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Louisiana School Board Association

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Arne Duncan Intrusion - Monday, May 23, 2011

Arne Duncan Intrusion

          Not Sufficient Work to Keep Arne Busy?


          The U.S. Department of Education must be too small a challenge for the current Secretary Arne Duncan.  That is one conclusion to be made from his micromanagement of the Louisiana Department of Education in responding to its own secretary’s departure and back-fill.


          Inserting Washington into historically local operation of the nation’s public education has been accelerating since President Ronald Reagan proposed abolishment of the national agency.  In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran for president with the promise that if he were elected, he would abolish the Department of Education.  He didn’t succeed.


          Now Sen. Rand Paul suggests that a new try be made as the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the work place…that is the state and local departments of education or schools.


          The current federal administration has quietly been changing the way federal tax receipts devoted to education wend their way back to local schools through formula-based grants.  The rewarding of grants on a competitive basis clearly discriminates against small and rural states, but that movement is taking hold in the current administration.


          The Department of Education was established to promote student achievement and to prepare them for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and insuring equal access.  For 30-plus years the department has done that until Arne Duncan arrived to shift a large part of the budget to competitive grants for which small districts and states are not able to compete with large sophisticated state and local education agencies and their highly paid grant writers.  Paul Pastorek spent more than $250,000 for a Race to the Top Grant proposal that failed!


          Over the past 20 years national administrations have been moving to encroach on local education implying that the entire community is not to be trusted to provide a quality education for their own children and grandchildren.  For the past 20 years, the U.S. DOE’s own testing reveals that it has not produced better results.


          A bulky volume of research reports, virtually every study, tells that the keys to quality education are:

o   Parental involvement

o   Rewarding students, teachers, education administrators and communities

o   Rewarding teachers and providing local autonomy

o   Minimizing compliance costs…don’t intrude


What separates a great nation from one in decline is the quality of the education that its citizens receive. That is not done from D.C.  It is done in Rockford, Illinois, Spring Hill, Louisiana, and San Mateo, California.


What Arne Duncan does when he intrudes, with the huge implied power of the federal establishment in his portfolio, into a single state’s process for selecting an education leader does little to establish a continuing need for a federal presence in education.


That he pronounces his strong support for a 35-year old with little experience in management or education leads one to wonder what is so special about this individual.  Couple such an infringement on local affairs to his intent to erode fiscal support equality, his rush to propel charter school replication, and his not too subtle intrusion with national common core standards raises the question if such misuse of federal power should be allowed to continue.


Perhaps President Reagan, Sen. Mc Cain, the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, and Sen. Rand Paul were right when they insisted that Article I, section 8 of the Constitution is totally lacking a provision to enable the federal government a role in public education.


Perhaps Arne Duncan should be given more important tasks to do in defending why the constitution should continue to be violated, and less time strong-arming Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members.


Don Whittinghill