In the education reform debate, there are several dimensions of force, such as
- Money, where the major players are Teachers and For-Profit Education Companies
- Power, where the major players are States and Districts
- Childcare, where the players are parents and employers
In the middle of all of these dimensions is the central actor of the education reform debate: teh federal-academic complex, that collection of bureaucrats, researchers, and scholars associated with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the National Institutes of Health.
Bruno Behrend has also been writing about education reform, and he has used the term the “government-education complex.” Initially I thought by this he was simply describing the federa-academic complex, but in a recent column he defined his term as thus:
The “Government Education Complex” is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.
The complex is made up not only of associations of administrators and teachers unions, but an interconnected network of bond dealers, builders, architects, law firms, textbook companies, and other service providers who profit off of the overproduction of service contracts, debt, public employment and bureaucracy. This interlocking network has played a role in funding the campaigns of 1000s of elected officials at all levels and in both parties.
In other words, Bruno uses the term “government-academic complex” to refer to all players who primary interest in extracting money from the education system.
Indeed, Bruno continues:
The vast sum of political money raised by the “Government Education Complex” is used to write legislation at the state level to grow the complex while protecting it from any competition. State school codes are written by and for the complex and its members, and passed by the political class whose campaigns they fund.
Bruno is providng an important service, popularizing the notion that a major function of the educational system is provide extra wealth (insurance, lifestyle, etc.) to politically powerful interest groups, such as teachers or textbook publishers.