Educating the Next Generation
by Robert L. Borosage and
The Apollo Initiative for
by Bracken Hendriks
excerpted from the book
Taking America Back
and taking down the radical
edited and introduced by
Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage
Nation Books, 2004
Educating the Next Generation
by Robert L. Borosage and Earl Hadlev
George Bush has started talking about education again, a sure
sign that 204 is an election year. The President will tout his
education reforms as a centerpiece of the "compassionate
conservatism" certain to be revived for the election campaign.
Bush's poll-packaged Administration understands that schools are
a central concern of voters, particularly the now-iconic soccer
Sadly, the President's posturing is not
reflected in his priorities. His No Child Left Behind reform bill
imposes the most ambitious federal mandates on the schools since
the civil rights reforms of the 1960S. Bush gained bipartisan
support for punishing schools that don't measure up on tests by
providing parents with the right to transfer to another public
school, while promising significant new funding to pay for school
improvement. He then reneged on that commitment, failing to budget
even the funds he promised, which were already far less than what
schools actually needed to meet the mandates. Bush's budget fell
$9 billion short of his own promise; he offered Turkey more than
that as a bribe to get it to enter the war in Iraq.
Not surprisingly, the emphasis on testing
has generated a firestorm of protest. Forced, focused attention
on the progress of all students could potentially generate greater
commitment to educating the poor and minority students who have
been too often dismissed as hopeless. But when the President broke
his own commitment on resources to help schools deal with the
challenge, he left school districts to struggle with a vastly
underfunded mandate. And with states and localities facing the
worst fiscal crisis in fifty years, schools-particularly those
in poorer neighborhoods- have been forced to cut programs and
teachers, not add them. The resulting pressures may reproduce
the scandals that marred the Houston schools that were the much-celebrated
model for the national reforms. There Bush's Education Secretary
Rodney Paige supervised schools that showed progress on tests
by routinely increasing and masking dropout rates. Paige made
his name in a district that claimed success, while hiding the
fact that it was literally leaving children behind.
Yet, even if the President had contributed
the funds he had promised for his reforms, he would still have
failed the staggering challenge this country faces in educating
the next generation of Americans in the new century.
With more than 50 million students and
3 million teachers in g2,000 public schools in 15,000 districts,
simply running what has traditionally been a locally governed
nonsystem is hard enough. The new information age and the new
global economy make education-and lifelong learning-even more
essential to our prosperity. A new generation of immigrants requires
the schooling vital for assimilation of our language and civic
traditions. As communications technologies make the world smaller
and generate a growing sophistication in packaging and propaganda,
an educated, questioning, independently thinking citizenry is
even more vital to our democracy.
Americans understand this. They expect
their leaders to make education a priority. They demand ever more
from their schools. They are alarmed at reports, often misleading,
of their children lagging behind those in other countries in reading,
math, or science. Over the past two decades, waves of reform have
set higher standards and provided greater resources to schools.
Yet even as public spending on schools
has risen over the past two decades, particularly at the state
and local level, the national debate about schools has been dominated
by a conservative mantra: Money is not the solution, something
else is. For the now dominant Republican Right, public schools-where
one in four Americans work or study-are an ideological affront.
The exodus of whites from the public schools in the South after
integration and in urban areas of the North has enabled calculating
politicians to turn school funding into a political wedge issue.
For two decades, conservatives have scorned public investment
in schools, while offering up a menu of alternative "fixes":
school prayer, zero tolerance, standardized testing, phonics,
English-only immersion, ending certification of teachers, vouchers.
They've gone from demanding the abolition of the Department of
Education to seeking to supplant the common public school with
a "marketplace" of private institutions, all the while
opposing increased investment in schools.
For all his photo ops, President Bush
reflects this conservative animus. Not only did the President
fail to fund his own reform legislation adequately, he also zeroed
out funding for new school construction, cut funding for teacher
education, failed to extend Head Start to all children eligible,
and sought to allow states to siphon funds from the program. And
most destructive, the President insisted on his entire package
of top-end tax cuts as a "stimulus plan" while opposing
targeted aid to prevent layoffs of teachers and cutbacks in school
programs that indebted states have been forced to impose. Yet,
it is on this record that Bush will undoubtedly campaign in 2004
as an education President.
