By Steve Baldwin, A Western Journal Exclusive
In the aftermath of Obama’s controversial speech to America’s school children, it is a good time to take a look at the agenda his regime has planned for America’s public schools and let me assure you, it’s an agenda that all Americans should be concerned about.
For starters, everyone needs to understand the depth to which the teachers union was involved in Obama’s campaign and the power they now wield within his education department. Not surprisingly, the National Education Association (NEA) endorsed Obama and worked hard for his election. Indeed, it was recently announced that Jo Anderson Jr. was appointed as senior advisor at the Department of Edicaiton. Previously, Anderson was executive director of the Illinois NEA affiliate. Moreover, the NEA is a one of the largest donors to the Democrat Party. Thus, it is highly unlikely any new policy or “reform” will be put forth without the NEA’s stamp of approval.
In order to clearly understand Obama’s real educational agenda, one also needs to understand Obama’s history in regards to education philosophy. Obama served as the first chairman of the board of the Annenberg Challenge Education Initiative. During this time, his former Weather Underground terrorist buddy, Bill Ayers essentially ran the program. This group received $150 million dollars from the Annenberg Foundation with the purpose of improving the academic performance of 210 select Chicago public schools.
Ayer’s statements over the years make it clear that he believes education is more about transforming society than imparting knowledge. Ayers gave a speech in Caracas, Venezuela in which he praised Hugo Chavez and stated that “we share the belief that education is the motor force of motor-force of revolution” and also spoke of the “failings of capitalist education.” He also asserted that “teaching invites transformation, it urges revolutions small and large.” Ayers also believes that teacher education programs should serve as “sites of resistance,” referring to American society.
Incredibly, there’s nothing in the record to suggest that Obama objected to how Ayers used the Annenberg Challenge funds to support all types of kooky, hard left, educational projects. Indeed, the records show quite the contrary and as President of the Annenberg Challenge board, Obama signed off on all projects. Clearly, Obama shared Ayer’s vision of using education to transform society. The two even gave Annenberg money to ACORN (For what? Training kids how to stack elections?) and to groups such as the South Shore African Village Collaborative in order to promote “afro-centricity” in the schools. Meanwhile, kids were dropping out of Chicagos’ schools in droves.
The evidence dug up by researchers reveal that Obama and Ayers wasted over $150 million dollars in Annenberg Foundation funds by supporting unproven education practices and funneling money to wacky groups whose goal was to politicize the education process. The archives of the Annenberg Challenge show that its approach to education reform was to steer school children away from core academics and immerse them in issues such as “inequity, war, and violence.”
The records reveal that the Annenberg Challenge was hostile to any reforms that involved accountability measures and funded “reform” groups openly critical of standardized testing. A 1999 Annenberg Challenge report stated “accountability systems neither encourage nor help schools to adopt reflective methods for continuous improvement.” Naturally, after five years of spending like drunken sailors on every educational fad imaginable, the foundation was unable to show any academic progress for its efforts.
Indeed, a 2003 a report by the Chicago Annenberg Research Project, a group entrusted with analyzing the results of the Annenberg Challenge, found that “there were no statistically significant difference in student achievement between Annenberg Schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.” And that was just in academics.
Even in the touchy-feely areas of “student’s sense of self-efficacy and social competence” the report found “there were no statistically significant differences in these outcomes between Annenberg [funded] schools and non-Annenberg schools.” It gets worse, the report revealed that in some areas such as “student peer support for academic learning, inclusive school leadership, and teacher commitment,” these “failed to improve and some weakened.”
How can one spend $150 million on 210 public schools and not only have zero academic improvement but actually make things worse in some areas? Well, don’t ask the media; they refused to touch this story. The New York Times had access to the Annenberg Challenge records and obviously made a purposeful decision to ignore this part of Obama’s history. This story was certainly relevant to the campaign since Obama’s tenure with the Annenberg Challenge was his ONLY executive experience running anything. In the real world, with that kind of record, Obama wouldn’t have been hired to run a McDonald’s—now he’s running the country!
Ironically, how Obama managed this project sounds a lot like his stimulus bill and, indeed, quite similar to his current education proposals: spend lots of other people’s money on programs based on wacky theories, refuse to institute any accountability measures, and pray that something works.
The record of how Obama and Ayers worked closely together and wasted $150 million dollars is so embarrassing that Obama supporters tried, unsuccessfully, to block researchers from accessing the records of the Annenberg Challenge, now held by the University of Illinois.
