What’s Going on in the Schoolhouse?

President Clinton has been bragging that the current budget deal, agreed to by the Republican Congress headed by Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott, includes the largest increase in federal spending on public schools in 30 years and the largest increase in federal spending on colleges in 50 years. The era of Big Government is certainly not over! Federal spending on education is not merely a waste of taxpayers’ money; it does not merely finance a bloated bureaucracy. Federal spending on education is downright dangerous because it means federal control over the minds and futures of American students.

One example of this expanded control can be seen in the Employment, Training and Literacy Enhancement Act of 1997, H.R. 1385, passed by the House on April 30 with only 60 Representatives voting No. It is a reincarnation of last year’s failed bill, which had been largely written by Ted Kennedy’s staff. (See The Phyllis Schlafly Report, Oct. 1996, p. 3)

H.R. 1385 is part of a curious effort to combine the funding and functions of the Departments of Education and Labor. It reflects a philosophy that the schools’ mission is to serve the needs of the workforce, instead of to educate children. The plan has been extensively described by Marc Tucker and his National Center on Education and the Economy, whose letterhead boasts Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ira Magaziner and David Rockefeller Jr. Why a Republican Congress would want to give any control of public school curriculum, or of federal education funds, to Labor Secretaries Robert Reich or Alexis Herman is a mystery.

H.R. 1385 would establish Local Workforce Development Boards composed of a “majority” of businessmen plus token representatives of schools, colleges and community organizations. These unelected boards, controlled by the Governor under federal regulations, would be the gatekeepers for the School-to-Work system authorized by the 1994 federal law of that name. Each Local Workforce Development Board would submit to the Governor “a comprehensive 3-year strategic local plan” to identify local industries, job seekers, workers, training delivery systems, and “the roles of individual employment.” The Board would provide “a description of the steps the local board will take to work with local educational agencies [i.e., public schools] . . . to address local employment, education, and training needs.”

Spending “such sums as necessary,” these Local Workforce Development Boards are authorized to decide which training programs will qualify as “full service eligible providers,” and link training services to “occupations for which there is a demand in the local workforce development area.” The notion that a government board can determine what jobs will be in demand in the future is the dangerous illusion of Robert Reich and others in the Clinton Administration who admire countries where economic czars control national industrial policy.

H.R. 1385 would finance computer inputing of students’ personal data through the Labor Market Information Programs. H.R. 1385 would give the Secretary of Labor powers to coordinate and develop “a nationwide system of labor exchange services for the general public, provided as part of the full service employment and training delivery systems of the States.”

H.R. 1385 would establish a National Institute for Literacy to “coordinate literacy services” under “an interagency agreement entered into by the Secretary of Education with the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” The Federal Government is already financing dozens of “literacy” projects, all of them failures. As Clinton admits, 40% of third graders can’t read.

While H.R. 1385 is being marketed as “job training,” it proposes to spend a lot of money “to make sustainable changes in a family.” That sounds more like parent training than job training.

H.R. 1385 would create a new type of corporate welfare: taxpayer dollars for “skills upgrading” for those already employed. This probably explains why so many businessmen think “workforce development” is a neat idea, but there is no indication that the taxpayers are eager to assume employers’ costs of training workers for upgraded jobs.

The unions aren’t objecting to this cozy relationship with business because H.R. 1385 would also hand out tax dollars to labor unions for “research and demonstration projects.” Goodies for everyone are designed to buy off all organized groups while the feds move us toward a nationally planned economy.

Youths deemed disadvantaged would be given “employment opportunities that are directly linked to academic, occupational, and work based learning opportunities.” This would leverage job placement right into the schools, under the guidance of the Workforce Development Boards.

It’s bad enough that H.R. 1385 would reauthorize billions of dollars for job training programs that the General Accounting Office has branded a failure. But it’s downright ominous the way this bill centralizes power over education in the federal Departments of Labor and Education, the Governors and their appointees, thereby bypassing elected school boards and state legislators.