But the country can no longer afford this
default. Consider simply the following:
* This fall, $3 million students will
attend elementary and secondary schools in America, the largest
number in our nation's history. In the next decade, that number
will begin to grow again, ending up at nearly 100 million children
in school by the end of the century. A growing number of these
students are from immigrant families, newly arrived on our shores
speaking little or no English. With one in five children raised
in poverty, a significant portion comes to school deprived of
the healthy start vital to being ready to learn. One third of
all American schoolchildren are needy enough to quality for free
or reduced-price school lunches. In New York City, it is 70 percent.
In Detroit, 78 percent.
* These students will attend schools that
are aged, overcrowded, and underrepaired. America's schools average
forty-two years in age, with the oldest often in the areas where
the needs are greatest. The influx of students, particularly in
urban areas, has led to doubling up classes, half-day shifts,
and the conversion of trailers, closets, libraries, and gyms for
classrooms. One third of all schools now use trailers to house
classrooms. In 1995, the General Accounting Office estimated that
it would require $112 billion simply to bring the schools up to
safe standards. A more detailed estimate by the National Education
Association in 2000 that included funds needed to update schools
for advanced technology, estimated the cost at $322 billion.
* These same schools now face the largest
wave of teacher retirements ever, as the baby-boom teachers begin
to leave the workforce. At the same time, the retention rate of
new teachers is shockingly low, with 20 percent of new hires leaving
the classroom after three years. One reason is that the starting
pay of teachers is among the lowest of all professions requiring
a college degree with specialized training. Since 1970, average
teacher pay has outpaced inflation by only one third of I percent
a year. Now women and minorities are no longer locked out of other
careers, depriving schools of what had been a captive quality
labor pool that could be had on the cheap. Low teacher pay hurts
the most in the low-income urban communities that have the greatest
need for experienced, skilled, and committed teachers.
* As they graduate, students will seek
to enter colleges where tuitions and costs are rising at 14-15
percent a year. Federal grants for deserving students have not
kept up with these costs: The maximum Pell grant now covers 39
percent of public school tuition, down from 84 percent in 1975-76.
College graduates now leave with debt burdens 35 percent higher
than those of students graduating a decade ago. And more and more
simply are priced out of four-year colleges altogether. At a time
when we ought to be making college education universally available,
our commitment is flagging.
There is a legitimate debate about how
efficiently money is used in our schools. Too often, when more
money is available, sclerotic bureaucratic systems spend it not
on meeting specific needs, but on placating entrenched lobbies.
Decades of reform fads have come and gone without settling significant
disagreements about which reforms make a difference. But beneath
the ideological posturing and legitimate debates, there is a common
sense agenda for public education.
Children should come to school ready to
learn. That means having a healthy start, with good nutrition,
health care, and adequate shelter. Preschool is essential in providing
basic social, behavioral, and cognitive skills. Children should
attend schools that are safe, pleasant to be in, well-equipped,
well-lit, and not dangerous to their health. Schools must engage
parents, and insure that they are involved and present as much
as possible. Small classes make a difference, particularly in
early grades when individual attention can give slower starters
a needed boost. For working parents, diverse after-school programs
are both helpful to children and vital to society. Skilled, experienced,
and dedicated teachers are indispensable. They need to be well-prepared
and committed to lifelong learning and retraining, and should
be rewarded accordingly. Children should know from the start that
going on to college is both expected and affordable.
These are neither new nor revolutionary
concepts. They don't encompass the latest fad in high-tech education,
the latest vogue of small middle schools, or whole child learning.
They are the basics. And yet for a dramatic and growing portion
of the next generation, they are out of reach.
For that to change, Americans need to
hold their public officials accountable. It has been too easy
for politicians like George W. Bush to parade as education reformers
while refusing to make schools a priority in their budgets, and
failing to rally the nation at all levels to make the investments
vital to providing the basics for every child.
The politics of this default are poisonous.
In 1972, nearly 80 percent of US public school students were white.
