing the burden (by massive cuts) from the corporate tax structure and shifting it to property tax payers. He then changed the funding formula, which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, has pushed many districts to the brink of bankruptcy, all the while reneging on his pledge to fund public education’s special ed needs up to 64%…all of this backed up by a Republican legislature that has refused to look at funding formulas.
    On the national scene, led by Bill Bennett, several large “education” corporations have attempted to take over the management of public schools. Corporations don’t operate to break even, they operate to make a profit.

  7. David:
    Let’s be fair in discussions about the evolution of Wisconsin’s system of funding schools. Thompson, a Republican, and the Democratic-controlled (at the time) Legislature, enacted two-thirds funding. Two-thirds funding also came with the two components that are the essential contradiction of our school financing system — the QEO, and revenue caps (While the QEO is criticized — correctly or not, depending on your point of view — by teachers as a wage cap, it’s seen by school boards as the absolute foundation which drives nearly all school funding. For a large portion of a district’s expenses — its teaching labor — the QEO guarantees spending will increase by 3.8 percent every year.) Two-thirds came about after the Thompson-led effort to reduce taxes on businesses (a tax reduction pushed through a Democratic-controlled Legislature.) Doyle, a Democrat, in the face of a very tough budget when he took office, backed off two-thirds, and reached agreement on doing so with a Republican-controlled Legislature. True, the current Republican-controlled Legislature wants to spend less on education than Doyle does, but in general, in the past 10 years, spending on public K-12 education in Wisconsin continues to go up, not down.
    As for Bennett, I know of no education corporations that have attempted to take over the management of the local school district with which I’m most familiar. A few parents, yes, but no education corporation.

  8. I’ll agree that the QEO has wreaked havoc on local district’s ability to bargain on labor costs. That the Gov. and Legislature purposely shifted the financing burden onto property owners and away from corporations is a major impediment to local districts passing spending referendums because taxpayers have reached their limit- so this effectively screws us. There has been no corporate takeover of districts in Wisconsin, but there have been numerous attempts in Pennsylvania and a few have been successful elsewhere on the east coast, though last I heard they had failed to make any measureable difference in quality. At any rate, from where I sit, the conservative right wants to see public education (as we know it) destroyed…and that would also make it easier to teach creationism, mix in religion with education, etc…all of their “admirable goals”.
    Maybe since Ed brought it up, he could expand upon what he “heard”.

  9. You seem to use the term conspiracy in an attempt to paint those who agree with that idea as crazy. That’s fine. But it doesn’t take an investigative reporter to see that the Bush administrations policies have done little but burden this country’s public school system with an unfunded mandate and encouraged programs that will further weaken, not strengthen it.

  10. David,
    #1 I own a very small corporation. The buildings sit on land. The land is within our school district. I pay property taxes on the land my buildings are built upon. Where in heaven have you been indoctrinated with the silly notion that Wisconsin corporations do not pay property taxes for schools. As I said in an earlier post, you need a new playbook.
    #2 Sure a few schools here and there have been taken over by the state and put in the hands of greedy corporations. If you took the time to find out about those schools, you would know they had graduation rates around 30% and reading/math scores below that. What would you propose should have been done. Please answer that. Wait, I know….more money.
    #3 In an earlier post you said that corporations don’t operate to break even, they operate to make a profit. Again you are wrong. Corporations do not exist to make profits, they exist to make products or services that people want to buy. If they are successful, profits may arise from the sales. Corporations pay property taxes on the land they own. If the corporation sells lots of stuff and is very successful, the people working for the corporation make more money and buy bigger houses resulting in more property taxes. (I can’t believe its 2006 and this still has to be explained to some people)
    #4 You’re funny. Bush couldn’t dismantle NPR or the funding for the arts, yet you think he’ll dismantle the NEA, WEA, DPI and Federal Dept. of Education. Whoa Nelly!
    #5 Yes, and when Bush destroys public education, religious leaders will swarm into the newly captured public schools and teach unspeakable horrors like love thy neighbor, do not covet, do not steal, honor thy father and thy mother, don’t fool around with someone who isn’t your husband or wife and other such destabilizing propaganda.

