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Written by Ann Shibler on Wednesday, January 27 2010 14:04.

Arne DuncanThe Race to the Top (RTTT) is a competitive grant program that pushes Obama’s comprehensive education reform package and its dictates onto school districts that volunteer to be grant recipients. With the exposure the program is getting from school districts, teachers’ unions, and some states, there are some unsettling problems surfacing with certain aspects of the program.

The RTTT philosophy is the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s education plans. Education advocates in Washington are said to be “betting” that the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will have incorporated into it many of the RTTT requirements.  Therefore, is the RTTT a template or trial balloon for a new and expanded ESEA, or is it a prerequisite for something else?

Education Week reports that a certain amount of favoritism may come into play by the administration for those school districts who have played the game by adopting certain RTTT practices, making that “a contingency for receiving Title I aid for disadvantaged students” in the future. 

Another troubling aspect is that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pledged to conduct an open and transparent competition for the RTTT funds. In typical Obama administration fashion, there has been no transparency. In fact, there is quite a bit of downright secrecy.

The Department of Education (DOE) made no secret of their plan to hire between 50 to 80 “peer reviewers” to vet the hundreds of expected grant applications. The DOE selected 60 of these judges without disclosing what the requisites were for the job, or the expertise and experience of those chosen. Nonetheless these reviewers were then sent to a training session, with nothing being reported about the nature of the training received, what were the priorities, etc.  Even their compensation has been kept a secret. But worst of all, the DOE will not release the names of the judges who are expected to score the applications on a 500-point grading scale. But perhaps it doesn’t matter because the final say on who wins is still in the hands of Arne Duncan. 

Already the process is wasteful and corrupt because too much power has already been centralized in the unaccountable but burgeoning and interfering Department of Education.

Meaningful reform will happen only after we abandon the assembly line, one-size-fits-none pedagogy mismanaged by a secret and unelected top-heavy bureaucracy, and return to the true basics of education controlled by elected school boards with parental input at the local level.

Contact your congressmen today and insist that they refrain from further funding RTTT. Also contact your state legislators and governors, letting them know that withdrawal from federal money and control is the only solution for retaining any amount of local determination in educational matters. Then you can engage your local school board members in a discussion to help educate them on the issue, alerting them to the dangers of the unbreakable chains that come with federal money.

Written by Ann Shibler on Tuesday, January 26 2010 11:36.

BO EducationAs with the nationalization of the banking industry, auto industry, government health care, et al, the policies that could be a giant step toward nationalizing education are found in the program “Race to the Top” (RTTT), a comprehensive education reform plan currently being pushed by the president.

President Obama recently announced (see video below) his desire to extend the RTTT stimulus grant program and wants congress to approve $1.35 billion more for use in 2011, to be awarded to school districts and states that apply for, are approved, and sign on to the government’s requirements.  Applicants for the money are supposed to be pursuing new reforms, higher test scores, and more teacher accountability in innovative ways.

In reality, the Race to the Top is a program that would centralize education further than it already is, taking control away from local elected school boards and the state, and place it squarely under the dictates of the federal government via a national curricula and a host of other federal requirements. This would be more than a little shift in the balance of federal involvement in education.

Easily recognized as No Child Left Behind on steroids, the expansion of RTTT even seeks to circumvent states’ authority by, in future, allowing individual districts to apply for grant money -- not an option in round one of the giveaway -- even though the state has opted out, as in the case of Texas.

But even teachers’ unions in Michigan and Florida have recommended that districts not get involved with RTTT because of the possible ramifications teachers will face -- to quote one blogger Ken Mondschein, on

The NCLB [No Child Left Behind] philosophy is even worse for teachers, who are expected to pull up test scores without looking at why they’re so low.... This gives not just an incentive for teachers to rig the test, but basically mandates that they cheat so that they can keep their jobs.

Mondschein also stated, “Teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test,’ making kids into bubble-filling machines rather than thinkers.”

