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NCLB Outrages

Beware the No-Child Trojan horse

Where is Rod Paige now? Gloria Endres points out the danger of what he's up to. We should all keep an eye on him--or rather on the puppeteers pulling the strings.

By Gloria C. Endres

HE NO CHILD Left Behind Act, which is 5 years old, is up for reauthorization this year or next, depending on the politics. But it's not too early to be giving it a very skeptical look.

It was passed by a bipartisan vote, signed by President Bush and imposed on U.S. public schools as a mandate for reform. It was first implemented by then-Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, once superintendent of Houston schools and who helped elect Bush in 2000.

Remember Paige? He's the guy who called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." And what is he doing these days? He's now chairman of a consulting firm that helps school districts implement... No Child Left Behind. And where did he get the investment to start his business? Why, from the Florida state retirement system funded by members of a teachers union affiliated with that very same NEA.

Mr. Paige also has his fingerprints on other proposals that we should be wary of. He was part of a commission studying "The Skills of the American Workforce," which issued a report in December called "Tough Choices or Tough Times," which recommended changing the entire public-school system in the United States to prepare workers for competition in a global economy. One of them: outsourcing management of every school in the nation to private corporations.

Put another way, the commission, with members appointed by the Bush administration, proposes to commercialize the entire American public school system using tax dollars for capital. And they can use NCLB to accomplish this.

Here's how: Use the law to set an impossible standard like 100 percent proficiency in reading and math. Then, test the children for things they do not know. Finally, declare the whole thing a failure.

At that point, you can order the states to take the schools away from local districts. Then the state appoints a commission to hand those schools to private contractors who promise to get better test scores than the "terrorist" teachers unions.

If this process sounds familiar, it's because it is almost exactly what happened to Philadelphia. Our city is the first experiment in a state takeover of a major public school system. Harrisburg also took over the distressed Chester Upland schools and outsourced them entirely to for-profit Edison Schools, which was fired last year for gross mismanagement. (Edison's contract in Philadelphia is up for renewal this year.)

MR. PAIGE AND HIS cohorts don't want public education, which they consider an entitlement, to survive.

There is little profit in entitlements. But there is plenty to be made from a $500 billion national education budget, if you get the right people elected.

As we know, while the Trojans slept, Greeks hiding in the body of a wooden horse emerged to destroy the city. What had been presented as a great gift turned out to be an instrument of mass destruction. We let NCLB through the gates of public education. Its proponents are now prepared to make a killing.

Consider this a warning!

Gloria C. Endres is an adjunct assistant professor at the College of Education of Temple University. Her e-mail address is gendres@temple.edu.

— Gloria C. Endres
Philadelphia Daily News


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