In 2002, it was barely 60 percent. Imposing underfunded mandates
on schools, railing against failing schools, proffering vouchers
that weaken the schools further, all the while defaulting on the
basic investments needed could easily become a staple in the racial
wedge politics that is the foundation of the modern Republican
Party. In 2004, the President will boast about his historic reforms,
while calling for limits on domestic spending. Yet this is the
President who ran up record deficits paying for tax breaks for
the already affluent, added $100 billion a year to a military
budget that is now nearly as great as the rest of the world's
combined, and spent $87 billion to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan
for one year alone. At the same time, he claimed we could not
afford the funds needed to avoid debilitating cuts in public schools
across the country, much less to double the federal commitment
to public schools-from 2.8 to 5 percent of the national budget-and
lead a renewed commitment at all levels to educating the next
Neither our democracy nor our prosperity
can easily withstand this posturing. An educated citizenry has
always been a hallmark of America's democracy and a foundation
of its progress. That was surely true over the past century, as
America rose to global prominence and enjoyed unparalleled prosperity.
Education taught a common language and extended a shared civic
culture to the flood of immigrants that forged America's industrial
might. America became the first country to require twelve years
of formal schooling. After World War II with the GI Bill, America
became the first nation to make college education widely available.
Integrating America's schools was central to the effort to end
segregation and address the challenge of equal opportunity for
all. This commitment to education helped to forge the broad middle
class that is the pride of America's democracy and the foundation
of its prosperity.
The workers and the citizens of the next
generation will necessarily come in increasing measure from the
ranks of today's poor and working-class children. And while the
test-score gaps between white and black, and white and Hispanic
children have begun to shrink, the gulf between rich and poor
achievement in schools remains enormous. If those children are
not educated well, and well beyond even the high school level,
it is not simply the economy that will suffer, but our democracy
Can we now educate to a high level of
achievement a remarkably diverse population of children, drawn
from many races and cultures, many with little or no English,
many raised in poverty on dangerous streets? No other nation has
attempted anything like this. This is the great democratic, economic,
and human rights challenge of our time.
To meet this daunting but inescapable
mission requires not more posturing, but a renewed commitment
to public education. Those who seek to dismantle or starve the
public schools should be scorned as the cranks that they are.
If we are to provide a high quality public education from preschool
through college to the next generation, we must ante up the resources
even as we undertake necessary reforms. That isn't a task for
the federal government alone, nor for the states or the localities.
It is a task for the nation.
The Apollo Initiative for Energy Independence
by Bracken Hendriks
Too often we are told to think small-that we must choose between
good jobs and environmental quality, and that we cannot break
the crippling dependence on foreign oil that threatens the security
of our nation. But we can do better. Working families should not
have to choose between putting food on the table for our children
today and protecting the health of our children tomorrow. The
new Apollo Project seeks to break the zero-sum framework of jobs
versus the environment, by putting forward a strategic initiative
that works to improve both environmental and economic quality
of life. Apollo represents a bold and hopeful vision that unites
the progressive base, curbs our addiction to foreign oil, paves
the way to a new environmental strategy, and invests in our economic
Even at the height of its current power
and prosperity, America faces daunting challenges. Our cities
and states are experiencing the worst financial crisis since World
War 11. Programs such as Social Security and Medicare are facing
massive budget cuts. Americans are out of work, with this Bush
administration managing the worst jobs record of any President
since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. We're hemorrhaging
manufacturing jobs. Our cities face over a trillion dollars of
unmet infrastructure needs. This year, millions of Americans faced
rolling blackouts. Global warming is a real and growing danger.
The U.S.'s crippling dependence on foreign
oil is unsustainable. At the time of the 1973 oil embargo, the
United States imported 35 percent of its petroleum. Today we import
well over half. The United States consumes a quarter of the world's
oil yet has only 3 percent of its reserves, so more drilling offers
no solution. Our energy problems go deeper than oil. We use 25
percent of the world's energy, nearly three times the amount of
any other country. Deregulation has destabilized the energy sector,
contributing to historic blackouts. Further, pollution problems
are escalating, and environmental impacts threaten to limit our
economic growth and hurt our quality of life.
These big challenges-crises in our environment,
in our energy security, in our economy, and in the fabric of our
cities-need to be met with big ideas and bold solutions. The Bush
administration established a task force under Vice President Cheney
to lay out a comprehensive energy policy. But Cheney expressed
little but contempt for conservation-a "personal lifestyle,"
he sniffed-and turned the commission over to the lobbyists from
Big Oil and Enron. The result is an energy plan that lards subsidies
on energy suppliers, calls for more drilling from Alaska to Florida,
and does nothing to reduce our dependence on imported oil. The
plan succeeded in sparking a pitched battle, with many labor unions
and environmentalists on opposite sides, posing a choice between
creating jobs and protecting the environment.
