Cutting through Obama’s education nonsense

January 26, 2011

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night. I rarely do, as the event has become little more than a partisan “Speech from the Throne” in which presidents lay out their agenda and play for applause lines. I’d much rather they save the joint sessions for occasions of genuine national importance and go back to the tradition of sending a written report to Congress and be done with it.

Anyway, President Obama apparently gave a lot of time (In a 62-minute speech. Talk about a windbag!) to education, stating the usual platitudes and recommending the customary statist patent remedies of —guess what?— more spending. Oh, what a surprise.

Leave it to Michelle Malkin to marshal the facts to blow away the fog created by Obama hucksterism on behalf of a failing public school system and the unions that feed on it. First, she recounts all the federal money that’s been flushed down that drain so far:

Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. One in 10 high schools is a dropout factory. And our students’ performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether.

Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget already represents “one of the largest increases” in federal education spending history, and hikes total discretionary spending to nearly $51 billion. Toss in another $35 billion for mandatory Pell grants. And add another $4 billion for the illusory “Race to the Top” charade to improve academic standards.

Then there’s the $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund signed into law last August — a naked payoff to the public teachers union, which also includes $50 million for the Striving Readers comprehensive literacy development and education program; $82 million for Student Aid Administration; and $10.7 million for the Ready to Teach program.

Oh, and don’t forget the $100 billion in federal stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

As he extols the virtues of “innovation” and “accountability,” the last thing Obama wants you to think about is the actual results of these profligate federal ed binges…

You’ll have to click through for the accountability portion of this Sherman’s march through educational waste, but don’t miss it. It will leave you angry at pouring so much money into the federal Department of Education for so little in return and wondering why on Earth we should spend more.

Count me among those who think the DoEd should be severely pared back or abolished and that control over education should be returned as much as possible to the state and local levels, where educators will be accountable directly to voters. And, while we’re at it, lets ramp up a voucher system and encourage charter schools to improve competition, breaking the government and union monopoly over K-12 education. I’m happy to say that, for once, California is leading the way in a good direction, toward empowering parents. And in New Orleans, a report from Reason.TV shows how a free-market voucher system is improving what was once one of the nation’s worst school systems.

If President Obama had truly been interested in improving education (his record suggests he’s not), then these suggestions would have been in the mix. But, no matter how closely you go through his 7,000 words, you won’t find them.

I guess instead of “for the children,” it’s “for the government and the unions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Grading Obama’s education policies

October 11, 2010

Libertarian Reason.TV gives the President an “F,” and I have to agree. Narrated by Nick Gillespie, the video flunks Obama in three areas:

  1. More money for no improvement
  2. Policies that limit choice, when school choice has been proven effective
  3. Unions before education

Watch the video for an explanation:

With regard to the second reason, I’ve written before about the rebirth of the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina and how a voucher system enabling school choice has lead to greatly improved test scores there.

But don’t bother a progressive reactionary, such as the President, with empirical evidence.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama, lies, and education

September 24, 2008

One of the vague, fuzzy areas of Barack Obama’s resume is his time on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, both as a member and as its chairman. Given the charge that Obama lacks the executive experience to be president, one would think he’d like to tout the experience he gained running a foundation that distributed over $100,000,000 to Chicago-area educational programs during his tenure.

One would be wrong.

The reason is his connection to William Ayers, a former Weather Underground terrorist and current Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ayers (and his wife, fellow terrorist Bernadine Dohrn) have never renounced their radical left, anti-American beliefs. Ayers and Dohrn were also instrumental in launching Obama’s political career with a reception at their house in 1995. When his association with Ayers became a problem for Obama during the primaries, he tried to minimize his connection to the inactive terrorist, referring to him as just “a guy in my neighborhood” and glossing over their relationship at Annenberg.

That, in effect, was a lie.

Stanley Kurtz, a journalist who works regularly for National Review, went to Chicago to examine the records of the CAC on deposit at the UIC Daley library. After an initial stonewalling, he was granted access to the papers. What he has found is revealing about both the work of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and Obama’s character.

Regarding the Obama-Ayers relationship, Kurtz writes:

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago’s public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation’s other key body, the “Collaborative,” which shaped education policy.

The CAC’s basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s “recruitment” to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

(Emphasis added)

So Ayers, a man who regrets not planting enough bombs in the 70s, was instrumental in both hiring Obama at CAC and playing a major role at the start of his political career. Sounds like more than just a “guy in my neighborhood” to me.

Sounds like Obama was trying to cover up the truth.

According to Kurtz, the records of the CAC show that Obama and Kurtz worked closely together. Just what kind of work did they do? The Chicago Annenberg Challenge ostensibly was supposed to funnel money to schools to work to improve public education. Most people, when they think “improve public education,” have in mind better test scores in reading and math, more exposure to the arts and sciences, work meant to help children lead better lives as adults.

Not at CAC under Ayers and Obama. Kurtz, again:

The CAC’s agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers’s educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland’s ghetto.

In works like “City Kids, City Teachers” and “Teaching the Personal and the Political,” Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? “I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist,” Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk’s, “Sixties Radicals,” at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers’s radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with “external partners,” which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

So, instead of teaching children how to read, the CAC under Obama and Ayers was more concerned with teaching them how to “fight oppression.” CAC’s own auditors evaluated the organization’s work and found it made no difference in the test scores of Chicago’s students. None. After spending $100,000,000.

No wonder Obama doesn’t want to talk about this.

(Side note: ACORN, which has a close relationship with Obama, is also notorious for being suspected of voter-registration fraud.)

There are two problems here. One is the work itself: not only was the CAC useless at actually improving the skill levels of Chicago’s students, it instead made them guinea pigs in a radical Left experiment that was about anything but real education. The money was wasted, those students’ time was wasted. And Barack Obama was in charge. Think about that, and then think about the federal role in education policy. The Secretary of Education is the president’s employee.

The second and, to my mind, more serious problem relates to Obama’s character. All politicians fudge their records and bend the truth to give voters what they want to hear: it’s an inescapable feature of a mass democracy — we demand it of them and shouldn’t be shocked when it happens.

But Barack Obama has done far more than fudge his relationship with William Ayers: he has been fundamentally deceptive about the nature of his relationship with an unrepentant (albeit inactive) communist terrorist, the depth of that relationship, and their work together. This goes beyond bending the truth: this is lying, and the efforts to block access to the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge are themselves indicative of a guilty conscience. Someone knew the truth of what those records would show and wanted them kept sealed, someone who feared voters would reject Obama if they knew the truth of his association with a terrorist and his support for that terrorist’s radical educational agenda.

Elections are about policy and character. Voters weigh each when making their choice. What the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge show about the policies and especially the character of Barack Obama also show that he is unfit to be President of the United States.

LINKS: More Kurtz at NRO. Pajamas Media. The Weekly Standard. Hot Air. Power Line. Sister Toldjah.

EDIT: Added WordPress tags, 9/26/2010