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Education Reporter

Missourians Alarmed by School-to-Work Proposals

by Oliver Starr Jr.

ST. LOUIS, MO - Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and his education department have created a 116-page "School-to-Work, Roadways to Success" federal grant proposal calling for the complete restructuring of Missouri schools to meet new federal "career education" performance standards. The Missouri grant proposal will access federal funds authorized by the School-to-Work Act passed by Congress in 1994 and signed by President Clinton.

Parents are shocked by the contents of this massive School-to-Work proposal. Steven Boody, head of the Back to Basics organization in the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis, spent weeks researching its startling provisions and found that, if it is put into effect, "our children will no longer receive a basic education. They will be trained for one of six career paths in the 21st century workforce."

This new program was authorized by an executive order of Governor Carnahan and reflects the thinking of Marc Tucker, education consultant to Carnahan. In a letter to Hillary Clinton in November 1992, Tucker expressed his vision that it is "essential that we create a seamless web of opportunities to develop one's skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone."

  • If the School-to-Work proposal is not stopped, it will: Require an "individual career and education plan" for every student.

  • Mandate testing to begin in the 10th grade to determine which of the six career paths each student must take. Only an elite 20% of students will be prepared for college, as opposed to the 35% who now go on to college. In Germany, the model which we are using, only 8% go on to college.

    An assessment or test given to high school sophomores will determine a child's entire economic future -- whether he or she will go on to vocational school, "tech prep," or be allowed to attend college.

  • Change Missouri's child labor laws that are perceived by the writers of this proposal as "barriers" to implementing the School-to-Work system. Among the "barriers" identified by the state are Missouri's child labor laws that prohibit the employment of children under 14 and ban 14- and 15-year-olds from working long hours. An additional perceived barrier is a law that prohibits workers under 18 from using dangerous equipment.

    Governor Carnahan appears to have gone beyond reasonable bounds in pushing his School-to-Work proposal. His plan asserts that "the state will overcome any barriers" that get in his way, says Boody. This includes locally-elected officials who will not follow state edicts. The School-to-Work plan lists numerous barriers that must be overcome to implement the proposal.

  • Force all students to work while they are in high school and to learn a vocational trade whether they want to or not. Boody agrees that vocational training should be available for every child. But, he warns, when it's mandatory for every child to take vocational training, it is ludicrous. "To force an individual to work against his will sounds a great deal like the old Soviet Union."

  • Force teachers to incorporate the new vocational program, called "tech prep," into every lesson plan in the curriculum. "To insure that all teachers teach the required occupational information, the state is going to re-evaluate its current recertification process, and it is going to require that all teachers be certified annually. If they don't play ball, they're history," says Boody.

"So, for the teachers out there who think it isn't going to happen, or they have nothing to worry about and they'll stop it later when they see it," adds Boody, "you're kidding yourself. You either stand up now or you can forget opposing it."

This would be an ironic fate for the National Education Association, says Boody, because members of the teachers' union were among the top supporters who put Carnahan, the "education governor," in office. "The governor is really slapping them in the face with this program."

Boody warns that the Governor and those who worked under him to draft School-to-Work "want you to think that this is a training program that will ensure that our children will be ready for the 21st century workforce when we will be moving toward a very competitive global market. But the state document says that, in the future, only 20% of high school students will go on to college, as opposed to 35% today."

"If we are moving to a competitive global market," asks Boody, "would you not predict that the percentage of students going on to college would go up to, say 50 percent?"

"Ask yourself the question, 'who will select the elite 20%?'" says Boody. "What criteria will they use to select the 20%? The real truth is that School-to-Work is the state's and the Federal Government's effort to control every job in the state and in the United States of America. I have read manydocumentsconcerningthe government's educational reform efforts, but Governor Carnahan's School-to-Work program is by far the most frightening document I have ever read."

School-to-Work would "take your children from you, place the state in the driver's seat to direct your children, your flesh and blood's entire economic future. So much for parental authority or rights and for decades of legal precedents and the Constitution," says Boody.

"If the state controls your employment possibilities, it will control your very being. Do you want the state controlling your employment opportunities for you and your children?" asks Boody. "The state can't even design a program to teach our children to read."

Consultant Marc Tucker has called School-to-Work a "radical new Human Resources Development System. Creating such a system means sweeping aside countless programs, building new ones, combining funding authorities, changing deeply embedded institutional structures."

Boody says that the time has come to stop this "diabolical plan." He asks Missouri parents, "Do you want freedom and the responsibilities that freedom brings with it, or do you want Big Brother taking care of your every need at One-Stop-Shops and reporting your every move? These people are about to abolish the United States as we have known it. This threat is not three to five years in the future. You have to stand up now."

Boody urges parents to call Governor Carnahan, as well as their federal and state elected officials, and tell them to reverse the centralization of education by getting rid of Goals 2000, the Department of Education, School-to-Work, H.R. 1617 (CAREERS Act), Senate Bill 143 (Workforce Development Act), and the Missouri Outstanding Schools Act (Senate Bill 380).

"There is no School-to-Work law in Missouri," says Boody. "The governor is doing this under an Executive Order, number 95-11. He signed this executive order on the last day that the General Assembly met in May of last year, which gives him questionable authority to allocate state resources."

In spite of the lack of General Assembly action, the School-to-Work proposal, under the heading "Missouri School-to-Work Act," projects a five-year grant request to spend $32,518,250 on the School-to-Work program. Interested persons can call (314) 751-4192 to get their own copy of the state's plan.

This massive federal intervention in local public schools has been expedited by the federal Goals 2000 Act, signed by President Clinton the same year as the School-to-Work Act (1994), and by the way most school districts have made Outcome-Based Education (OBE) part of their accreditation or assessment process.

OBE stiff-arms teachers to dumb down the curriculum so that every child can meet state-mandated "performance standards." It substitutes liberal, one-world values in children for those of their parents. It slights academics in favor of teaching politically correct social ideas such as there are no rights or wrongs -- only different ways of doing things. It drags down the performance of gifted students by forcing them to take part in "cooperative teaching," in which brighter students are made to instruct the slower pupils. OBE is a system promoted by William Spady and modeled after the Mastery Learning System of the 1970s that proved to be such a huge failure.

Oliver Starr Jr. is the former editorial page editor of the
St. Louis Globe - Democrat.

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