Politex's BUSH WATCH Special Topic: EDUCATION


BUSH'S PROFILE IN COURAGE? WHY DID HE SELL OUT HIS #1 POLICY PROMISE TO THE DEMS?

"The dirty little secret about President Bush's education bill is that his top adviser on his top issue doesn't like the thousand-page measure passed by the House on Wednesday. Secretary of Education Roderick Paige has told friends it is a bad bill. His lieutenant, Deputy Secretary-designate Gene Hickok, agrees. Paige was urged by an education expert to publicly express his alarm that the White House has acquiesced in ripping the real reforms from the president's original proposal. After all, his fellow Texan presumably could not sack the African-American former Houston school superintendent. Nevertheless, Paige, as a newcomer to national politics, is not about to challenge the president. When Paige read this column Tuesday on the Internet, before publication, he telephoned me in a rage. "That is the most egregious lie," he said. "I am an unequivocal supporter of the plan as it is." He added that he would "fight" to improve it in the Senate-House conference, but declared, "I want to shout from the housetops" support for the president's leadership. My sources insist, however, that he does not like the bill. Paige did not return calls from me earlier in the week.

"Challenging Bush policies would constitute a profile in courage. The president's team has relentlessly pushed his legislative program. While his tax cut reflects mainstream Republican thinking, Bush on education plays the role of POW Col. Nicholson in "The Bridge on the River Kwai," who became obsessed with building a bridge for the enemy. The prowess of the presidency has been exerted to pass a bill drafted to Democratic specifications. This was not what Paige signed up to support. Parental choice and local flexibility, the heart of Bush's plan, have been eliminated, while spending was increased and testing approved. Frail Republican hopes of improving this Nicholson bridge on the House floor were definitively crushed last week by the Bush high command. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, received marching orders from the White House. All amendments had to be cleared by his Democratic counterpart--Rep. George Miller, a 100 percent liberal voter from California. Since Miller never would cross schoolteacher unions, Bush has handed an indirect veto to his bitter foes in the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. A House standing committee chairman is not obliged to take orders from presidential staffers. But Boehner, working his way back after being deposed as the Republican conference chairman following the 1998 election, was at their bidding. When Boehner shut down conservative amendments, a whip check showed 80 or more Republicans ready to vote against the president's top-priority program. To prevent that catastrophe, a few amendments were permitted for this week's two-day debate.

"Since Paige and his unconfirmed colleagues have been dealt out, who convinced the president to build this bridge for the enemy? Republican House members finger two White House aides brought from Texas: Margaret LaMontagne and Sandy Kress. How much LaMontagne is out of touch with Republican cultural values can be judged by her reaction, on C-SPAN last week, to census data showing a decline in the traditional family. "So what?" she asked. Kress, who was a Democratic activist in Dallas backing Michael Dukakis for president when I first met him, told me Tuesday the White House did not support even Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's version of the Straight A's provision for a demonstration project granting flexibility to local schools because "to have a bloodbath on the House floor is not worth it." George Miller, who normally eats Republicans for breakfast, and other liberal Democrats paraded to House microphones to praise what's left of the president's bill. Republican financial donors gathering at the vice president's residence Monday night recognized the enemy's bridge. They cheered Dick Cheney's mention of the president's tax and energy programs; his reference to the education bill was greeted with deadly silence." --Robert Novak, Chicago Sun=Times, 5/24/01


Michael Kelley of the National Journal observes in this morning's Washington Post that, given a choice between dumb (Bush) and dishonest (Gore), we should go for the "40-watt bulb." For some reason, the Post isn't entertained when Nader, who is neither dumb nor dishonest, says things like that, which makes you wonder how many newspapers it takes to screw in a lightbulb, even a dim one.

Even more fascinating is the apparent consensus that while Bush is, without doubt, inexperienced, uninformed, inarticulate and banal, he is also honest. Huh? The Bush campaign has gone so far lately as to put its distortions of fact in what appears now to be a series of glossy brochures, free for the asking to the press corps. It doesn't even take a 40-watt bulb to illuminate the dishonesty in Bush's new education pamphlet, "Ending the Education Recession"-all you have to do is open your eyes.