  11. No. Education is a state and local issue, predominately. There really is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that gives the federal government the power to establish or end public education. On the contrary, most state constitutions include language requiring the state to provide an equal and adequate public education. So, even if Bush wanted to eliminate public education (which he doesn’t), he couldn’t.
    Second, the controversy over funding education is not limited to Wisconsin. Expenditures of K-12 education are probably the largest budget item that every state has (though health care may be close). Education funding is always at issue in every legislative session in every state. Nearly all states undergo, from time to time, this same agonizing struggle over how to fund education–what mix of taxes to use, how much to spend. A number of states have various and sundry ways to limit the increase in education expenditures.
    As with a lot of the policy that has come from the Bush administration, much of its education program has had really bad unintended consquences. Really awful ideas do float out of the rightwing think tanks, but the incompetence of the individuals involved in implementing the Bush adminstration’s education policies are of more concern.

  12. I never said corps dont pay property tax, I said they had their taxes drastically reduced..again, you go putting words in my mouth. You have learned well from Messrs. Hannity and O’Reilly! And I never said Bush is dismantling anything. I said that he and his ilk WANT to, not that they have the time or the power. Get a grip, before you know it, you’ll tell us that Reading Recovery is somehow at the root of all things evil! It’s true that more money won’t fix everything, but properly utilized, more money can sure help skyrocketing numbers in special ed and ESL. I’m not convinced it will help in the case of poverty and parents who don;t care…that is why we have these discussions right, because we do care?

  13. I think Bush is drawing too much upon his brief experiences at Midland Junior High before he transferred to his boarding school back East. (Now, I’m just teasing my Texas cousins!)
    I’m not too sure that the Bush administration actually wants to destroy public education– it’s too convenient a punching bag with which to energize “the base.”
    But to set up a system whereby all public schools will eventually be labelled as “failing” does lend credence to this suspicion.

  14. A true story about Bill Bennett
    By Reed Hundt
    When I was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), I asked Bill Bennett to visit my office so that I could ask him for help in seeking legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country. Eventually Senators Olympia Snowe and Jay Rockefeller, with the White House leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, put that provision in the Telecommunications Law of 1996, and today nearly 90% of all classrooms and libraries do have such access. The schools covered were public and private. So far the federal funding (actually collected from everyone as part of the phone bill) has been matched more or less equally with school district funding to total about $20 billion over the last seven years. More than 90% of all teachers praise the impact of such technology on their work. At any rate, since Mr. Bennett had been Secretary of Education I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers,charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education. Well, I thought, at least he’s candid about his true views. The key Senate committee voted almost on party lines on the bill, all D’s for and all R’s against, except one — Olympia Snowe. Her support provided the margin of victory. On the House side, Speaker Gingrich made sure the provision was not in the companion bill, but in conference again Senators Snowe and Rockefeller, with White House support, made the difference. The Internet has been the first technology made available to students in poorly funded schools at about the same time and in about the same way as to students in well funded schools

  15. Dear Messrs Snodgrass & Hundt,
    1) There is no proof that internet access has had any beneficial affect on student academic performance. Flat ACT, SAT and state tests bear that out. The fact that 90% of teachers like it is irrelevent.
    2) I am reminded of the Gore Tax every time I pay my phone bill. Now that everyone is wired, the associated costs should be lower and for maintenance only…..rght? When will my Gore Tax decrease, huh Mr. Hundt?
    3) I don’t believe Mr. Bennett said any of those things to you, Mr. Hundt. If you can’t prove it, you should be quiet. Mr. Bennett was not against the internet in schools. He was against having the federal government paying for it through taxation. I notice from your bio, Mr. Hundt, that you graduated Yale Law School. You must have missed the day in Evidence class when they were talking about hearsay.
    4) Wiring schools with a little financial help from the fed forced many poor districts to invest huge sums (out of their own budgets)in computer hardware, software, staff technicians, smart walls, etc., to use the net. These funds were diverted from textbooks, libraries, reading programs, GT programs, etc….all for no academic benefit….a big fat boondoggle.
    5) I remember Mr Hundt’s boss AL Gore on CNN being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer in 1999:
    “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” In true liberal fashion, Mr Gore couldn’t sell his product so he forced the taxpayers to buy it.
    More on Hundt here.
    Taxing the American people to wire the schools is nothing to be proud of.

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