IRS Targeting, the Atlanta Cheating Scandal and the Bush-Rhee High-Stakes Test Model

Imagine for a minute that the opposite is true and that the United States abruptly switched from a flat tax to the federal tax code we have now?

Frightening huh?

Yet this is essentially what the nation’s two top education policy-makers in Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee have imposed on our schools. In the name of “accountability,” the two have succeeded in making the results of standardized high-stakes tests the only thing that matters – just like the slippery calculus of the federal tax code.

What could possibly go wrong?

The conservative groups who have been victimized by what’s quickly unfolding as a partisan political  hit job of unprecedented proportions are advocates of flat tax or fair tax philosophies. They’d find my upside down tax policy scenario chilling. This week’s revelations that they were targeted by the IRS demonstrates that the current tax code can be dishonestly manipulated for those with an agenda.

So can Bush and Rhee’s test-based accountability system. One only needs to consider Atlanta’s cheating scandal. Driven by merit pay (think IRS bonuses) a bunch of folks gamed the system to achieve an ends. Worse for Rhee, “cover-up” is now being frequently applied to the cheating scandal that occurred in DC while she was in charge.

Conservatives justifiably mocked Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Obamacare in which she said “we’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” We are indeed finding out more about Obamacare. It’s frightening to some that the same IRS executive who oversaw the targeting of conservative groups will be in charge of he new Obamacare compliance unit.

But so too, have Bush-Rhee test-based accountability systems. Florida’s school grade formula is tweaked every year by legislators as is the federal tax code. In Atlanta – and clearly in Rhee’s DC – children’s tests were tampered with to achieve the desired results.  As motivations of the IRS and whomever directed the targeting of conservative groups may have been partisan, questions of the legitimacy of President Obama reelection are being raised. Especially as additional evidence of a Benghazi “cover-up” emerge.

But so, too, Rhee’s DC record. If Rhee’s DC legacy continues to be proved a fraud, so too does the Rhee model.  As more states move away from the Bush school grade formula, so does the legacy of Bush as a pious education reformer.

It is for conservatives that this teachable moment exists. Bush and Rhee have made teacher’s unions the boogeyman. But Obama and senate Democrats threw the same sort of red meat about Tea Party boogeymen.  Perhaps conservatives who see IRS targeting as an assault on free speech will begin to  see that the Bush-Rhee model exploits children as a shameful politically motivated parallel.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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