This little piece of propaganda is chock-full of impressive-looking charts and graphs and quotations from educational experts like Alan Greenspan, the sheer overwhelming dazzle of which seems to have overcome most reporters who have looked at it. Even the LA Times, which reports this morning that Bush's claims about student progress and the effects of funding increases on public schools are contradicted by the very studies he uses to support his "Texas Miracle," frames the debate as a battle between experts with duelling statistics. Lost in the inevitable degeneration of any piece of political reporting into spin and counterspin is the point that the Bushies had to have known that their statistical manipulations were bogus when they printed them up into their snazzy little charts.

Let's look at just one chart from the new Bush flier, the one pretending to back his claim, reported in yesterday's LA Times, that "Since 1992, even as education spending has risen . . . reading scores have fallen and then . . . remained stagnant. And this is a leading indicator of troubles to come." The Wall Street-speak of "leading indicator" here is no doubt meant to complement Bush's rather startling use of the metaphor of "recession" to describe the current state of affairs in American education, a metaphor that makes sense only to the extent that a sharp falling-off in educational "productivity" could be established. This is the point that the following chart from the Bush campaign is supposed to be establishing.

Notice the numbers on the Y-axis to the left, which are claimed to be "NAEP Reading Scores." (They are actually very specific scores, but more on that later.) What this chart actually shows is a decrease, between 1992 and 1994, of exactly two points, from 290 to 288. Is a two-point drop in an average score on a test worth 500 points statistically significant? Of course not. On a chart with honest scaling, this "drop" in the numbers would be barely visible to the naked eye, but by scaling the numbers from 285 to 290 (a one-percent range within the original test scoring ), the Bushies manage to imply, through those bold yellow bars, that the drop is closer to 40% or 50%. Compare Bush's chart to the chart prepared by the NAEP itself:

For all practical statistical purposes, the averages for 17- and 9-year olds in the period covered by the Bush chart are flat lines. The only score showing statistically-significant movement (represented on the NAEP chart with a star) is the 13-year-old average, which, you note, shows an increase over the period of the Bush chart, from 257 in 1990 to 259 in 1999. Now, it took the crack Bush Watch Education Research Team (me) all of about five minutes to find this information on the web, allowing for the fact that my modem is way slower than anything the Bushies have got. Do you think the Bush campaign didn't notice, while it was digging around for some numbers, that it chose the only set of averages that can be plotted to show a net decrease between 1990 and 1999? Dumb or dishonest?

Now let's look at the right side of Bush's chart. The scaling here is in increments of $100, which quite handily results in a line with a sharp upward angle from 1996 to 1999. The actual increase in total per-student expenditures over the period 1990-1999 is 7%; the increase from 1996 to 1999 is from $6,619 to $6,915, or 4.5%. The Bush chart, however, makes the net change in expenditures appear to be huge, and of the same magnitude as this mythical decrease in test scores. If the two axes of the chart compared percentages to percentages, of course, they wouldn't be so startling. Dumb or dishonest?

And then there is the X-axis to consider. Why are the Bushies choosing to limit their statistical magic only to the nineties? Well, so, as the chart title indicates, this can all be blamed on Clinton-Gore. Of course the Bush campaign doesn't note that the federal contribution to the per-student expenditures was 6.2% in 1990 and 6.6% in 1997, the last year for which the Department of Education provides these numbers. That works out to an additional $30 per kid over seven years from the federales. Those wild spendthrifts in Washington.

If you are willing to look at the numbers prior to 1990, though, you get a slightly different take on the timing of Bush's "recession." Here's what the Department of Education, source of Bush's own numbers, has to say: "The expenditure per student in public schools rose significantly during the late 1980s, but increased more slowly during the first part of the 1990s. Between 1985-86 and 1990-91, current expenditures per student in average daily attendance grew 14 percent, after adjustment for inflation. From 1990-91 to 1998-99, expenditures per student grew by 7 percent." In other words, the real period of "throwing money at the problem" appears to have occurred during Bush's daddy's presidency. You remember him. He was the one who said, in 1990, that "by the year 2000, U.S. students will be the first in the world in science and mathematics achievement." They must have moved statistical analysis to the English department.