Before another dime is appropriated, Congress has an obligation to find out why Title I (formerly known as Chapter 1), the largest federal K-12 education program, has failed. The final report of a five-year, $29-million longitudinal study of 40,000 students shows that this remedial program has not closed the learning gap between low-achieving students and their classmates. The gap actually increased slightly, despite the fact that taxpayers are pouring $7.2 billion per year down the Title I drain. The Department of Education’s response to this report is to announce that it will no longer track individual improvement.

From 1963 to 1993, federal spending on education increased from about $900,000 to more than $10,000,000,000, while scores on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs) dropped almost 60 points. More federal spending is certainly not the solution to our education problems.

K-III Buys a Captive Audience

When people watch television, they certainly are at liberty to channel-surf during the commercials or to use that time to get refreshments or go to the bathroom. How would you feel if the government mandated that you must watch every commercial? That would be a huge cash windfall to the advertisers, and it wouldn’t sound like America. But that’s what’s going on in the public schools every day with Channel One.

Some 8,100,000 schoolchildren (nearly 40 percent of all 11 to 18-year-olds) are required by their school officials to watch at least two minutes a day of television commercials on the daily program called Channel One. This gives the advertisers a daily guaranteed teen audience equal to the audience of the Super Bowl, and the commercials are priced like ads on primetime networks (about $200,000 per 30 seconds).

Channel One is a 12-minute TV program (including two minutes of commercials) that the students of 12,000 middle schools and high schools are compelled to watch under the terms of a deal their schools have made with K-III Communications. The schools are bribed with the loan of a TV for every classroom, two VCRs, and a satellite dish so that the program can be beamed directly to the classrooms.

The Channel One corporation has total control over the content of the programs; the program cannot be halted once it starts, and it cannot be edited. Teachers and parents have no practical way to view the program before the students see it.

In peddling the two minutes of commercials to corporate advertising departments, K-III boasts: “Channel One is viewed by more teens than any other program on television. Channel One’s audience exceeds the combined number of teens watching anything on television during Primetime. Huge ratings. Unsurpassed reach. Unparalleled impact among teen viewers.”

It isn’t only the tobacco companies that know the business value of advertising to teens. One marketing manual advises advertisers: “When a young person is between 13 and 18 years old, you have the chance of a lifetime to transform a fickle consumer into a loyal customer. . . . You can efficiently influence attitudes, and build brand loyalties.”

The problem is not only that Channel One is a marketing tool to exploit a captive audience of children, but what the ads are selling. The commercials sell junk foods, soft drinks, video games, $150 Reebok athletic shoes, and vulgar and offensive PG-13 movies, magazines, and primetime TV sitcoms. Channel One has aired commercials for “Down Periscope” (which Entertainment Weekly called “vulgar” because of its stream of obscenities and blasphemies), “The Quest” (which contains a series of brutal acts of violence), and the TV show “Unhappily Ever After” (which some say is the crudest show on network television, with graphic sexual references, gutter talk, and disrespect for parents).

Channel One boasts that its commercials can send children to see any movie Hollywood will pay to advertise, and Channel One advertises PG-13 movies to pre-teens in middle school. Channel One ran a 30-second “See It and Win” commercial for a PG-13 movie, and 500,000 children phoned the next week and entered the contest.

Channel One has recently been urging schoolchildren to use Internet chat rooms, where they can send anonymous messages to other users from around the world. FBI Director Louis Freeh has expressed his concern about chat rooms because they “provide pedophiles an anonymous means of establishing relationships with children.”

Channel One was sharply criticized this year in two separate studies. One was conducted by sociologist professor William Hoynes of Vassar College, the other by media expert Mark Crispin Miller of Johns Hopkins University. Hoynes and Miller analyzed 36 programs that aired in 1995 and 1996, which contained a total of 91 news stories and 177 on-camera sources. Hoynes reported that, contrary to Channel One’s promise that 10 minutes of the 12-minute program would be devoted to news, actually only 20 percent of the airtime is devoted to coverage of recent “political, economic, social and cultural stories.” The rest of the time is filled with ads, a news quiz, promotional activities, weather, sports, Hollywood gossip, music and banter.

