The Money-Seekers

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.

4 thoughts on “The Money-Seekers”

  1. Now, I know teachers unions tend to have their own bizarre set of problems, but there is a benefit to them other than the money aspect.
    I write this as an employee of a nonunion charter school.

    Being a teacher provides a unique opportunity for an employer to exploit an employee. Those few folks that are drawn to the teaching profession are often very interested in primarily helping children. Teaching them something is almost an afterthought, compared to working in a field that benefits children. That’s a good thing. It’s why these people (women) are the good teachers, the ones we want to teach our children.
    Without a union, the school has the option/ability to deprive the employees of a decent working environment “for the sake of the children”. Because the teachers (employees) have an emotional attachment to the children and their progress, the teachers put up with the abuse.
    At our school, teachers are with their kids from 7:15AM-3:30 PM, often with no breaks, not for lunch, not for lactation, and not to go to the bathroom. No teacher has had a raise in 4 years. Most of the decent substitute teachers in our service don’t even answer the phone when we call. This wouldn’t happen in a union shop. And the teachers put up with it. For the children.

    Not that this is specifically on topic. I just wanted to provide the perspective.

  2. Biz,

    You’re exactly right.

    Especially in the elementary school context, the Administration’s hand is extremely strong, as the are dealing with individuals who are basically selfless and caring.

    I’m no fan of school administrators, and the petty exploitations you are familiar with is part of the reason why.

  3. Best quote from the piece

    “The fact that we score poorly now does not mean that our educational system has deteriorated. In fact, it was always bad.”

    Brilliant!

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