The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission-- doesn't that sound grand? It sounds like a real official government thing, only it isn't, exactly. It's the project of the Heritage Foundation, a right-tilted thinky tank that has been a major policy player in DC since the days of Ronald Reagan. They've successfully pushed a bunch of policies over the decades, with their one fumble coming in health care-- these are the guys who designed what became Romneycare that became Obamacare, thereby transforming a hyper-conservative policy idea into a policy that conservatives vowed to destroy. If you have wondered "Why don't conservatives come up with their own health care plan?" the answer is that they did-- and it's Obamacare. Oh, politics.
The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission (subtitled "Saving Lives and Livelihoods") is composed of seventeen "heavy hitters" including former governor George Allen, retire Cato chief John Allison, some Heritage Foundation people like president Kay James and--
Well, look. It's Kevin Chavous, the big cheese at K12, the 800 pound gorilla of the cyber school world, the one funded by junk bond king Michael Milken and founded by a McKinsey alum (anoter early investor-- Dick DeVos). They've had more than their share of messes (like the time the NCAA decided K12 credits don't count). But the Trump administration has been good times for them. And Chavous used to help run the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos's dark money ed reform group, from which he called for the privatization of post-Katrina New Orleans education. Do I need to add that he has no actual education background?
NCRC issued some recommendations yesterday, and much has already spurred discussion (particularly the "get rid of all the rules" parts), but we're just going to look at the education piece, which, given what I've told you so far, should come as no surprise:
States should immediately restructure per-pupil K–12 education funding to provide education savings accounts (ESAs) to families, enabling them to access their child’s share of state per-pupil funding to pay for online courses, online tutors, curriculum, and textbooks so that their children can continue learning. Students are currently unable to enter the K–12 public schools their parents’ taxes support. They should be able to access a portion of those funds for the remainder of the school year in the form of an ESA.
ESAs are super-vouchers, a voucher that let parents spend public tax dollars with little oversight or accountability. It's a bad policy idea for a variety of reasons, but this implementation would be particularly brutal if what they're seriously proposing is to strip public schools of all funding for te remainder of the year. Seriously?? Just finish the year with zero dollars because we're just going to hand out the rest of your operating budget as vouchers?
It also appears that the NCRC has assumed that no schools are actually doing anything right now, that no students in the US have continued learning. Perhaps the craziest juxtaposition here is to put the plug for online resources (you know-- like K12) with the assertion that families deserve money back because their children can't enter the building, as if the building is te most critical part of education.
The one actual lie here is the implication that the parents would just be getting back the money they put in for the schools "their parents' taxes support." But of course all taxpayers support the school, and perhaps the rest of the taxpayers might want their investment to be maintained for the remainder of the year, the staff--who are still working at teaching students--to be paid and the buildings to be maintained.
These guys are either too lazy to pick up a phone and find out what is actually going on in schools, or too greedy to care. But they are not yet done making terrible recommendations:
Additionally, state restrictions on teacher certification should be lifted immediately to free the supply of online teachers and tutors, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to provide K–12 instruction online.
Because if cyber schools are going to cash in, they need access to cheap labor. The recommendations go on to allude to research that "suggests" that teacher certification gets no better results than any shmoe, and of course by results they mean tests scores, because part of the point of the Big Standardized Test is to reduce the aim of teaching, to McDonaldize them job so that any shmoe can do it and employers can pay shmoe-level wages. Ka-ching.
In keeping with the rest of the recommendations, this isn't about helping the country recover so much as it's about turning it into a free market wild west where entrepreneurs can cash in. This is some top grade amateur hour bullshit here. Shut down the schools, give the money to families so that we can pitch our education-flavored goods which, incidentally, are staffed with non-qualified meat widgets, the better for us to cash in. And if a pandemic helps us push the replacement of human-centered professional public ed with private screen-centered amateur run education-flavored businesses? Well, ka-ching, baby.