The research revealed that Channel One’s “real function is not journalistic but commercial. The news is meant to get us ready for the ad. It must keep itself from saying anything too powerful or even interesting, must never cut too deep or raise any really troubling questions, because it cannot ever be permitted to detract in any way from the commercials.”

Most education organizations are opposed to Channel One, including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National PTA.

The time devoted to Channel One adds up to six days of instruction a year lost to schoolchildren. It’s time to call a halt to this exploitation of a captive audience.

The Smoking Gun in Medicaid

Most Americans think that Medicaid is just fulfilling its original purpose of providing health care to people on welfare. They should think again. Medicaid costs more than $100 billion a year and is rising far more rapidly than inflation, demographics, or poverty can justify.

The smoking gun, which proves why this dramatic increase is taking place, has surfaced in an amazing letter sent by the Illinois State Board of Education to school district superintendents. Signed by the Board’s “Medicaid Consultant,” this letter describes in detail how public schools can exploit Medicaid in order to funnel a fresh flow of taxpayers’ money into public schools that bypasses all traditional funding sources and accountability.

The letter’s enthusiasm for spending this new money on virtually anything the bureaucracy desires is matched only by its arrogance in explaining the deviousness of acquiring it. Stating that “the potential for the dollars is limitless,” the letter boasts that “Medicaid dollars have been used for purchases ranging from audiometers to mini-buses, from a closed captioned TV for a classroom to an entire computer system, from contracting with substitutes to employment of new special education staff, from expanding existing special education programs to implementing totally new programs.”

This Illinois State Board of Education letter “encourages” local public schools to use the experienced State School Board staff in order to “maximize federal reimbursement” of Medicaid dollars and use the “opportunity” to bill Medicaid for money already spent in 1994, ’95 and ’96. The letter describes two ways that public schools “have found Medicaid to be a viable funding source.”

The first initiative provides Medicaid funding through school-based health services. Schools may bill Medicaid not just for therapies, but also for “social work and psychological services, nursing and audiological services, hearing/vision screenings, and transportation.”

The second initiative allows all schools to claim Medicaid dollars for Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment. The letter states that such services include “public awareness [i.e., government propaganda], identification and referral [i.e., putting private medical information on a government computer], initial health review and evaluation [i.e., such as the shocking, unauthorized genital exams given without parental consent to 59 sixth-grade girls in East Stroudsburg, PA], health provider networking [with Planned Parenthood?], and family planning referral [to abortion clinics without parental consent?].”

In fiscal year 1996, $31,700,000 in federal funds were paid to Illinois schools for the first initiative and $40,800,000 for the second.

Medicaid was set up to cover only people on some form of welfare: either Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Medicaid is a federal-state matching program, at a ratio of about 60-40.

In 1986, Congress inserted into the law permission for the states to expand Medicaid to cover children in families whose incomes were below the poverty line, whether their parents took welfare or not. That expansion slipped by without the taxpayers discovering it, so in 1990 Congress required states to provide Medicaid coverage to all poor children by the year 2002, and allowed states to extend Medicaid even further to the non-poor.

This is one reason why Medicaid costs are going through the roof. In 1986, Medicaid cost about $27 billion. This year, Medicaid will cost about $105 billion. By 2002, when the mandate is in full swing, Medicaid will cost at least $133 billion.

Many people were puzzled when Bill Clinton bragged during last fall’s campaign that “he” had provided health care for an additional million children. Medicaid is how he did it. No way have Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Ira Magaziner abandoned their goal of forcing America to adopt federal health care; they are just bringing it in through the schoolhouse door. When health care is provided by and in the public schools, there is no separating welfare kids from the others. They are all eligible.

The Illinois State Board of Education letter, signed by Jean Rowe, Medicaid Consultant, was dated October 8, 1996, but was not made public and has been discovered only recently. The copy that came into my hands was addressed to the Barrington, Illinois district, which is one of the wealthiest districts in the United States and proves that Medicaid is no longer a program for the “poor,” but is the vehicle to saddle us with the federal medical system that the American people have rejected.