In California the school districts are so concerned about the strings attached to the money that is being waved from the White House Oval Office window that they have refused to sign their state’s RTTT applications. If they can figure this out in California, surely it must be obvious to officials in other states as well.

The Department of Education agents and secretary, Arne Duncan, will literally become the High Lords of Education if this nationalization takes place, as will Education Czar Kevin Jennings. The personal agenda of these appointed non-accountable bureaucrats could easily be promoted through such a scheme.

And this is why: The new programs and reforms will be subject to the approval and meddling of these bureaucrats. The requirements, currently marketed as good ideas, will increase learning time as a prerequisite for receiving the money (a longer day, away from the influence of family and church?). And new programs that engage the family with the community, either through the creation of community-oriented schools, or a partnering with a community-based organization are encouraged. The community-based organization that instantly leaps into minds is ACORN, but there are others that could also have deleterious effects on impressionable students. There is also the call to create all-day pre-kindergarten (just have to get little minds and bodies into the hands of the federal change agents as quickly as possible).

Another call to partnering with “health clinics, other State or local agencies, and others to create safe school environments that meet students’ social, emotional, and health needs,” really raises a red flag. Imagine the possibilities! Under the social, emotional and health needs umbrella, the use of comprehensive indoctrination that ignores basic morals and hygiene and the destruction of parental values and morals can usher the students, at all ages, into the world of sex obsession, gender confusion, and all sorts of unhealthy sexual activity much quicker and on a more massive scale than is being accomplished up to the present. Enormous increases would result in all forms of promiscuous and perverted behaviors, and a rise in pre-teen and teen pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer -- a Planned Parenthood clinic owners’ dream, but the moral downfall of this nation’s youth.

As with so many federal handout programs, RTTT started out being billed as a one-time shot-in-the-arm for cooperative states, about which one senior official now says, “you could envision this going on until we felt like we’ve made significant progress across the country.” Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution commented, “I generally applaud this administration’s policies, but I worry about it in terms of that degree of authority being given to a secretary of education. Now we see a shift to a strategy where the US Education Secretary will be able to control a pot of $1 billion a year.... a remarkable shift in terms of the number of carrots in the basket that the federal government has to hand out.”

We really must relate to our obviously cash-strapped school districts and state governors that we are not interested in receiving bribes in exchange for the loss of local control and a massive increase in federal control of our children’s education, and to resist the temptation to apply for any federal money. We must insist that bribes be rejected, along with the standardized testing, national curricula, outcome based techniques, and any other stealthy-engineered changes in our children’s social and emotional development that could easily be wrought. And when it comes to health care, we must see to our children’s ourselves, totally rejecting any federal involvement, meddling, or decision-making.

Contact your congressmen today and insist that they refrain from further funding for RTTT.  Then you can contact your local school board members to educate them on the issue, alerting them to the dangers of the unbreakable chains that come with federal money.  It would behoove everyone to also contact their state legislators and their state governors, letting them know that withdrawal from federal money and control is the only solution for retaining any local determination in educational matters.

Written by Warren Mass on Friday, November 06 2009 13:19.

“Ready, Willing, And Unable To Serve:” — a report released on November 5 by the non-profit organization Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids, along with Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (at left), asserts that: “75 percent of young Americans are unable to serve their country because they have either failed to graduate high school, engaged in criminal activity, or are physically or mentally unfit.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids describes itself on its website as follows:

"Mission: Readiness is the nonprofit, bi-partisan organization led by senior retired military leaders ensuring continued American security and prosperity into the 21st century by calling for smart investments in the next generation of American children."

Written by Samuel L. Blumenfeld on Thursday, October 15 2009 15:33.

School roomWe would not have to ask the above question if public education had not become the great, costly, and tragic failure that it is. It has failed the children, but in reality it has not failed the progressives. They were the ones who engineered the dumbing-down process which parents and taxpayers continue to pay for. But it is the children who suffer in terms of becoming intellectually disabled, semi-literate, disoriented, frustrated, and terribly unhappy. But what is even a bit disheartening is that many liberals still believe that government schooling has been a noble experiment.

