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Wal-School: Education Secretary Margaret Spelling Pushes Shopping Channel Vision For Higher Education.

Jessie Carpenter Oct 14, 2006

wallschoolAfter a year of hearings and deliberations, the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education handed in its homework on Sept. 26.

Dominated by corporate executives, the commission called for a sweeping transformation of the U.S. system of higher education that would include standardized curricula and testing on a collegiate level and the creation of a giant database to track every single student’s educational record from kindergarten through college and into the workplace.

“This initiative represents a frontal assault on the U.S. higher educational system, under the guise of reform,” John Seery, professor of Politics at Pomona College, wrote on Huffington Post. “Basically the same folks who dismantled FEMA (and have been trying to do the same with other public agencies and institutions) now want to bring their politicized incompetence to all of higher education in America.”

Speaking at the National Press Club on Sept. 26, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings outlined her vision of education reform based on improved consumer choice.

“If you want to buy a new car you go online and compare a full range of models, makes and pricing options,” she said. “And when you’re done you’ll know everything from how well each car holds its value down to wheel size and number of cup-holders. The same transparency and ease should be the case when students and families shop for colleges, especially when one year of college can cost a lot more than a car.”

Spellings, who followed Bush from Texas to Washington, D.C., is one of the main architects of the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated intensive standardized testing in grade schools across the country. In her speech, she called for extending this testing regime to the nation’s 6,000 universities, colleges and technical schools so as to be able to measure the educational “outputs” produced during a student’s time in school. The commission also touted distance learning and “non-traditional” forprofit education providers as vehicles for improving the higher education system.

“The shortcoming of the commission is that they are approaching higher education as a consumer good, as if it can be purchased,” said John Curtis of the American Association of University Professors. “Education is a process, not a database to do comparison shopping with.”

The commission’s call for a centralized database has also sparked concerns. “We are very worried that the proposed tracking system will violate the rights of the 15 million college students in America,” said Tony Pals, a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The system they are talking about would have to use individual identifiers, a database that puts personal privacy at risk.”

While the Spellings Commission emphasized market-oriented approaches to improving the quality of higher education, the six leading higher education associations and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) trumpeted the commissions’ call for increasing Pell Grants over five years so that they cover 70 percent of the average in-state tuition at public four-year colleges instead of the current 44 percent. Such an initiative would require another $9 to 12 billion per year in government spending on higher education at a time of record budget deficits. Both Spellings and Commission Chairman Charles Miller (who was appointed to head the University of Texas Board of Regents by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1999) reiterated that any increase in financial aid would be contingent on schools containing costs and introducing standardized testing, conditions that favor for-profit schools.

Skeptics of the Bush administration’s intentions suggested that educators think twice before embracing the work of the Spellings Commission.

“College leaders who endorsed the overall report (and the many tough requirements it would impose on higher education) might come to regret that support,” wrote Doug Lederman of insidehighered.com.

8 Responses

  1. Spiked coffee says:

    Housing court judges and lawyers show up everyday with empty briefcases, a cup of coffee (probably mixed with Kahlua) and a calculator. Housing court is a debt collection agency. How does the court get so stacked with crappy judges?

  2. Spiked coffee says:

    Housing court judges and lawyers show up everyday with empty briefcases, a cup of coffee (probably mixed with Kahlua) and a calculator. Housing court is a debt collection agency. How does the court get so stacked with crappy judges?

  3. jeannine dillon says:

    Dear Mr. Baumer,

    I recently read your June 20th article on housing court judges and thought you may find the May 17th letter (below) detailing Judge George Heymann’s procedural conduct of interest. For the past nine months, I have spent countless hours in housing court, attempting to help a severely disadvantaged elderly lady navigate the court system while finding pro bono representation for her. Since Judge Heymann was the initial judge on this tenant’s case, I spent scores of hours observing his conduct, conduct–listening to case after case recorded on archived tape and sitting in the back of his courtroom–in an effort to understand the complicated circumstances of her case. During those nine months, I studied Judge Heymann’s conduct, as well as that of other housing judges, attorneys, and clerks, and unbeknownst to them, felt compelled to send my observations to Chief Administrative Judge, the Honorable Jonathan Lippman. Below is the letter that was sent.

    Hon. Jonathan Lippman May 17, 2006
    Chief Administrative Judge
    25 Beaver Street
    New York, New York 10004

    Re: Hon. George M. Heymann
    Civil Court of the City of New York
    141 Livingston Street
    New York, New York 11201

    Dear Judge Lippman:

    As a former investigative producer for network television (NBC News, Dateline; ABC News, Turning Point; CBS News, 60 Minutes), I often had to reach out to government offices/courts in order to gather information for our reports. Many of the calls I made were on behalf of such notable correspondents as Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, and Jane Pauley. When calling on behalf of these prominent individuals, it was not uncommon to receive red carpet treatment.