Now moving beyond these false divisions,
labor leaders and environmentalists are uniting around a bold
new vision for America's future. A new project-of the scope and
urgency of the original Apollo Project that took us to the moon
decades ago-that would dramatically break our dependence on foreign
oil by investing in energy efficient and renewable technology,
creating millions of good jobs here at home and building a sustainable
infrastructure that will make our communities more livable and
THE APOLLO PROJECT: A PATH FORWARD
Named after President Kennedy's famous
challenge to put a man on the moon, the new Apollo Project seeks
to curb America's addiction to oil, increase the diversity of
our energy resources, invest in new technology, and create new
jobs for Americans. Specifically, Apollo calls for a bold $300
billion plan for the next ten years. It will be broad-based, sharing
the benefits of investment widely across the economy while insuring
that no single sector bears all the costs. And it will be immediate,
deploying proven and cost-effective technologies that exist today,
not placing all our hopes on long-term R&D like the Bush plan
for a hydrogen "freedom car."
Backed by seventeen international labor
unions and a broad cross section of the environmental community,
the Apollo alliance calls for an investment to jump-start America
on the road to energy independence. Investment will accelerate
new renewable energy sources. It will convert assembly lines to
put American-made advanced technology cars on the road. It will
help older plants improve their environmental performance, preserving
domestic manufacturing jobs. It will deploy new technology for
pollution control at older power plants, and invest in research
and development to create a hydrogen energy revolution.
The new Apollo Project will promote high-performance
"green" building and push a new generation of energy-efficient
appliances to market-driving up efficiency without driving jobs
overseas. It will support smart growth and mass transit, increase
brownfield redevelopment, and rebuild transportation and water
infrastructure, relieving municipal budget pressures. And an Apollo
Project will strengthen, not repeal, regulatory protections for
consumers, workers, and the environment.
Like Kennedy's Apollo program, the new
Apollo Project will put America at the cutting edge of new technology
and global economic leadership. At present, America is neglecting
the industries of the future while other nations move rapidly
to capture them. Wind is the fastest-growing energy source in
the world but European producers, not Americans, dominate turbine
production. Fuel cells are poised to revolutionize energy technology,
but most are produced at nonunion plants in Canada. In 2000, the
Japanese government invested more than $500 million to build the
market for photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity,
over seven times the U.S. commitment of resources. It is time
for America to step up to the plate-to unleash the ingenuity,
enthusiasm, and drive that sent a man to the moon.
THE POLITICS OF UNITY
Investing in the Apollo Project means
more than dollars and cents; it means investing in a new political
strategy. For too long, Democrats have allowed the GOP to exploit
old fault lines between economic populists and environmentalists,
pitting jobs against the environment and today against tomorrow.
But an Apollo Project represents both good policy and good politics.
Voters want a better vision of the future.
Recent polls in key Midwestern swing states show strong approval
among voters-72 percent support a large-scale Federal program
to invest $300 billion on energy independence. Even more striking,
support for Apollo jumps to 81 percent among noncollege educated,
Bush-leaning, Democratic, white men-a segment of the population
that often breaks with progressives, and a group that could determine
the outcome of the next election. These "Reagan Democrats"
have been burned by the current economy, and they respond to a
message of hope for good jobs, renewal, and reinvestment.
An Apollo Project is attractive to swing
voters, but it also heals the progressive base. By focusing on
good jobs and new investment to solve persistent energy and environmental
problems, Apollo offers common ground for both labor unions and
environmental advocates. "By building fuel cells and wind
turbines, by retooling American plants with efficient technologies,
we can create good jobs, a strong economy, and a sound environment,"
according to Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International
Association of Machinists. United Steelworkers' International's
president Leo Gerard notes, "In the face of a trading system
that's devastating both workers and the environment, an Apollo
Project for energy independence has the potential to unite trade
unionists and environmentalists in building an economy that values
every worker's right to bargain for a decent living and every
citizen's right to live in a healthier world."
