Big-government business leaders?

If the 2012
election were to be decided on the basis of federal education policy, chalk up
another significant gain for President Obama (and Secretary Duncan), as the
titans of American business come down foursquare for yesterday's reform agenda,
now promoted mainly by Democrats, and against today's live agenda, which is the
theme song of today's Republicans.

I refer to the long
letter
to House education chairman John Kline from the co-chairs of the Business Coalition for Student
Achievement
, namely Intel's Craig Barrett, Accenture's William D. Green,
and State Farm's Ed Rust, denouncing Kline's new ESEA reauthorization bills
because they deviate from the orthodoxy of No Child Left Behind. In particular,
those bills would demolish NCLB's version of a national
"accountability" system with its cascade of metrics, timelines,
labels, and interventions into schools that fail to make "adequate yearly
progress." (Judging from last week's waivers, Duncan's own version is just as prescriptive
about accountability but in different ways.)

The
number of schools "in need of improvement" has risen to the point of
laughability.

Never mind that
none of that has done any real good over the past decade. Never mind that the
number of schools "in need of improvement" has risen to the point of
laughability. Never mind that NCLB has led states to set the achievement bar
way too low. Never mind that the interventions most lauded by the Business
Coalition Leadership (e.g. the "ability currently given to students
attending low performing schools to choose higher performing schools and access
free tutoring") have not amounted to a hill of decent beans.

Never mind that
the GOP center of education gravity has shifted to a far more modest federal
education role. (Consider not only Kline's recent proposals but also Lamar
Alexander's—not to mention any number of presidential wannabes.) Never mind
that the only prominent political types apt to trumpet the BCSA missive are
Democrats—plus of course Margaret Spellings and a few other holdovers from the
Republican ancien regime in Washington.

At least in the
K-12 education realm, those holdovers appear to haunt the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce and the Business Roundtable, the twin entities that staff the BCSA.
One must wonder whether the senior folks at those organizations (the
distinguished, onetime STATE-based education reformer John Engler at the BRT
and take-no-prisoners free-enterpriser Thomas J. Donahue at the USCC) are even
paying attention to what's being written on their letterheads.

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