by Eric Holcombe
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has been in print and on the airwaves recently with his anti-Pre-K message (which is largely true) that we now have paid for multiple studies of our own (because Georgia’s just wouldn’t do) that show pre-K has no lasting academic effect beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and broader implementation of this program is a waste of money. Remember back when Gov. Bredesen said Pre-K would be “voluntary”? Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam is still “leaving the door open” for more federal spending on Pre-K and wants to wait on yet another pre-K study by Vanderbilt – while there didn’t seem to be nearly as much reflection on calling for the shutdown of Tennessee Virtual Academy (TVA) after only two years of operation and “almost” being in the bottom 10% academically (never mind the schools that actually were). This despite that TVA truly is voluntary, as no one forced any of those parents to enroll their children. On the contrary, Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam capped their exploding enrollment to prevent too many from having “school choice”.
There is one problem with this anti-Pre-K show. Lt. Governor Ramsey heartily endorsed Pre-K both as Lt. Governor AND as a then candidate for governor. What, you say? Yes, it’s true. Remember that Race To The Top application for over $500 MILLION in taxpayer dollars? All that mass plagiarism on those rubber-stamp letters endorsing the application and its contents? Well, Lt. Governor Ramsey had TWO letters in there. See Appendix A, pages 30 and 34.
He said as Lt. Governor on page 30:
“We pledge to exercise the powers of our offices to vigorously support Tennessee’s Race To The Top proposal and commit to support the legislation required to achieve the goals stated therein, and assist in providing positive conditions for reform throughout the state.” (emphasis mine)
He and Achieve Inc. Board member Bill Haslam said as gubernatorial candidates on page 34:
“If our state is successful in Race to the Top, it must also deliver on the proposed programs and investments in a manner that effectively spans the transition in January 2011 from the current governor [ed: Achieve Inc. board member] to the next governor [ed: Achieve Inc. board member]”. (emphasis mine)
So what, you say. That doesn’t prove anything about pre-K. Well, except that the Race to the Top application they are endorsing absolutely does on page 15:
“In this application, we describe the ways in which we will….leverage other federal funds to create a P-20 statewide longitudinal database that encompasses data from education and social service sectors. We seek to organize our efforts and interventions around this data, enabling it to be used from the Capitol to the classroom. We believe that an expansion from a K-12 data system to a P-20 data system, as well as the creation of an early-warning system, will enable us to reach our graduation rate goal of 90%.”
That “P” means Pre-K. The “20” means year twenty, as in four more years after you have graduated from both high school AND a four-year university. We are going to be mining data from the human capital widgets for over twenty years of their lives via third-party testing contracts and selling it back to the federal government in violation of FERPA (before it was gutted by Obama’s executive order) *ahem*, so our children can “compete in the global marketplace”.
So why would Lt. Governor Ramsey write to Arne Duncan and promise to “vigorously support” this proposed Pre-K database expansion if we aren’t going to be spending more on Pre-K so we can have that “early warning” for the children? Why is he now backing out on his “must also deliver on the proposed programs and investments”? It would seem that Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam is keeping up his end of the bargain.
Ron did actually read the 1100-page application for Race to the Top before endorsing it….didn’t he? Surely he post-dated that letter, right? It would seem this might have come up in those recent super-secret Education Summit meetings.
Don’t fall for the anti-Pre-K rhetoric (even though the statements about no lasting improvement are true). The Common Core shackle is firmly around Tennessee’s neck, and so is the required P-20 Statewide Longitudinal Database System. We have already spent $500 MILLION of Uncle Sugar’s money. We will do whatever is necessary to prostitute our state for more.