    But a few weeks ago, I entered the Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County Housing Court as an “ordinary citizen”, in an attempt to obtain information and clarification about a holdover proceeding pending against a friend of mine, an elderly women facing imminent eviction. I am delighted to report that the exemplary treatment we have repeatedly received from the Honorable George M. Heymann—the initial Judge on the case—has astounded us both.

    Although the case was no longer his responsibility, Judge Heymann took the time on more than one occasion, either during his lunch hour or upon completion of the day’s calendar, to answer our questions and provide us with general information that enabled us to understand the otherwise daunting and overwhelming court system. And while Judge Heymann made it clear that he could not provide us with any legal advise or discuss the merits or substance of the case, exparte, the degree of humanity, concern, integrity, professionalism, intelligence, expeditiousness, patience, and kindness inherent in his treatment of us, as well as all those we observed around him, has impressed us to the point of near speechlessness.

    While red carpet treatment is not uncommon for network journalists, the manner in which Judge Heymann handled the concerns of a sweet little old lady has been extraordinary—not to mention, inspirational.

    We civilians often neglect to take the time to provide substantive feedback about our interactions with government agents, or court personnel, but Judge George M. Heymann truly deserves infinite accolades.

    If such manner is indicative of the way he treats all the litigants that appear before him, we cannot but laud his efforts and yours for having appointed him.

    Our warmest thanks,

    Maria Di Battista and Jeannine Dillon

    cc: Hon. Fern A.Fisher
    Hon. Karen B. Rothenberg

  4. jeannine dillon says:

    Dear Mr. Baumer,

    I recently read your June 20th article on housing court judges and thought you may find the May 17th letter (below) detailing Judge George Heymann’s procedural conduct of interest. For the past nine months, I have spent countless hours in housing court, attempting to help a severely disadvantaged elderly lady navigate the court system while finding pro bono representation for her. Since Judge Heymann was the initial judge on this tenant’s case, I spent scores of hours observing his conduct, conduct–listening to case after case recorded on archived tape and sitting in the back of his courtroom–in an effort to understand the complicated circumstances of her case. During those nine months, I studied Judge Heymann’s conduct, as well as that of other housing judges, attorneys, and clerks, and unbeknownst to them, felt compelled to send my observations to Chief Administrative Judge, the Honorable Jonathan Lippman. Below is the letter that was sent.

    Hon. Jonathan Lippman May 17, 2006
    Chief Administrative Judge
    25 Beaver Street
    New York, New York 10004

    Re: Hon. George M. Heymann
    Civil Court of the City of New York
    141 Livingston Street
    New York, New York 11201

    Dear Judge Lippman:

    As a former investigative producer for network television (NBC News, Dateline; ABC News, Turning Point; CBS News, 60 Minutes), I often had to reach out to government offices/courts in order to gather information for our reports. Many of the calls I made were on behalf of such notable correspondents as Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, and Jane Pauley. When calling on behalf of these prominent individuals, it was not uncommon to receive red carpet treatment.

    But a few weeks ago, I entered the Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County Housing Court as an “ordinary citizen”, in an attempt to obtain information and clarification about a holdover proceeding pending against a friend of mine, an elderly women facing imminent eviction. I am delighted to report that the exemplary treatment we have repeatedly received from the Honorable George M. Heymann—the initial Judge on the case—has astounded us both.

    Although the case was no longer his responsibility, Judge Heymann took the time on more than one occasion, either during his lunch hour or upon completion of the day’s calendar, to answer our questions and provide us with general information that enabled us to understand the otherwise daunting and overwhelming court system. And while Judge Heymann made it clear that he could not provide us with any legal advise or discuss the merits or substance of the case, exparte, the degree of humanity, concern, integrity, professionalism, intelligence, expeditiousness, patience, and kindness inherent in his treatment of us, as well as all those we observed around him, has impressed us to the point of near speechlessness.

    While red carpet treatment is not uncommon for network journalists, the manner in which Judge Heymann handled the concerns of a sweet little old lady has been extraordinary—not to mention, inspirational.

    We civilians often neglect to take the time to provide substantive feedback about our interactions with government agents, or court personnel, but Judge George M. Heymann truly deserves infinite accolades.

    If such manner is indicative of the way he treats all the litigants that appear before him, we cannot but laud his efforts and yours for having appointed him.

    Our warmest thanks,

    Maria Di Battista and Jeannine Dillon

    cc: Hon. Fern A.Fisher
    Hon. Karen B. Rothenberg

  5. The author says:

    Jeannine Dillon,

    I am glad that the elderly tenant in jeopardy of being evicted had an advocate like your self. Most tenants do not have representation from an advocate let alone a lawyer.
    [From story] “And the deck is stacked against tenants in housing court. According to the New York County Lawyers Association, of the approximate 350,000 residential cases filed in housing court each year, only 11.9 percent of the tenant litigants had legal representation. The rest are pro se – forced to represent themselves. If they are lucky they will find a housing advocate like Coca to shepherd them through the process.”

