Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is "No Child Left Behind" a Dollars Game Only?

Is NCLB is just another way to enrich private companies and individuals, especially those close to President George W. Bush and his family?

Many critics of NCLB believe this to be true and there is plenty of evidence to support this charge.

It is the unreasonable proficiency goals that have convinced many that the hidden agenda of NCLB is to sacrifice the public education system in the name of profit, either through the development of expensive and privately produced supplementary education materials or the eventual privatization of schools. "NCLB is a dollars game and it needs to be understood on that level," says Walker. "It has nothing to do with the children -- it has to do with making people rich."

Private tutoring, for example, has witnessed explosive growth since the law's inception. ThinkEquity Partners, a San Francisco-based investment bank, estimates that public schools will funnel more than $900 million dollars to private tutors in 2006-2007, up from $300 million in 2003-2004. Textbook publishers are exacting similarly huge profits. McGraw Hill, which publishes the materials for NCLB's Reading First program, cited in its Quarterly Report that sales in the Elementary and High School market were critical to their frequent double-digit growth in earnings per share (17.6 percent in the second quarter of 2006).

The Bush administration has also provided the opposition plenty of ammunition. Ignite Learning, a company owned by the president's brother Neil and backed financially by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talai, developed a system last year named COW, or "curriculum on wheels." COW is a high-tech instruction aide for teachers that expects to produce $5 million dollars in revenue in 2006, according to BusinessWeek. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, former First Lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with explicit directions that it be spent only on educational software produced by, you guessed it, Ignite Learning.

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