The point here is that if it is fair to demand a direct and practically instantaneous correlation between funding and reading test scores-which, of course, it is not-the senior Bush presidency has a lot to account for. Junior himself, in his own little brochure, notes that his money is going to be spent on things like increasing the amount of forgivable student loans for new math and science graduates who agree to teach for at least five years. Let's imagine that Bush were able to get this little program going in January of 2001. How long would you reasonably give such a program to pay off? At least long enough for the new teachers to graduate, and maybe teach for a year or two? Bush's little chart implies that the "Clinton-Gore" spending increases should have paid off instantly in higher reading scores. Dumb or dishonest?

Timing is everything, here as elsewhere. As has been pointed out time and again, the much over-hyped increases in Texas achievement scores may have coincided with Bush's term as governor, but can be accounted for rationally only by policies-and spending initiatives-put into place long before he showed up. As Jim Hightower likes to say, Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. Now he's trying to fault Gore for having the misfortune to have been Vice President during a period in which increasing amounts of money were spent, an investment which has not yet had a chance to pay off in any measurable way. No doubt Bush plans to take all the credit for the longer-term effects should we all be dumb or dishonest enough to elect the man. I suggest we find a brighter bulb.--Doris 9/27


BUSH'S "EDUCATION MIRACLE"? IT'S A MIRACLE HE WASN'T EXPOSED SOONER.

It's a commonplace with the national media that the strongest card in Bush's play for the presidency is his education record in Texas. It's now becoming clear that the Bush education record is nothing but "smoke and mirrors." That may be putting it kindly, if Boston College's Walt Haney is right in his in-depth study of education reform and statewide testing in Texas in the 90's, The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education. Haney marshalls his facts to show that "The Texas 'miracle' is more hat than cattle."

Carlos Guerra's SAEN report of Haney's study caught the eye of Dave Munday of The Orange [Tx.] Leader, who summarized Guerra's conclusions: ""Because (TAAS) scores were given such great importance, cheating scandals and "teaching to the TAAS' were inevitable," Guerra writes: "But Haney documents that many students have fared far worse. There has been dramatic growth in dropout and student retention rates (especially in the ninth grade), an explosion in special education classifications and an upsurge in students who skip graduation - and the TAAS - for a GED that isn't really a "high school equivalency' certificate." In a second column, Guerra also noted that the Texas Education Agency's number-jugglers created classifications designed to mask the true dropout rate and make it appear that more students than ever before were staying in school. The number of special-education students in the state doubled from 1994 to 1998. To summarize, then, officials were able to gild the in-state education statistics by having more students drop out and by moving poorer students into categories that allowed them to skip the TASS tests, upon which Bush based his "miracle." Further, officials cooked the books to hide these negative outcomes. (Sounds like Pump Up the Volume starring Christian Slater (1990), doesn't it?)

Is it really fair to say that Bush had anything to do with the phony numbers and manipulation of categories that caused the education "miracle"? Well, in Guerra's third column, posted yesterday in the San Antonio Express-News, Bush is quoted as saying, "As governor of Texas, I have set high standards for our public schools, and I have met those standards." [sic] Wouldn't it logically follow that any politician bragging about meeting his own standards would assure himself that his figures are correct? Since they are misleading, at best, Bush is consciously misleading us on one of the major claims of his campaign. Or is he so far out of the loop that he doesn't know and doesn't care how the figures were reached? If so, is this the kind of person we want in the White House? We're talking major details, here, not something you would pass on to a subordinate. Guerra notes that "while only 52 percent of students passed the exit exam in 1994, that rate mushroomed to 72 percent in 1998, and the spinmeisters had what they needed. It was all due to his demanding accountability, Bush said. He left it to subordinates, of course, to explain why there were no corresponding miracles in Texas' SAT or ACT scores. College entrance exam scores have remained flat, his minions explained, because more Texans are taking them, which is good. And Bush's crew avoided explaining why nationally, more students are taking the tests, yet national average scores have risen." Further, "Ernesto M. Bernal, a University of Texas-Pan American professor who teaches graduate-level educational psychology courses, primarily to teachers and administrators....echoes the findings in The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education. Boston College professor Walt Haney says that 'less than half, but at least a quarter' of the increase in passing rates can be credited to statistical and other bureaucratic acrobatics." For example, "the percentages of students retained in grade 9, or whose TAAS scores aren't calculated in school rankings because they are classified 'in special education' have mushroomed. So has the number who drop out of school but aren't counted as 'dropouts.'"