    Unfortunately, landlords are all too ready to evict New York tenants for frivolous and technical reasons because there is an economic incentive to do so. Landlords of rent stabilized apartments are eligible for a 20% vacancy increase every time a tenant leaves an apartment and the pressure to vacate can become unbearable for tenants in pads nearing the $2,000 de-control mark. As disgusting and horrible as landlord greed can be, housing court also plays a role in facilitating evictions and wholesale gentrification of neighborhoods. A certain judge’s attitude, demeanor and conduct towards tenants or the fact that housing court has become a giant debt collection agency and eviction mill contribute to making New York City less affordable and antagonistic to everyone not wealthy.

    As to you letter lauding Judge Heymann’s conduct, do you think the senior citizen would have received the same treatment without an advocate? Chances are that the tenant would have had a difficult if not impossible time in a housing court with bullying landlord lawyers and yes, often unsympathetic judges.

    I raise two important points in the article. One, Judge Heymann’s tardiness and two, Judge Jimenez’s alleged treatment of Yolanda Coca, a housing advocate. My point is that if Judge Heymann is tardy to court, what does that say to the tenants who show up on time? A little tardiness can be excused, though some lawyers and advocates (all wanted to remain unnamed) reported that Judge Heymann pushes the limit with his lateness.

  6. The author says:

    Jeannine Dillon,

    I am glad that the elderly tenant in jeopardy of being evicted had an advocate like your self. Most tenants do not have representation from an advocate let alone a lawyer.
    [From story] “And the deck is stacked against tenants in housing court. According to the New York County Lawyers Association, of the approximate 350,000 residential cases filed in housing court each year, only 11.9 percent of the tenant litigants had legal representation. The rest are pro se – forced to represent themselves. If they are lucky they will find a housing advocate like Coca to shepherd them through the process.”

    Unfortunately, landlords are all too ready to evict New York tenants for frivolous and technical reasons because there is an economic incentive to do so. Landlords of rent stabilized apartments are eligible for a 20% vacancy increase every time a tenant leaves an apartment and the pressure to vacate can become unbearable for tenants in pads nearing the $2,000 de-control mark. As disgusting and horrible as landlord greed can be, housing court also plays a role in facilitating evictions and wholesale gentrification of neighborhoods. A certain judge’s attitude, demeanor and conduct towards tenants or the fact that housing court has become a giant debt collection agency and eviction mill contribute to making New York City less affordable and antagonistic to everyone not wealthy.

    As to you letter lauding Judge Heymann’s conduct, do you think the senior citizen would have received the same treatment without an advocate? Chances are that the tenant would have had a difficult if not impossible time in a housing court with bullying landlord lawyers and yes, often unsympathetic judges.

    I raise two important points in the article. One, Judge Heymann’s tardiness and two, Judge Jimenez’s alleged treatment of Yolanda Coca, a housing advocate. My point is that if Judge Heymann is tardy to court, what does that say to the tenants who show up on time? A little tardiness can be excused, though some lawyers and advocates (all wanted to remain unnamed) reported that Judge Heymann pushes the limit with his lateness.

  7. Laura says:

    I went to housing court and wasted my time. I was thrown out of this basement apartment I had gotten in a process where I was very naive. The judge–a woman named Ressos–never had any motivation except to get me out of there. The apartment, it turns out, wasn’t even legal–as I was told by all the building inspectors–so technically I didn’t owe any money on it. The landlord couldn’t bring a non-payment proceeding against me so instead it was a holdover–which means they can throw you out just because they want you out. I can tell you, and you’ll be told when you get there (141 Livingston St) the judges don’t care; they take hundreds of cases a week–the stakes are in favor of the highest bidder. But my case is far from the worst. The tenants in housing court are treated like dog food–one judge yelled at this woman, in front of a roomful of people, that she was getting evicted tomorrow. This woman started to cry. The judge and the people working with her just stood there and laughed. It’s hard to write about this I haven’t said much about it til now. I’m just warning anyone getting ready to go to this place what they’re headed for.

  8. Laura says:

    I went to housing court and wasted my time. I was thrown out of this basement apartment I had gotten in a process where I was very naive. The judge–a woman named Ressos–never had any motivation except to get me out of there. The apartment, it turns out, wasn’t even legal–as I was told by all the building inspectors–so technically I didn’t owe any money on it. The landlord couldn’t bring a non-payment proceeding against me so instead it was a holdover–which means they can throw you out just because they want you out. I can tell you, and you’ll be told when you get there (141 Livingston St) the judges don’t care; they take hundreds of cases a week–the stakes are in favor of the highest bidder. But my case is far from the worst. The tenants in housing court are treated like dog food–one judge yelled at this woman, in front of a roomful of people, that she was getting evicted tomorrow. This woman started to cry. The judge and the people working with her just stood there and laughed. It’s hard to write about this I haven’t said much about it til now. I’m just warning anyone getting ready to go to this place what they’re headed for.

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