[MKE - Indymedia] magic bullet
pryz1 at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 19 08:17:53 PDT 2005
(Commentary published in educationnews.org July 19, 2005)
Outsourcing is NCLB magic bullet
By Daniel Pryzbyla
Prior to the No Child Left Behind education act, school choice was moving forward, but at a lethargic pace. Worse yet, in November 2000 elections, Michigan and California voters defeated voucher referenda by resounding 2-1 margins.
The upside for school choice proponents was pro-voucher Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush won (sic) the election. After officially taking office in 2001, President Bush beholden to his religious and corporate pro-voucher supporters in the closely contested presidential race included private school vouchers in the revised Title 1 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now No Child Left Behind. Still fresh from their resounding voucher referenda victories in California and Michigan, Democrats railed in protest, waging a contentious nation-wide political campaign against the inclusion of private school vouchers in NCLB. When the dust finally settled, vouchers were deleted from the 900-page education act. After a few other minor changes, NCLB was passed under the guise of being a bi-partisan victory for public education.
No sooner than the ink was dry and NCLB had been distributed throughout the country, details of high-stakes testing accountability with severe sanction repercussions began trickling down throughout the ranks of state public education districts. By the time it had reached the last rung on the ladder classroom teachers, of course NCLB nomenclature had been revised, now seen as the 900-page gorilla. Within months, its metaphorical highlight had reached public educations Top 10 pop chart: The devil is in the details! New U.S. Secretary of Education and former college football coach Roderick Page spent the rest of the year using his frequent flyer miles giving pep-talks to calm the fears and frustrations of their private voucher supporters, assuring them the removal of vouchers from NCLB was merely a setback, not a defeat. Wait until you hear about the high-stakes test hoops they have to jump through! When the sanctions start kicking in, students will be lining up on your doorsteps. Hang in there! God bless. Back at the fort, assistants were ordered to approve or disapprove each state districts compliance. No reviews take no prisoners. Some districts pleaded for amendments, time extensions. When they appeared in media headlines, the message was made clear to other possible miscreants. Go ahead, make my day!
Paige had delivered. Although vouchers have been superseded by the charter school movement the past several years, privatization zealots had overcome their sluggish pace. The U.S. Department of Educations 2004 report on public charter schools shows an increase from about 1,600 in the 1999-00 school year to about 2,700 in 2002-03 (most recent data available). Equally important, NCLB high-stakes testing and sanctions provided an increased marketplace for private testing companies, publishers, education technology, tutoring and numerous other education related private services. Growing numbers of schools within the private, religious and charter school programs received autonomy from any public constraints and oversight especially high stakes testing while still receiving public tax dollars. This was alluded to in the department report: Charter schools, by design, have greater autonomy over their curriculums, budgets, educational philosophies, and teaching staff than do traditional public schools.
Arizona, with 287 charters schools, second only to Californias 349 charters (most recent 2002 data), is attempting to outsource their private for-profit charter program to even a higher level. Education Week newspaper reported in its the July 13, 2005 issue the Bush administration agreed with the states officials that its for-profit charter schools should even be considered public schools. It appears the state is the only one that also allows for-profit companies to hold charters for schools, EW reporter Erik W. Robelen noted. Wading into a dispute between the Bush administration and Arizona officials, the House of Representatives is seeking to ensure that the for-profit charter schools can continue to receive aid under key federal programs. But theres a fly in the ointment. The Bush administration papers filed June 27 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix also contend, for-profit companies holding charters cannot be counted as local educational agencies that receive federal grant money under Title1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In other words, private, for-profit companies, to the chagrin of Arizona, cannot act as school districts. Never fear, just dial the NCLB 800 outsourcing hotline number.
Coming to the aid of Arizona for-profit companies unable to receive school district status was none other than the U.S. Department of Education, now under new chief Margaret Spellings. Susan Aspey, an Education Department spokeswoman, wrote Robelen, declined to comment on the lawsuit or the House action, but she noted that the department has offered to help the Arizona schools to comply with federal eligibility requirements. By eligibility she means allowing corporations to have school district authority. The agency has indicated, for instance, that the schools could be reconstituted as non-profit entities, independent of the companies that run them. This sounds like an education version of the Enron energy tomfoolery. Conversely, Spellings & Co. keep public school officials begging for miniscule changes in the draconian NCLB and IDEA rules to stay afloat, having to dot every i and cross every t before consideration. Expect state auditors to suffer nightmares if this corporate, for-profit Arizona education outsourcing scheme succeeds.
Many governments have succumbed to an ideological trend toward the privatization of many of their functions, P.W. Singer wrote in his essay Outsourcing War in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs. He is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Singer is the author of 2 books; The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Children at War. A whole raft of former state responsibilities including education, policing, and the operations of prisons were turned over to the marketplace. Private companies are becoming significant players in conflicts around the world, he said, supplying not merely the goods but also the services of war. Singer noted its not only Halliburtons questionable service fees, but the guns for hire issue too. Although recent well-publicized incidents from Abu Ghraib to Zimbabwe have shone unaccustomed light onto this new force in warfare private military firms (PMF) remain a poorly understood, and often unacknowledged, phenomenon. Mystery, myth, and conspiracy theory surround them, leaving policymakers and the public in positions of dangerous ignorance, he warned. Not many of us could deny that. How many people have even heard private managed firms mentioned in news coverage of the War in Iraq?
PMF represent, in other words, the corporate evolution of the age-old profession of mercenaries.
According to Singer, An estimated 6,000 non-Iraqi private contractors currently carry out armed tactical functions in Iraq. These individuals are sometimes described as security guards, but they are a far cry from the rent-a-cops who troll the food courts of U.S. shopping malls. In Iraq, their jobs include protecting important installations, such as corporate enclaves, U.S. facilities, and the Green Zone in Baghdad; also guarding key individuals (Ambassador Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, was protected by a Blackwater team that even had its own armed helicopters). Private military contractors have suffered an estimated 175 deaths and 900 wounded so far in Iraq (precise numbers are unavailable because the Pentagon does not track nonmilitary casualties) more than any single U.S. Army division, and more than the rest of the coalition combined, Singer asserted. The massive U.S. complex at Camp Doha in Kuwait, which served as the launch pad for the invasion, was not only built by a PMF, but also operated and guarded by one, he noted. They even helped operate combat systems such as the Armys Patriot missile batteries and the Navys Aegis missile-defense system. Do these cases make military outsourcing to PMFs a worthy public endeavor? Not in Singers opinion.
There must be far more openness about and public oversight of the basic numbers involved. Too little is known about the actual dollars spent on PMFs; the Pentagon does not even track the number of contractors working for it in Iraq, much less their casualties, he cautioned. According to the old military doctrine on contracting, if a function was mission-critical or emergency-essential that is if it could affect the very success or failure of an operation it was kept within the military itself. The rule also held that civilians were to be armed only under extraordinary circumstances and then only for self-protection. The United States should either return to these standards or create new ones; the present ad-hoc process is yielding poor results.
Increased outsourcing no matter in what public domain ad-hoc process brings with it many similar pitfalls most being accountability, oversight, and openness. NCLB demands these measures of its Title1 public schools, yet omits them from its outsourced, school sanctioned private benefactors.
pryz1 at earthlink.net
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