Obama’s current education proposals have been largely ignored, but appear to be a repeat of his Annenberg Challenge years. His proposals will have far reaching consequences, as they involve a massive increase in federal funding and will result in increased federal regulation with a corresponding loss of local control and accountability. Indeed, Obama has allocated $110 billion in stimulus funds alone to education, and that’s not counting the normal education budget. The areas heavily funded are largely teacher preparation, universal pre-school, child care, and after school programs.
While this federalization trend began long before “the Messiah” came to power, he has dramatically increased the speed of this transition. Traditionally, the policy areas targeted by Obama were funded by school districts and states but, of course, with federal dollars, come federal control. What we are watching here is the transformation of schools from being locally controlled entities, to basically a branch of the Federal Government. This is what Obama means by education reform.
The history of federal involvement in education is a miserable one. Despite 30 years of Federal Government involvement in education, there is very little evidence such involvement has improved public schools. In fact, by slowly removing local control and accountability, it probably has made things worse. Our founding fathers would be appalled.
Even if you accept the idea that federal funding could be an avenue for reforming our schools, you would want some type of merited accountability. However, despite Obama’s rhetoric about how he will reform the way schools operate using stimulus funds, his own DOE issued a “guidance” document last April making clear that schools will be able to receive 90% of its stimulus money up front, thereby sabotaging any incentive for schools to initiate reforms as originally asked to do. In other words, there are no incentives whatsoever in the stimulus regulations that would lead schools to undertake reforms.
Furthermore, the guidance document states that stimulus funds can be used for non-academic items, such as: paying off past debt or buying cafeteria equipment. Governors were also informed that they cannot force school districts to spend the stimulus money on implementing state education reforms. Lastly, the guidance makes clear that states don’t have to demonstrate any progress toward any reforms in order to get the remaining 10% of the stimulus funds. This sounds vaguely familiar to the Annenberg Challenge—lots of money flying around with no accountability. The thought can’t help but make one feel that they’ve entered into the “Obama era” of bizarre reform and outrageous spending.
This does not come as a surprise however; his education advisor during the presidential campaign was Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education theorist hostile to charter schools, performance pay and accountability. These are all issues pro-Obama education reformers thought he supported (talk about suckers). The Center for Education Reform, a pro-accountability, pro-charter, pro-choice education group, wrote that, “On every issue relating to education, Darling-Hammond is far from a reformer.”
Moreover, Darling-Hammond wrote an education blueprint for the Obama campaign that listed the repayment of the “education debt” as its #1 priority. After combing through all the wacky touchy-feely education websites, one can find that the phrase basically means racial reparations. Racial reparations are based on the theory that due to slavery and discrimination, we owe blacks centuries of education funding. This means the Department of Education will be looking for ways for funnel billions of dollars to black students at the exclusion of other students. I’m sure the Obamaites at DOE will figure out how to do this without being obvious, even if they have to disguise such a program. Incidentally, Bill Ayers endorsed this concept so you can be sure Obama thinks highly of it.
What about charter schools and merit pay? Isn’t Obama breaking from the union on these two issues, as reported by the media? Well, the reality of the situation is a bit different. On charter schools, Obama blabbed repeatedly about how charter schools need to become more “accountable,” which, in this case, is code for forcing them to comply with many of the same onerous regulations normal schools have to contend with, which defeats the whole purpose of charter schools.
This is quite odd since charter schools are one of the few bright spots in public education today, but explains why union leaders were applauding Obama’s statement. In addition, charter schools are and have been a state policy issue, so any new charter school regulations sought by Obama would naturally be federal regulations, thus making it the first time ever charter schools have been subject to federal regulations. The beginning of the federalization of charter school law is a sure fire way to kill the charter school movement.
Some people even believe Obama favored education choice based upon a February, 2008 statement he made in Milwaukee, the scene of the nation’s most successful voucher program. When asked about it, he said, “Let’s see if this [school voucher] experiment works, and then if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what’s best for the kids.” That has turned out to be nothing but spin. Within hours, his campaign issued a statement saying, ”Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers” and Obama also gave a speech to the NEA stating he opposes “using public money for private school vouchers.”
More alarming, one of Obama’s first education actions as President was to sign a spending bill that contained language killing the academically successful D.C. voucher program which targeted mostly inner-city minority children. After an outcry, he announced he would try to maintain the funds for those currently in the program but once they graduate, the program will be shut down. Thus, Obama destroyed the one hope many inner city DC families had that their children will get a decent education. Obama is the first president in history to kill an existing school choice program. Incidentally, the DC school system spent only a third per child than what they spent on students in its normal crime-ridden, drug infested schools.