The Medicalization of the Schools

Indonesians aren’t the only billionaires covertly spending big bucks to influence public policy. There is just as big a scandal brewing about private foundations. Unbeknownst to the American public, several billionaire foundations whose “charity” purports to be “children” and “health care” are using their lavish resources to lobby state legislatures and school districts to persuade them to adopt policies and appropriate taxpayers’ money that promote the foundations’ social agenda.

The foundations’ game plan is to turn the public schools into delivery centers for all kinds of health services, including physical examinations, treatment and medication of children, with or without their parents’ knowledge or consent. This changeover of the schools’ mission from academic learning to social services dispenser also includes compiling all sorts of private information on schoolchildren and their families.

The role of certain elite foundations in influencing U.S. health care policy first came to light when the lawsuit by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) against Hillary Rodham Clinton forced her to admit that her Health Care Task Force included people who were not government employees. Many turned out to be persons who had a financial interest in promoting managed care or were part of a previously unreported network of foundations that had been using their vast wealth to promote managed care.

If the Clinton health care bill had passed, these managed care special interests would have been in the drivers’ seat to control one-seventh of our economy. They failed to achieve that goal, but they are on the way toward achieving the same goal incrementally.

Their game plan is to persuade state legislatures and school districts to accept “grants” with strings attached that bind the governmental recipients to pass laws, or adopt policies, or reveal information, or carry out procedures that implement the foundations’ agenda. If an Indonesian or U.S. corporation were doing this, such transactions would be called bribes and the guilty would be headed for jail, but foundations are hiding behind the label “tax-exempt.”

The engine driving the movement to use the public schools as a launching pad for a government-controlled health care system is the $5.5 billion Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Following close behind are the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trust.

The principal expertise of these foundations is developing creative ways to locate and lock in taxpayer funding for foundation projects. The foundations have successfully captured federal grants from the Medicaid benefit called Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT), Medicaid waivers, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Goals 2000, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Goals 2000, whose number-one-proclaimed goal is “every child should start school ready to learn,” provides the fig leaf of legal authority for this array of federal intervention in public schools. The foundations are making the states and school districts believe that federal mandates in Goals 2000 and IDEA require the schools to test children for emotional, social, mental and physical disorders.

The foundations are persuading the schools that “readiness” requires the schools to provide health services clinics, which then must be staffed by nurse practitioners emboldened with new authority to prescribe medications. The foundations then demand a perpetual, exclusive license to use, and to allow others to use, all data generated by the services. So much for medical privacy!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation started funding school-based health clinics 20 years ago and now boasts that there are more than 600. Foundation documents state the expectation that “every grant dollar is expected to leverage five dollars in public monies.”

These covert foundation activities operate in a murky area without legislative authority or accountability. They cry out for a thorough Congressional investigation of possible violations of the laws against tax-exempt lobbying, against bribery of public officials, against fraud in Medicaid (which is supposed to be only for children in poverty), and against violations of the privacy laws that forbid releasing personal data or transferring it from one agency to another.

The investigation should also explore the battery committed against 59 sixth-grade girls at the J.T. Lambert Middle School in East Stroudsburg, PA, who were taken out of math class and given pelvic exams without their parents’ consent. The investigators should expose how profit-making businesses connected with tax-exempt foundations are using school clinics as captive markets for the sale of their commercial products.

Foundations dole out about $100 million each year to state and local governments and school districts. Since this is all tax-exempt money, and since the recipients are taxpayer-paid bureaucrats, and since the targets of all this money flow is our children, the American people have the right to know what is going on.

Phyllis Schlafly has her B.A. from Washington University, her M.A. from Harvard University, her J.D. from Washington University Law School, and an honorary LL.D. from Niagara University. Mrs. Schlafly taught her six children to read before they entered school, and all had outstanding academic careers. Her most recent book, First Reader, is a system to teach children how to read. Her best-selling book, Child Abuse in the Classroom, was called “required reading for every parent” by Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell.