White House: Government schools good, free-market schools bad

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Failing private-sector schools will get the knife, but failing government schools will get billions of dollars in taxpayer funds under pending federal education regulations, education secretary Arne Duncan said on Friday.

Taxpayers provide $30 billion each to private-sector education companies via loans to students who enroll in about 8,000 education programs, so the government can and will kill bad programs by denying them funding, Duncan said.

“We anticipate about a quarter of those 8,000 programs failing,” Duncan said at a White House press conference.

“We want bad actors, frankly, to go away,” Duncan said.

However, when the The Daily Caller asked him if he planned to extend the tough “bad actor” policy to government schools, Duncan hemmed, hawed and talked extensively about more government spending on low-performing schools.

“That’s a very different sector, to be clear, and we’re lots of things to try to improve that sector,” Duncan replied.

“We’ve invested billions of dollars to turn around low-performing schools…We would love to fix the ‘No Child Left Behind’ law… we’ve provided waivers to vast majority of states in this country… We’re looking at reductions in drop-out rates, graduation rates, [and] college-going rates,” he said before citing data about lower drop-out rates among Hispanics and African-Americans.

So TheDC asked the question again.

Will the government “push bad actors out of the K-12 sector?”

“No,” Duncan admitted.

Instead, the government will provide billions of dollar to low-performing, government run-schools even as it tries to cut billions of dollars from low-performing private-sector schools, he said.

“To be very clear, we we are investing north of $5 billion in the bottom 5 percent of schools in each state, and we’re seeing tremendous transformation,” he claimed.

Duncan justified the regulatory discrimination against private-sector schools by saying government officials want to help students choose education programs that will help them get better jobs at lower costs.

“Historically what has driven much of this [private-sector] market is marketing,” he said, adding that “I’m interested in outcomes, I’m interested in outcomes.”

“Students often ended up worse off than when they enrolled,” he said.

The government is trying to tighten regulations on four-year universities and college, he said. The government spends $150 billion a year on grants and loans, and it plans to use that power to revamp the universities and colleges, Duncan said. For example, it wants to steer more federal loans to colleges that help federally-funded students graduate, he said.

The regulations are still being developed, via negotiations with education leaders, Duncan said.

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