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Federal intrusion in college accreditation must be resisted

Ohanian Comment: Bainbridge is on the mark, rightly labeling this move as "liberal." Too often, we progressives like to label everything we don't like as "conservative."

And I still wonder about how the establishment of Western Governors University plans into all this. Take a look at With 19 Governors and 24 Corporations, You Can Have a University Funded by the U. S. Taxpayer

The claims at the launch of Western Governors University were the same as the claims now: They said the launch of WGU was inspired by their finding thatthe quality of learning in traditional institutions uneven and unreliable, while these institutions were too often uninterested in and unresponsive to state educational needs.

William L. Bainbridge

Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of education, has now incurred the wrath of former U.S. secretary of education and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Alexander reports he will block Spellings from federalizing higher education accreditation. Alexander, also formerly president of the University of Tennessee, said he will "offer an amendment when the Senate considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act."

Alexander's amendment would prohibit Spellings from issuing any final regulations on accreditation until Congress passes reauthorization.

This nation enjoys the most outstanding higher education system in the world. America's universities enroll huge numbers of foreign students.

Nevertheless, the Spellings Commission continues to push the liberal notion of unprecedented federal control over higher education. The commission's process sounds eerily similar to the No Child Left Behind act, which Spellings orchestrated. Spellings has attempted to direct school districts using No Child.

As one of the harshest critics of our nation's higher education system, Spellings took limited advantage of it as a student. Spellings is the first national education chief without a graduate degree and has zero experience in educational administration.

Her only teaching experience was as an uncertified substitute teacher. All of her predecessors held prominent positions and had experience at the policy level. This Texan was a political director for Gov. George W. Bush and later served as domestic policy adviser when Bush became president. There is no doubt she is a neo-conservative ideologue.

As chairman of the Education Policy Center of Texas, Charles Miller designed the flawed Texas school accountability system. Now Miller, appointed by Spellings to lead the higher education commission, claims: "American higher education is broken and can't be fixed."

Sound familiar? College and university leaders need to be ready to learn from their K-12 counterparts how federal intrusion can damage educational institutions.

St. Lawrence University President Daniel Sullivan blasted Spellings, calling the commission's report "a national embarrassment."

Duke University Vice Provost Judith Ruderman said: "The Spellings Commission set in motion a huge brouhaha. These initiatives will not really help higher education or increase accountability, but take away a good portion of what makes American higher education unique and effective. We don't want all this intrusion."

Our college and universities participate in a voluntary and independent accreditation process that sets high standards without control of the federal government. The process is not perfect, but it is far better than anything federal controls might produce.

During the reign of Spellings:

· There has been greatly expanded federal control of education, a role not authorized by the U.S. Constitution;

· The Secretary has been chastised in Congress for ignoring kickbacks and allowing student loan lenders to rake in millions with inflated interest rates;

· Massive high stakes testing has resulted in numerous scoring errors by testing vendors, unfairly punishing students, teachers and schools;

· The administration has advocated pay incentives for teachers and administrators based on the same flawed testing system;

· Her office is alleged to have permitted preferential treatment for campaign contributors who sold textbooks or tests in the $1 billion-a-year âReading Firstâ scandal of No Child;

· Connecticut state officials sued claiming No Child creates an unfair burden by requiring testing not paid for by the feds;

· The Secretary has taken credit for gains in National Assessment trend data collected in 1999 and 2004, when Clinton was President; and

· The Secretary has appeared on Comedy Central, American Idol and was the first ever Cabinet member to appear on Jeopardy, where she performed worse than parents would like their children to perform on federally mandated tests.

The president of the American Medical Association, William G. Plested III, when talking about the nation's health care funding model, recently told the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, "I would submit it is a mess because the federal government has been taking care of it."

Plested expressed sentiments about the federal government similar to those many feel about the meddling of Spellings, the largest usurpation of school district control ever.

At a time when the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and No Child are being considered, Congress needs to adopt anti-conflict-of-interest rules and investigate the use of nonprofits to fatten the wallets of their officers.

The president needs to replace his education secretary and remove the federal government from managing the nation's education system.


William L. Bainbridge, Ph.D., is Distinguished Research Professor - SchoolMatch Institute. E-mail: bainbridge@schoolmatch.com

— William L. Bainbridge
Florida Times-Union


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