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Education Reporter

Tucker Calls for Complete Overhaul of Public Schools

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In a plan labeled "far-reaching" and "ground-breaking," education reform guru Marc Tucker is calling for the total overhaul of U.S. education by 2021 into a "national public school system." He asserts that "it is the system that is the problem, it is the system that must be rebuilt."

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, headed by Tucker, received widespread publicity in December for a report called "Tough Choices or Tough Times." It's larded with criticisms that claim our "expensive elementary and secondary education system" produces "only mediocre results," and that students can just slide through high schools because they know they can get into college with only "8th- or 9th-grade-level literacy."

The report claims that the redeployment of resources by (1) recruiting smarter teachers (licensed by the state and paid up to $95,000 for a school year), (2) putting all 4-year-olds and all low-income 3-year-olds into universal public pre-school, and (3) spending more on disadvantaged students, will enable us to "send almost everyone to college and have them do well there."

To meet "the challenges of a rapidly changing global economy," Tucker would abandon local funding of schools in favor of state funding on a uniform formula. He claims this would make funding more "equitable." He would also increase total spending by an additional $19 billion a year.

He would send a $500 check to each child at birth, continue tax-funded contributions to the kid's "Personal Competitiveness Account" until he is age 16, and make later payments if he then takes a low-paid job. The student could use the money to pay for any "work-related" (not purely academic) program of study.

The Tucker plan calls for schools to be operated by independent contractors and run by teachers, but with this caveat. "No organization could operate a school that was not affiliated with a helping organization approved by the state" which has "the capacity to provide technical assistance and training to the schools."

The function of the local school boards would be to collect a "wide range of data," forward them to the state, and connect schools to "a wide range of social services in the community."

Then comes national economic planning. Tucker calls for federal legislation to get the states "to create regional economic development authorities" that would develop "goals and strategies for their regions," and coordinate "the work of the region's education and training institutions to make sure that each region's workers develop the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in that labor market."

Tucker is widely known in the education community as the author of a famous 18-page "Dear Hillary" letter written on November 11, 1992. Written just after Bill Clinton was elected but before he took office, Tucker's letter spelled out a master plan for the federal takeover of public schools. He laid out the road map by which the new Clinton Administration should "remold the entire American [public school] system" into "a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone," coordinated by "a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels" where curriculum and "job matching" will be handled by counselors "accessing the integrated computer-based program."

The Tucker 1990s plan to restructure the public schools was based on specific mechanisms of control: (1) bypass all elected officials on school boards and in state legislatures by redirecting the funding; (2) build a database ("a labor market information system") into which school personnel would scan all information about every schoolchild and his family, and make it available to the school, the government and future employers; and (3) use the slogan "high standards" to cement national control of tests and assessments.

Tucker's master plan, then presented by his National Center on Education and the Economy, formed the basis of a series of laws passed during the Clinton Administration, starting with Goals 2000 and School-to-Work in 1994. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 expanded and reinforced the School-to-Work design to pigeon-hole students into training for jobs selected by local workforce boards.

"School-to-work" became the code word for changing the mission of the public schools from teaching children knowledge and skills to training them to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards. Nothing in his plan had anything to do with teaching schoolchildren how to read or calculate.

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