Perhaps Walter Lippmann, the great liberal pundit, best expressed liberal disappointment in the great experiment when he wrote in 1941, while World War II was raging in Europe: “Universal and compulsory modern education was established by the emancipated democracies during the nineteenth century. ‘No other foundation can be devised,’ said Thomas Jefferson, ‘for the preservation of freedom and happiness.’ Yet as a matter of fact during the twentieth century the generations trained in these schools have either abandoned their liberties or they have not known, until the last desperate moment, how to defend them. The schools were to make men free. They have been in operation for some sixty or seventy years and what was expected of them they have not done. The plain fact is that the graduates of the modern schools are the actors in the catastrophe which has befallen our civilization. Those who are responsible for modern education -- for its controlling philosophy -- are answerable for the results.”

Unfortunately, they have not been answerable for the results. In fact, if you read today’s slick professional education journals, you detect great pride in what they’ve accomplished. And of course, since the time Lippmann wrote as he did, we have had any number of wars — Korea, Vietnam, First Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — with no end in sight. Not even Lippmann would have foreseen our war against Islamic terrorism. In fact, on September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked in a manner that no one could have predicted. It was worse than Pearl Harbor, and the reason why the terrorists succeeded was because what they planned and successfully carried out was too diabolical to be believed. It required believing the unbelievable. A well-educated people is supposed to believe the unbelievable when warranted.

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Written by Brian Farmer on Friday, March 27 2009 11:42.

CapitolOn March 18 the House of Representatives passed the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act or GIVE Act (H.R. 1388) to reauthorize and reform various national service laws. Among the many provisions of the legislation are those which would:

• Greatly expand the paid volunteer AmeriCorps program and increase funding for national and community service programs to $6 billion through 2014.
• Establish an education awards program authorizing the Corporation for National and Community Service (referred to throughout the bill as “the Corporation”) to provide grants to programs that have approved national service positions but no AmeriCorps funding.
• Require states to develop comprehensive plans for volunteer and paid service by older adults.
• Direct the Corporation to plan pilot programs, including one to establish a centralized electronic citizen verification system which would allow the Corporation to share employment eligibility information with the Department of Education.

Unfortunately, not enough members of Congress have expressed concern over funding oxymoronic “paid volunteer” programs, especially considering that some of those programs have been audited and judged to be ineffective by the Office of Management and Budget.

In order to qualify for education awards funding, schools would naturally have to meet certain criteria. Here is one example taken verbatim from the bill:

(3) YOUTH ENGAGEMENT ZONE PROGRAM- The term `youth engagement zone program' means a service learning program in which members of an eligible partnership described in paragraph (4) collaborate to provide coordinated school-based or community-based service learning opportunities, to address a specific community challenge, for an increasing percentage of out-of-school youth and secondary school students served by local educational agencies where--
(A) not less than 90 percent of the students participate in service-learning activities as part of the program; or
(B) service-learning is a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency.

That raises a couple of interesting questions.  Is “service learning” really concerned with education, or is it really about indoctrination? And, if these programs are supposed to be about volunteerism, then why are some aspects of them “mandatory”?

The U.S. Constitution sets up the federal government to be the servant of the states, not their master. So, the federal government has no business requiring the states to come up with plans for any kind of national service programs!

One can’t help but be a little suspicious of a centralized electronic verification system that ties employment eligibility with the Department of Education. Could this evolve into a situation where individuals would be ineligible to work if they did not perform some national or community service requirement while in school?

The phrase “service-learning” appears throughout this legislation. What starts out as a bill trying to encourage volunteerism is really the thin edge of the wedge that ultimately is headed toward mandating service to the state. It is a cunning and underhanded way to indoctrinate the younger generation into a collectivist mindset, and then channeling their time and effort into projects approved by the state.

For more on this topic, see this article posted on The New American website.

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