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double down

For those of you who missed it, last week’s GOP gubernatorial debate wasn’t exactly the high-water mark of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign.

In fact, it was a “low ebb” if we’ve ever seen one, with Barrett looking ill-at-ease, inarticulate and unprepared.

Obviously, there’s plenty of speculation as to why that may have been the case, but one of the emerging theories is that Barrett’s primary political advisor – RINO consultant/ lobbyist J. Warren Tompkins – is “just not that into” Barrett’s gubernatorial bid.

Tompkins – who has made a career of selling out his “Republican” credentials to the highest special interest bidder – appears to be focusing his energies instead on a down ballot contest, the race to replace S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.

FITS has confirmed that Tompkins is working not one – but two – prospective candidates for the office of S.C. Department of Education, Democrat Molly Spearman (who has committed to running) and RINO Ronny Townsend (who is contemplating a bid).

As reported here on FITS, Spearman was initially courted to run as a Republican, but Tompkins has reportedly determined that running her as a “reformist Democrat” (hey, isn’t that what Rex ran as?) makes more sense.  That way Townsend’s “GOP” candidacy can be used much like the 2006 bid of RINO Bob Staton, as a means of weakening  the eventual Republican nominee.

You gotta love how “Republican” consultants operate, don’t you?

Anyway, it’s not like it really matters which party label you slap on either Spearman or Townsend – as both have pledged their allegiance to fighting long-overdue academic reforms and preserving “dumbed down” standards (and automatic funding increases) for South Carolina’s failed education monopoly.

Both Spearman and Townsend are former lawmakers and current employees of the quasi-public S.C. Association of School Administrators (SCASA), a public employee union whose sole job is to lobby on behalf of the overpaid, under-performing educrats who have been running our state’s taxpayer-funded education system into the ground for decades.

But obsessing over the campaigns of Spearman and Townsend is missing the forest for the trees …

Of much more interest to us than the political “moving chairs” taking place in the Superintendent’s race is the reason they’re being moved.

Not surprisingly, it all boils down to special interest money … millions of dollars of it, in fact.

Tompkins is obsessed with the race for Superintendent of Education because it directly impacts his bread-and-butter, specifically the lucrative academic testing contracts held by his client, Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation.

Having already received tens of millions of dollars to administer South Carolina’s utterly worthless Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT), Data Recognition Corporation was inexplicably awarded a contract last year to propose changes to the test.

That’s right – the company that produced an insanely expensive, totally ineffective test was paid hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to recommend “solutions” to its own worthless product.

PACT was loathed in the education community because it was not a “diagnostic” test, meaning it failed to provide parents and teachers with real-time results of their children’s academic progress.  It also failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind reporting standards because it didn’t let administrators accurately compare our children’s academic progress with the progress of kids in other states.

On top of all that, PACT was one of the country’s most expensive assessment tests, forcing South Carolina taxpayers to spend three to four times what other states spend per child on testing.

According to February 2007 report by the South Carolina Policy Council, “PACT has served as a cloak behind which major failures are hidden,” offering parents and teachers “a distorted view of educational progress.”  The report also stated that PACT “has not provided the context for (state-to-state) comparison, nor can it prescribe the details needed to construct a plan for instructional reform.”

Of course rather than actually fix these glaring problems, South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee (the brainchild of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell) went another route.  They went out and hired the firm responsible for dropping the ball in the first place to recommend the “solution” to the failed test.  Not surprisingly, that “solution” consisted of merely slapping a new name on the same old costly, inadequate assessment … and awarding the contract for administering the boondoggle to the same company that screwed the pooch on standardized testing in the first place (a.k.a. Tompkins’ client).

As a result, Data Recognition Corporation now administers the new Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) test, which is amazingly even more toothless than its predecessor.

And losing more teeth each day …

In fact, on Monday of this week, the Education Oversight Committee approved new “benchmarks” for the PASS test – basically scrapping the original design of the test (recommended by teachers) in favor of a new version written to the exact specifications of the S.C. Association of School Administrators and the S.C. School Boards Association, the two most liberal educrat unions in the state.

Once again, those responsible for educating our children in the classroom (where we spend a scant 44 cents of every dollar that goes into public education) are being hamstrung by bureaucrats who have a vested financial interest in keeping our state’s children – particularly its poor, minority children – as dumb as possible.

According to an employee of Data Recognition Corporation who testified in favor of the “reforms,” the new three-tiered system of the PASS test guarantees that thousands of students and dozens of schools will now magically “pass” the exam – without any measurable increase in academic performance whatsoever.

The four-part PASS exam – which would have no doubt alerted parents and lawmakers to the glaring shortcomings in our public education system – was deemed too “rigorous” for South Carolina.

In other words, by moving the goalposts just a little bit, failure magically becomes success … which is sadly the only way South Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation public school system ever shows improvement.

So much for having the “nation’s toughest academic standards,” right?

“Standardized testing, once seen as the key to measuring and improving student achievement, has devolved into a stomach turning morass of patronage and special interest,” says Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government. “Rent-seeking testing contractors, turf-protecting political incumbents, and self-serving school officials are working to further lower school standards in order to conceal persistent failures in public schools across South Carolina.”

Indeed, with self-serving “Republican” lobbyists like Warren Tompkins and self-aggrandizing “Republican” politicians like Bobby Harrell leading the way, South Carolina is turning its so-called “school watchdog” into a rubber stamp for liberal educrat unions and well-heeled special interest groups whose only objective is to provide cover for a system that is holding tens of thousands of children behind every single year.

That’s hardly “accountability,” people.  In fact, it’s a shameful betrayal of our state’s students, parents and school teachers, as well as further evidence that this state’s status quo has absolutely no interest whatsoever in improving academic achievement in South Carolina.

Given the fact that we’re decades behind the rest of the country academically, we need real accountability for our schools …

That doesn’t come from slapping a new label on the same old generational negligence.

Editor’s note: For more details on the latest scam to keep your kids stupid and unprepared for the 21st Century economy, visit the new Voice for School Choice website.