- Leaving all children behind. The shamelessly misnamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, a cornerstone of Bush’s domestic agenda, uses the rhetoric of “accountability” to undermine public education via a monomaniacal obsession with standardized tests and a trigger-happy willingness to label schools a failure.
- Vouching for vouchers. When schools “fail,” as NCLB ensures they will, vouchers and privatization will be presented as the necessary alternatives. Bush already has signed legislation for the first federal voucher program for private schools—a $50 million “experiment” in Washington, D.C. that is a stalking horse for a national program.
- Crusading for Christ. The Education Department is stocked with anti-union privatizers and religious zealots. Most notable is Secretary of Education Secretary Rod Paige, who has branded the National Education Association a “terrorist organization” and has said he prefers having children in Christian schools than in public schools “where there are so many kids with different values and different faiths.”
- Promoting privatization plans. From 2001 to 2003, the Department of Education gave almost $78 million in grants to conservative groups promoting privatization. Further, almost two-thirds of NCLB dollars for ”supplemental” tutoring are being given to private companies. Overall, some 1,000 private companies are vying for the $2 billion-plus tutoring market.
- Failing to adequately fund. The Bush 2005 budget underfunds NCLB by billions of dollars—and that’s just to fund the law’s testing. It would take about a 30 percent annual increase in school spending for states to actually meet the testing goals. In addition, Bush’s 2005 budget eliminates monies for 38 education programs such as dropout prevention.
Barbara Miner is a journalist based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.