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Civil Rights Groups Argue ‘Race to the Top’ Leaves the Poor at the Bottom

Posted By M. Catharine Evans On July 31, 2010 @ 9:00 am In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

The  dynamic duo from Harvard, President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, are running into some  tough talk from groups that are feeling pretty darn unappreciated right now.

The NAACP, Rainbow Push Coalition, the National Urban League and others issued a 17-page blueprint for educational reform that challenges the $4.5 billion ‘Race to the Top’ initiative. The civil rights activists don’t like the competitive incentives, Duncan’s “extensive reliance” on charter schools and the closure low-performing institutions. They say it stacks the deck against the “majority of low-income and minority students who will be left behind.”

The statement also attacks the heart of the 150-year old Progressive agenda – targeting the poorest neighborhoods for research and social experimentation. The groups object to using the poor:

… and communities of color as testing grounds for unproven methods of education and change while all levels of government have resisted the tough decisions required to expand access to effective educational methods…the recent educational reform proposals have favored “stop-gap” quick fixes…the absence of these ”stop-gap” programs in affluent communities speaks to the marginal nature of this approach.

Obama, in his Thursday address to the National Urban League, struck back against the groups’ objections:

Let me tell you, what’s not working for black kids and Hispanic kids and Native American kids across the country is the status quo. That’s what’s not working.

Oh, really?  President Obama and the rest of the Harvard elites are  just as responsible for that “status quo” as anyone else in power. As a community organizer in Chicago Obama centered on his own career and voter registration in poor neighborhoods, not on improving schools.

And then there’s Duncan.

In December 2008 when Obama brought his cohort to D.C. he praised Duncan for raising standardized test scores by 29%  in his position as superintendent of Chicago’s public schools. An independent research group found that “the real improvement was only 8 points.” After 7 years in Chicago 70% of 11th grade students under Duncan’s leadership failed to meet minimum state standards. Another research group concluded that Duncan’s “closure of low-performing schools did little good for students.”

If the  status quo is “not working” then why do critics of ”Race to the Top“ contend that the Obama-Duncan’s program represents a more intense version of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, which was implemented in 2002?

The NCLB bill, co-authored by Ted Kennedy in 2001, was in many ways remarkably similar to Obama’s: standardized testing, teacher accountability, raising student performance levels in exchange for federal funds and a reward/punishment motivational tool for substandard schools.

Duncan will push charter schools for the best and the brightest. That’s the Progressive elitist way. During his tenure in Chicago Arne kept a list of various mover and shaker politicians who wanted their kids fast tracked into better schools. The Daley appointee was more than happy to intervene on their behalf.  Not so much for the indigent and minorities, their parents were definitely not on the list.

The 17-page framework outlined by the various civil rights groups may be looking for more big government in all the wrong places but in the end, just like all decent human beings, they don’t like being used.

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