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Published in Print: December 3, 2003, as E.D. Steers Grants to Pro-Privatization Groups, Report Charges

E.D. Steers Grants to Pro-Privatization Groups, Report Charges

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The Department of Education is providing millions of dollars in grants to a handful of pro-voucher and privatization groups at the same time the Bush administration has underfunded the No Child Left Behind Act, the advocacy group People for the American Way charges in a report.

The Washington-based liberal organization, which opposes the use of public money for private school tuition, distributed a Nov. 18 analysis written by its president, Ralph G. Neas, titled "Funding a Movement: U.S. Department of Education Pours Millions Into Groups Advocating School Vouchers and Education Privatization."

The report says the department has doled out $77 million over the past three years to eight groups that it calls "far-right organizations" that promote an "education privatization agenda."

Groups cited as receiving both solicited and unsolicited grants are: the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence; the Black Alliance for Educational Options; the Center for Education Reform; the Education Leaders Council; the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation; the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options; and K12, an online education company founded by former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

This year, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence received a multiyear grant from Secretary of Education Rod Paige worth $35 million, the report notes, to develop a "fast-tracked route" for alternative teacher certification.

The Education Leaders Council, a conservative-leaning national organization of school leaders and policy experts founded in 1995 as an alternative to the Council of Chief State School Officers, has received $15.9 million from the federal department under President Bush, the report says.

The analysis notes that Lisa Graham Keegan, the president of the ELC, formerly served as state superintendent in Arizona, where she helped establish "privatization efforts" such as tuition tax credits.

Hickok Responds

"This torrent of public funding appears to benefit and strengthen the advocacy infrastructure created by a network of right-wing foundations dedicated to the privatization of public education," the report says.

That funding, it says, has come even as the Bush administration has "consistently underfunded" the No Child Left Behind law, which passed with bipartisan support.

According to People for the American Way, the education appropriations bill that was pending in Congress last week would underfund the school improvement law by more than $8 billion in the current fiscal year, 2004. The fiscal 2003 appropriation underfunded the law by nearly $6 billion, the group says.

Eugene W. Hickok, the Education Department's acting deputy secretary, dismissed the report as an ideological broadside.

"Consider the source," Mr. Hickock said in an interview last week. "[People for the American Way] has its own agenda and obviously is very critical of this administration generally. The organizations that are mentioned have all been given money to support NCLB. We feel good about the activities they are engaged in, and that's why we support them."

Mr. Hickock described the claim that the No Child Left Behind Act has been underfunded as "tired, old rhetoric."

Vol. 23, Issue 14, Page 22

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