Beware the New "Education Sector"

Friday, June 1, 2012
Over the years, Kevin Carey and I have had our tussles, most recently over whether some of his recent stances on education reform were too faithful to a business model, which I called "neoliberal."  But throughout it all, I have remained a fan of both Kevin and his shop, Education Sector, since both are known for asking hard, data-driven questions about whether higher education is meeting the needs of students from disadvantaged families.   So I am extremely disappointed to see that Education Sector has been hijacked by the conservative Right, and now clearly represents the interests of business elites, pushing free-market principles on all of education.  Kevin, to his credit, is getting the hell out of there, moving to the New America Foundation, accompanied by his talented colleagues Stephen Burd, Amy Laintinan, and Rachel Fishman.

Within a few days the change at Education Sector will be complete.  The leadership includes several consultants to the Romney campaign and members of the Hoover Institution, such as John Chubb, Macke Raymond, and Bill Hansen, who seem to believe that markets have magical powers, and that educating students is akin to making hamburgers or sauerkraut. Worse yet, Hansen is a former Bush appointee who lobbies for the Apollo Group, and has worked against every effort to contain corruption in for-profit schools.  He was president of Scantron, of the "fill in the bubble" testing industry, and has worked to advance the cause of student loan providers. And his jobs have been described as things like "creating a new education line of business...and  integrating the education services activities throughout the company into a strategic product portfolio." Stephen Burd's long been on to this guy- he is trouble.

No doubt about it, these folks will use Education Sector to advance an agenda aimed at ensuring the federal government stops helping students afford college.  They'll start by telling us that college isn't really necessary, and that financial aid is ineffective-- but they'll also do nothing to ensure public higher education becomes free. Instead, they will push free-market solutions -- mainly online education-- for other peoples' children, while probably sending their own kids to elite private schools.

So next time you see a report from Education Sector, give it a second look.  Theirs are no longer "Charts You Can Trust."  They are acts of political manipulation pushed by the hard Right.

Consider yourself warned.

Updated at 11:16 am CST. Gee, Google is so much fun.