At the very least, then, Bush is claiming credit for an education "miracle" clearly based on phony numbers. If he or his advisers have no knowledge of how the numbers were obtained, he has failed as governor to oversee his education program, he lacks the ability to evaluate the validity of the outcomes of that program, and he is unable to appoint education officials to do good, honest work in his name. We don't believe such ineffectiveness would change if Bush were to reach the White House. At any rate, Bush should stop bragging about an educational "miracle" that doesn't exist and stop telling the voters to choose him as president on the basis of his non-existent education accomplishments in Texas. The problem is, what does he have left to brag about then? How he cleaned up the environment in Texas? --Politex, 9/11/00


DORIS IN DES MOINES SEEKS OUR HELP RE BUSH ED PLAN

"I am terribly confused, and I'm turning to Bush Watch in my hour of need. I have complete faith that Bush Watch and its readers can help me with my problem and restore my equanimity. "Juntos pedemos," as they say in Houston. I'm counting on you all. I've been spending an enormous amount of time (several hours, in fact) trying to understand what, exactly, it is that Bush the Younger is saying about education. This is, after all, the issue on which all the pundits seem to agree that Bush has actual ideas, with actual content, which are not quite as ludicrous as, say, his tax cut or his long-standing championship of photogenic breast cancer activists. Education, in other words, is supposed to be where we're gonna fish or cut bait. After the rising tide lifts all the boats. Or something like that. I warned you that I was confused.

Anyway, as I understand it, Bush's education "reforms" involve four key ingredients: mandatory standardized testing, funding sanctions against public schools, the creation of charter schools, and a voucher program. There appears to be a fairly complex relationship among these features of the plan:

1. Testing. The public schools will use mandatory, constant, standardized multiple-choice tests in order to determine whether the students know the things that are on the tests. Some of us used to think that tests were relevant to "reforms" only insofar as those tests measured the success or failure of the reforms in question, but it appears that this is some liberal fantasy nourished by people who don't understand Texas. Bush's idea appears to be that the schools can continue to do whatever it is they've been doing for generations, but as long as the kids pass a test, we have "reformed." Because we have "results." The result is the reform. I mean, the reform is the result. I mean, is "tautology" too big a word for a Yale-trained historian to cope with?

2. Funding sanctions: In order to make sure those test score reforms keep providing feel-good press for the Bush campaign, public schools face losing their Title I money if they don't make the grade. This is fair because, after all, if the school is so poor that it can't afford enrichment programs, well-stocked libraries, art and music instruction, computer labs, and so on, it can, after all, just adopt the TAAS and NAEP tests as its curriculum and spend all year drilling the kids in nice boring multiple-choice skills. Surely there isn't a school so poor it can't manage to do that, so this means that we have a "level playing field"--after all, it's obvious that all that fancy stuff the rich suburban schools have isn't helping those kids pass their tests. If a given public school is so dumb--or so full of left-wing commie holdouts actually certified by universities as "curriculum experts"--that it can't even figure out how to teach to the test, who would want to say it shouldn't lose its funding? We could hardly expect Governor Bush to agree to the proposition that ill-prepared idiots with unenlightened ideas should just continue to have money thrown at them.

3. Charter schools: These are places to put students whose public schools haven't reformed. They differ from public schools insofar as, while charter school students must also pass the standardized tests, no one in the big bad government can tell the charter schools how to structure their curriculum in order to achieve that goal. As opposed to the public schools, who get their marching orders from a sinister cabal in Washington. Also, charter schools get to use inspiring names like "Life's Beautiful" and "Impact," whereas the public schools are stuck with things like "Warren G. Harding Elementary," which doesn't do squat for anyone's self-esteem.