This investment agenda is a stark contrast
to Bush's millionaire tax cuts. With wealthy investors increasingly
going global, Mr. Bush's tax breaks may create more jobs in Shanghai
than in St. Louis. Unlike tax cuts for the rich, investment in
new energy infrastructure is targeted toward and anchored in communities
where it is most needed. Moreover, increasing energy efficiency
provides ongoing cost savings for working families and municipal
budgets. As Michael Sullivan, president of the Sheetmetal Workers'
International Association says, "Energy independence means
more economic security, lower energy costs, and healthier environments.
The Apollo Project offers a long term solution that reinvests
in communities and the future of our nation."
The pollsters Greenberg, Quinlan, and
Rosner found that when asked about terrorism and events in Iraq,
86 percent of Americans placed a priority on reducing dependence
on Middle East oil, with 63 percent believing that a combination
of renewable power, efficient technology, and conservation is
the answer to improving security. By linking national security
and good jobs, and by speaking to Bush's vulnerability on the
environment, clean energy will have major influence in the coming
When labor and environmentalists work
together, we can accomplish great things. Both movements represent
real capacity for our democracy. Both bring foot soldiers, message
operations, policy sophistication, and a core set of values that
strengthen civil society, public welfare, and community integrity.
And, both will be involved in building a solution to our country's
deep economic and environmental troubles. Apollo helps forge a
single progressive movement- a movement for good jobs and energy
independence, that brings together the 14 million union members,
with the 12 million environmental members, and growing majority
of Americans who are concerned with the fight for civil rights
and economic justice. This is a coalition that can take back power
and demand a future that is both just and sustainable.
By uniting a broad coalition of labor
unions, environmentalists, civil rights activists, social justice
advocates, and others, the new Apollo Project showcases the best
of the Progressive movement. It restores faith in a positive role
for government, and aligns activists around a common agenda built
on common interests. From the railroads, to the national highway
system, from Roosevelt's New Deal, to the space program, to the
telecommunications revolution, visionary public leadership-and
meaningful public investment- have always paved the way for great
national endeavors. It is time once again to meet our challenges
head on, with bold vision, a sense of optimism, and a shared commitment.
It is time for a new Apollo Project for good jobs and energy independence
that rebuilds America, and makes the greening of he economy the
next great engine of jobs and growth.
On the way to a fresh foreign policy based on preventive democracy
and the recognition of interdependence, an international coterie
of citizens has adopted a new "Declaration of Interdependence"
which will be promulgated on September 12, 2003, the first "Interdependence
Day" to be celebrated in Philadelphia and Budapest as well
as in schools and universities in many places (for details see
www.civworld.org). The Declaration reads as follows:
DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE
We the people of the world do herewith
declare our interdependence as individuals and members of distinct
communities and nations. We do pledge ourselves citizens of one
CivWorld, civic, civil and civilized. Without prejudice to the
goods and interests of our national and regional identities, we
recognize our responsibilities to the common goods and liberties
of humankind as a whole.
We do therefore pledge to work both directly
and through the nations and communities of which we are also citizens:
To guarantee justice and equality for
all by establishing on a firm basis the human rights of every
person on the planet, ensuring that the least among us may enjoy
the same liberties as the prominent and the powerful;
To forge a safe and sustainable global
environment for all-which is the condition of human survival-at
a cost to peoples based on their current share in the world's
To offer children, our common human future,
special attention and protection in distributing our common goods,
above all those upon which health and education depend;
To establish democratic forms of global
civil and legal governance through which our common rights can
be secured and our common ends realized;
To foster democratic policies and institutions
expressing and protecting our human commonality; and at the same
To nurture free spaces in which our distinctive
religious, ethnic and cultural identities may flourish and our
equally worthy lives may be lived in dignity, protected from political,
economic and cultural hegemony of every kind.
Interdependence Day falls on September
12, the day after the memorial to that fateful day on September
11, 2001, when terrorism came to America and changed the course
of history by teaching us that unless all are free and equal,
none may be free and equal. Unless the poorest most desperate
nations find a way to live democratically, the world's oldest
democracies may perish. Declaring our interdependence and celebrating
the possibility of rendering interdependence just and democratic
for all is one way to begin the struggle to take back America
by joining the world.