From Failing Schools
by Mark Friedmen
After having returned to FS after an intense few weeks of campaigning, organizing, and of course standardized tests & finals, I came across some political news worthy of attention. Due to stalled negotiations and discussions of revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in Congress, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made a predictably flawed announcement that he is willing to unilaterally take autocratic action and amend the law himself. As stated in US News, “A clause in the law permits the secretary of education to waive certain parts of the act—a power Duncan said he would consider use [sic] if states agree to enact reforms”.
Arne Duncan in Congress
As states desperately clamor to obtain relief from the ominous “accountability” provisions of the federal school accountability law (ESEA), Duncan continues the extortion routine. As Diane Ravitch stated in response to Race to the Top, “What if the carrot feels like the stick?” (Speaking of Ravitch, let’s not forget Duncan and Jonathan Alter’s grossly unjustified attacks on Ravitch for merely speaking truth to power in response to their corporate reform agenda)
There shouldn’t be great levels of surprise regarding Duncan’s back door dealing. After all, Duncan is planning to offer regulatory relief only if states adopt reforms that are utterly absent in the relevant legislation. This was the same extortion and black mailing technique that was employed from the first stages of Race to the Top which has become part of the disturbingly familiar political reality we find ourselves trapped inside in public education.
To take a step back, this makes serious engagement in the growing struggle that much more necessary, as the stakes continually get raised. I keep thinking of the powerful point Sabrina raised in her piece Reclaiming the Table: We need to stop asking for a place at the table in discussing and implementing education reforms, policy, and practice. We need to organize, educate and motivate against complacency, hopelessness, and powerlessness as challenging as it may be at times. As such, I’m energetically anticipating the opportunity to build relationships with educators, parents, students and organizers, at the Save our Schools March and National Call to Action. In order to build, and connect the many budding grassroots education efforts underway, we must communicate and enter into processes by which we find our common intersections. By linking and building solidarity between the many corners of this struggle, we must develop agreed-upon compelling alternatives to the elite corporate vision that has become the status quo in education.