4. Vouchers: This is the part where the rubber meets the road. If the public school fails to deliver a sufficent number of efficient test-takers, the state will divide up its Title I funding into $1,500 rain checks, which the parents of the schoolchildren can use in one of two ways: they can send their children to the charter schools, which will of course always meet the testing standards and will only cost $1,500 per year, or they can buy $1,500 dollars worth of tutoring, cramming classes, and test-taking software, provided by for-profit firms, in order to supplement the public school curriculum, in order to assure that the kids pass the tests, so that the public school gets its funding back, so that there isn't any $1,500 next year to help the kids pass the next test. . . . Am I getting this right? I never claimed to understand the "new math," so you may have to explain this to me very, very slowly.

In essence, it seems, there are two major possibilities for schoolchildren in Texas. They can attend public schools, where the teachers make a living wage, the parents don't have to pay tuition on top of their property taxes, there is public oversight of the curriculum, and the school may or may not be able to boost test scores without degenerating into some dumbed-down "teaching to the test" or playing redistricting-league math games with the passing score cutoffs. Or, they can attend charter schools, where the "entrepreneurs" make a killing, the teachers barely make enough to pay the rent, the parents pay tuition on top of taxes, there is no public oversight of the curriculum, and the school may or may not be able to boost test scores. With or without the ten commandments posted on every wall. Can anyone use the phrase "redistribution of wealth" in a sentence, class?

Of course, I'm probably not being fair when I wonder just what passing some standardized tests has to do with reform. The point that I'm missing, I'm sure, is that the TAAS and NAEP test scores themselves are not the issue; the issue is what might correlate with successful test taking. Like Texas's soaring SAT scores. Unprecendented gains in high school retention and college admissions. Surges in future earning power of high school graduates. A plummeting incarceration rate for juveniles. Happy and contented students. A generation of informed, articulate critical thinkers who can apply the ability to read complicated texts, apply logical analysis, and draw sophisticated conclusions to political campaigns, for the purpose of distinguishing between "reforms" and "bullshit."

I remember a favorite professor of mine once remarking of a particularly dim-witted politician, "you can look into his eyes and see clear to Wyoming." So I'm looking into Bush's education plan. Am I seeing "reforms" or Wyoming?

Politex Answers Doris in Des Moines. You're seeing Wyoming, Doris. Bush's problem, as usual, is that his saying something does not make it so. He's a MISINformer rather than a REformer. Two additions to what you wrote. First, kids could use the cash voucher to go to non-charter religious schools and private non-denominational schools as well as charter schools. Bush claims, however, that the religious schools could still teach their particular brand of religion to all students, and says he's confident he can have the laws changed to do so, thus breaking down the separation between church and state. Also, he has yet to address what happens when a non-public school is forced by law to accept physically and emotionally handicaped children from failed public schools without additional recompense but with directives to provide added facilities to deal with such handicaps. And what about those non-public schools that charge more than what the voucher provides? Requesting government grants for these additional needed funds would be a case of double-dipping, wouldn't it, but I can see that happening, further destroying public education. More likely, however, is that the private schools would not be required to take students without the money, the smarts, or the physical and emotional abilities thought of as "normal," further setting up the public schools for failure by shifting federal money from public to private schools without shifting the burden of educating every child. And if they were required to take all students, it would be on paper only. The rules would not be reinforced because, based on his Texas record, Bush would not provide the administration, the staff, or the funding to do so. Remember, a law is only as good as the determination to enforce it. Which brings me to my second point.

During his tenure as governor of Texas Bush has demonstrated that he's able to push through ill-conceived laws to satisfy one or the other group of his financial or social backers, but the laws never seen to provide for enough resources to police the potential lawbreakers or to provide for the administration of the laws even when its provisions are being followed. With respect to charter schools, what has resulted is schools teaching math by teachers and administrators who can't count. Too many Texas charter schools have folded because they spent a full year's worth of state-provided funds in the first few months of operation. One spent its funds without ever opening. Another simply closed down, leaving children and parents waiting for the doors to open one Austin morning. more

This is the side of the Bush educational record that he seems to have forgotten. If he really wants to reform something, he should begin by reforming his own mistakes. And it's not just education. It seems that every six months or so a state agency or a major branch of a state agency is faced with scandal because of poor administrative practices engendered by Governor Bush's willingness to pass laws coupled with his unwillingness to provide proper funding, staff, and oversight to administer the laws. more In too many of these instances the administrator under fire turns out to be a Bush friend, political acquaintance, or campaign contributor appointed by the governor, himself. Bush's poor governance is hardly what we need on the national level. --Politex, 3/22/00

Image of Bush's 1999 inauguration parade by Wizard of Whimsy (c)2000

SIDEBAR--THE LATEST BUSH ADMINISTRATIVE SCANDAL." The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, moving to tighten financial controls that failed to forecast the agency's $28 million shortfall this year, laid off 39 employees Wednesday -- including the budget director responsible for monitoring agency finances....The move by the commission is the latest in its efforts to tighten fiscal controls and avert a $28 million budget shortfall, which went undetected for nearly three months of the fiscal year that began Sept. 1....Gov. George W. Bush put the agency, which oversees Texas' drug treatment and prevention programs and licenses substance abuse counselors and facilities, into conservatorship in 1995 amid allegations that millions of dollars were misspent because of lax rules. It was taken out of conservatorship in 1996 after auditors ultimately whittled down questionable spending to about $900,000." --AAS, 3/16/00


to...THE MIS-EDUCATION OF GEORGE W. BUSH

POLITEX: BUSH IS BEGINNING TO BELIEVE HIS OWN ED SPIN. It's one thing to spin the facts, but wise politicians know better than to make generalizations based on their spin. It's too easy to get caught. Take the case of Dubya's dash through Jackson, Mississippi last Friday on the way to Florida. He managed to attend a $1,000-a-plate lunch at the Crown Plaza Hotel, took 15 minutes to shake the hand of every single person at all 36 tables, raced through his usual stump speech, and squeezed in a 7 minute press conference. That was where he made his mistake. When a reporter asked George W. to comment on the endorsement of Gore by the National Education Association, he said, ""In the state of Texas, I have terrific support amongst the teachers, but oftentimes their spokespeople weren't for me. That's politics." Spin's one thing, living in a dream world is something else.

G-Dub started out in the summer of '98 reminding teachers of a previous pay raise they never got. After he apologized for his error, he then said the state would send the local districts money for numerous things and the districts could use some of that money for teacher raises, if desired. By the time the session began, the state was to give "1 billion additional dollars to local districts to raise salaries, or hire more teachers to reduce class size." The actual bill began with only beginning teachers getting raises. It was foot dragging by Bush every. Step. Of . The. Way. Why? Teachers don't give him money; Theocratic school voucher backers like billionaire campaign contributer "Sugar Daddy" Leininger do. It's that simple. The House-Dems hung in there on this one, finally getting a $1.7 billion wage package for across-the-board teacher raises. This is where the Bush property tax money went. Bush is now claiming teacher raises as his victory. The facts say otherwise.

Why in the world, then, would Bush have the "terrific support amongst the teachers" that he says he does? The truth is he doesn't. He's making it up. There is not a single scrap of fact or even statistically meaningful anecdotal information to suggest that Texas teachers give Bush "terrific support." More inportantly, given Dubya's teachers' pay record, they would have no reason to do so, unless he's talking about non-public school teachers, charter school teachers, or parents as teachers. None of those folks are paid to teach by the state. Yet. But with respect to public school teachers, the only teachers presently working under Bush, support for him is not "terrific." "Lackluster" would be an exaggeration. George should know better than to say otherwise, even outside the state. There must have been one or two Texas reporters in Jackson, Mississippi, frustrated by an inability to ask a follow-up question, as Dubya, surrounded by a phalanx of suits, hurried toward his waiting van on the way to the airport. 10/12/99---Sources: Salon, Biloxi Sun Herald, and Dallas Morning News



POLITEX: THE MIS-EDUCATION OF GEORGE W. BUSH. Like his "faith-based" plan, the Guv wants voters to look at his education success in Texas as a guide to what he could do on the national level, but it's widely-known that much of what Bush has bragged about with respect to education in Texas was as much as ten years old before he ever became Governor. In fact, his major education accomplishment as Governor is his recently-passed prohibition on "social promotion" (SB4) and his insistence that promotion be based on passing a newly designed TAAS test. (SB103). However, while "social promotions" are not politically fashionable, over 800 studies suggest that retaining students is counterproductive. "After being retained twice, a student is 90% likely to drop out." This was reported by the Texas Eduation Agency in 1993 and studies since have not changed the thinking of most educators. About the other bill, the law describing the most recently passed version of TAAS contains a passage that says the test, which will now include "integrated" chemistry and physics, must assess the student's "readiness to enroll in an institution of higher education." Bush signed both bills into law.

Texas Key, the newsletter of the Learning Disabilities Association of Texas, reported the above in its summer issue. "LDAT questioned why a student should be required to pass a college readiness test (including questions treating courses in chemistry and pyhsics which are not required to graduate) in order to receive a high school dipolma, since only half of all high school students go on to college," the newsletter reported. The question went to Sen. Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo), Bush educational point-man in the lege as well as a top-money contributor to the Bush presidential campaign and a Bush Pioneer sent out to collect maximum contributions from others. Bivins decided to delete the chemistry and physics courses from the test, but added questions from the "integrated" physics and chemistry course. That course is not required for graduation, either. Then, Bivins included the following wording in the bill: "this subsection does not require a student to demonstrate readiness to enroll in an instutution of higher learning." However, since the offending clause requiring that the student pass the test to demonstrate "readiness to enroll in an institute of higher education" was not deleted, this could mean that non-college-bound high school students are still required to answer questions from a course that is not required for graduation. Educators in Texas have been told by the Texas Agency that there might be two sections to the TAAS or that there might be two passing standards, but no one knows for sure and educators are quite confused about how to legally apply the bill that Bush backed and signed into law. See a pattern here? Confusion and double-speak are earmarks of many Bush-backed bills signed into law in Texas, and there is no reason to believe that this behavior and these results would change on the national level.

Why, then, does Dubya float such flawed plans and then sign them into law? With respect to the education bills, the folks at Texas Key suggest that it's politics, not concern for the student: "The major education reform legislation--ending social promotion and strengthening the state assessment program (TAAS)--is a popular political move, but it is not based on validated educational research or recommendations from many experts in the field. The actual impact of this legislation on many children and their families will be devastating for years to come and may serve no useful purpose." Paul E. Burton of the Educational Testing Service seconds that remark: "Mr. Burton concludes that since tests are inexpensive and quick to put in place, political leaders are increasingly overusing and misusing them: 'Testing is becoming a means of reform, rather than one way of finding out whether reforms are working,'" he adds in the 6/23/99 issue of Education Week

We find Texas Key's conclusion of particular value because it underlines the basic mean-spiritedness of so many of George W. Bush's plans, offered as being compassionate but actually being political: "It is interesting that Texas education reforms seem to mainly focus on what the child can do for us and what we will do to the child if he doesn't....Demonstrate appropriate behavior or be (denied a diploma), suspended, (or) expelled....It would be interesting to see the outcome of focusing on what we can do for the child--smaller classes, smaller schools, accredited teachers with quality...training, appropriate curriculum." Remember that while Bush education point-man Bivins was holding the line on the social promotions bill and clouding the revised TAAS bill with contradictory clauses that could keep lawyers and state agencies haggling for years to come, Bush was trying to get money out of the kindergarten education bill to increase the bottom line on his tax cut bills. Again, his CEO style is to have a poorly thought-out plan, call it compassionate when it's political, pass it on to others to iron out the specifics, neither oversee the evolution of the plan nor supply the funds and manpower to carry it out if it becomes law, and then have his spinners try to hide the resulting mess. Bush politics. As usual. 8/7-9/99



Bush Education Headlines


ATTLESEY: "LOCAL CONTROL" MANTRA A CONVENIENT DODGE. 9/12/99
HC: BUSH CONTRADICTS HIS "LOCAL CONTROL" MANTRA RE ED PLAN. 9/12/99
AAS: TEXAS HEAD STARTS "LIVID," DISAGREE WITH BUSH ED PLAN. 9/12/99
PAGE: IS IT STANDARDIZED TESTING OR "SOCIAL ENGINEERING"? 9/12/99
WP: "KIDS OVER CASH" GORE NAMES FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK. 9/11/99
PJ: CHILDREN TELL GORE ABOUT GUNFIRE IN NEIGHBORHOODS. 9/11/99
DIONNE: BUSH ED PLAN FLAWED. 9/10/99
PT: CHILDREN, PARENTS CONFUSED, UNHAPPY ABOUT BUSH NO-SHOW. 9/10/99
DMN: GORE WILL VISIT SCHOOL BUSH SKIPPED. 9/10/99
PJ: DADDY BUSHBUCKS "FAVORS CASH OVER KIDS."9/9/99
BAKST: BUSH PAYS PR PRICE DURING VISIT TO R.I. 9/9/99
BG: BUSH ACCUSED OF USING KIDS AS POLITICAL PROPS. 9/9/99
KONDRACKE: VOUCHERS, BUT NO MORE $ MARKS BUSH ED PLAN. 9/9/99
REUTERS: BUSH SAYS SCHOOL RECORD WAS "C." 9/8/99
BG: N.H. STUDENTS RECITE POLITICAL SONG FAVORING BUSH. 9/8/99
HC: BUSH INSISTS ED PLAN IS LOCAL. 9/8/99
NEWSWEEK: NIH QUESTIONS BUSH PHONIC PHACTS. 9/7/99
WT: CLINTON ATTACKS BUSH-BACKED TAX CUT AS ANTI-ED. 9/7/99
GUERRA: BUSH ED RECORD CONTRADICTS RHETORIC. 9/5/99
WP: "STANDARDS MOVEMENT" ACTIVE THROUGHOUT U.S. 9/5/99
FWST: CRITIC CALLS BUSH CHARTER SCHOOLS A "FIASCO."9/4/99
AAS ED: BUSH SHOULD FOCUS ON ED BASICS, PRIVATIZING IMPERILS. 9/4/99
HC: BUSH ED PLAN MEANS "STOP WAR ON DRUGS." 9/4/99
MH: BUSH ED PLAN "CONTROVERSIAL" AND "TROUBLING." 9/4/99
USN: BAUER DISAGREES WITH BUSH ED PLAN. 9/4/99
LAT: AUDIO EXERPTS FROM BUSH ED SPEECH. 9/4/99
WP: BUSH PROPOSES FED FUNDS FOR ED VOUCHERS. 9/3/99
NYT: BUSH WOULD DENY FED STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 9/3/99
DMN: NATIONAL TESTING, PRIVATIZING PART OF BUSH ED PLAN. 9/3/99
FWST: BUSH WOULD LEAVE TESTING FOR FED FUNDS TO EACH STATE. 9/3/99
HC: BUSH BRINGS FAILED TEXAS VOUCHER PLAN TO D.C. 9/3/99
AAS: WHERE DID BUSH ED PLAN COME FROM? 9/3/99
AAS: GORE SAYS "BACK DOOR VOUCHER PLAN" SLAMS DOOR ON KIDS. 8/3/99
ABJ: BRADLEY POINTS TO "ISSUES OF CHURCH AND STATE." 9/3/99
SAEN: TEXAS EDUCATORS DECRY BUSH ED PROPOSAL. 9/3/99
DNC: DEMS RESPOND TO BUSH ED RECORD. 9/3/99
USN: AFT ANSWERS BUSH ED PLAN. 9/3/99
PEYSER: VOUCHERS ARE A NO-BRAINER. 9/3/99
RASBERRY: VOUCHERS WON'T FIX CAUSE: FAILING PARENTS. 9/3/99
USN: NEA RESPONSE TO BUSH ED PLAN. 9/3/99
REUTERS: GORE BLASTS BUSH ED RECORD IN TEXAS. 9/2/99
FWST: BUSH BACKS HEAD START AND TAX CUTS THAT WEAKEN PROGRAM. 9/2/99
AAS: POLL SHOWS MOST DISAGREE WITH BUSH ED. PHILOSOPHY. 9/2/99
HC: BUSH WANTS TO SEE FED HEAD START PROGRAM PUSH PHONICS. 9/1/99
AP: BUSH ATTACKS ANTI-VOUCHER RULING. 8/27/99
REUTERS: GORE-TEX SUPPORT TEACHING OF CREATIONISM. 8/27/99
AAS: RIGHT, NOT TEACHERS, HAPPY WITH NEW BUSH ED. COMMISH. 8/19/99




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