Indeed, DC’s schools ranked last in math and second to last in reading scores for all urban school systems in the country, but Obama doesn’t give a damn about that; he wants to close down the only education program in DC that’s working. Once again, Obama is not about “reform,” but rather power and control. This act was simply appeasing the NEA who lobbied him for months to shut this program down.
In his NEA speech Obama claimed to be a “proponent of public school choice” which allows families to choose which bad public school they want their children to attend. While this issue has little impact on school reform, it turns out to be a lie as well. In a letter sent out to chief state school officers last April, a new regulation was announced that make it almost impossible for parents to utilize the public school choice law.
While Obama has no problem shutting down education choice for disadvantaged families, he has had the privileged of enjoying education choice most his life for both him and his family. As a child, Obama attended both a private Catholic school and a state Islamic school in Indonesia but after moving back to Hawaii, he attended an elite private school from 5th grade on. Before moving to Washington DC, Obama’s daughters attended the private University of Chicago Laboratory School at which tuition ranged from $15, 528 to $20,445. After Obama conned his way into the White House, his girls were then enrolled in the super elite Sidwell Friends Academy, where tuition begins at $28,000—what hypocrisy!
On the merit pay issue, what Obama actually told the NEA is that any merit pay proposals will be “developed with teachers, not imposed on teachers.” The NEA is happy with that because they know they will be involved in any proposed merit pay legislation, thus ensuring it will be designed so that union “rah-rahs” will be the ones climbing the merit pay ladder, while dissident anti-union teachers will be passed over. Also, like the charter school issue, merit pay has always been a local or state issue so this appears to be yet more federal interference in what should be the prerogative of local school boards and administrators. This would prove to be disastrous.
One of the largest programs Obama is funding in his education budget is universal pre-school, an issue Obama apparently knows little about. This budget item will cost $10 billion alone to initiate and billions more to sustain it but it is an outrageously wasteful idea. There are really no long term studies showing any significant academic improvement in children who attend pre-school and there never has been. There are, however, a few, very tiny, very expensive pre-school programs targeting poor children that have shown some positive effects, but numerous studies have demonstrated that such a program can’t be replicated with the general student population.
As former Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn states, “the overwhelming majority of studies show that most pre-k programs have little to none educational impact” and that whatever effect it has, it fades by the 3rd grade. In fact, a Stanford University study found that pre-school kids were less motivated in class and a Canadian study found that such kids have a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills. Indeed, Finland out-performs most of the world in reading, math and science and its kids don’t even start school until they’re seven.
You can also expect the Obama regime to dramatically increase funding for “comprehensive” sex education programs, an approach he has supported throughout his political career. Incredibly, this approach holds that children are sexual at five and should be taught how to have sex “safely” as soon as possible. Indeed, the McCain campaign attacked Obama for supporting such legislation, which Obama denied. McCain was correct and the legislative records of the Illinois State Senate show clearly that Obama voted for legislation that introduced kindergartners to sex education.
On a related issue, Obama also believes in introducing children to homosexuality at a very young age as demonstrated by his appointment of Kevin Jennings to be an Assistant Secretary of Education. Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group dedicated to promoting the homosexual lifestyle to children as young as five. GLSEN also promotes books that feature adult-children sex. And now Jennings is in a position to federalize his perverted views.
So what does this mean? It means that the destruction of our sexual mores initiated by Kinsey four decades ago – often called the “sexual revolution” — will dramatically increase. The number of unwanted pregnancies, STDs and AIDs cases will likely skyrocket among school children during the Obama years.
Finally, Obama’s choice to lead the DOE is Arne Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.
He’s the perfect choice for the Obama regime since he shares Obama ideas on opposing education choice, opposing accountability, supporting “comprehensive” sex education and promoting the homosexual lifestyle to our children. Indeed, while in Chicago, Duncan created special schools for alleged homosexual youth based on the ignorant belief that homosexuality is a natural condition, an idea not supported by any research whatsoever. If anything, our schools should be counseling students to avoid a lifestyle that studies show, at least for males, leads to a lifespan considerably shorter than normal.
Obama appointed Duncan, he claims, due to his alleged success with improving the academic performance of Chicago’s public schools. Despite spending over $13,000 per pupil – one of the highest in the country – in 2007 only 10% of 4th grade black students in Chicago tested at the proficient level in reading and only 8% tested at the proficient level in math. A majority of Chicago public school students drop out or fail to graduate with their class. This is pathetic.
This is the man Obama selected to “reform” public education in America. This is Obama’s real agenda. He is spending wildly without any accountability whatsoever and with his radical agenda to corrupt the minds of our children, youth and innocence is nostalgia of a childhood once remembered. God help us.