15 November 2014
Ever heard of the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act — or HERO Act? Nah, me neither. At least not until I started wondering what role the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is playing in Higher Education Reform. It seems some of ALEC’s biggest supporters have think tanks on the job, and as it turns out, in 2012 the Koch Bros’ Heritage Foundation came up with a way of privatizing Higher Ed via an accreditation reform paper that found its way into a bill called — you guessed it! — the HERO act. Here’s how the act is being sold by one of Heritage’s policy research fellows:
Finally, Congress now has the opportunity to actually address the college cost crisis through reforms to accreditation. This is one of the biggest opportunities conservatives have to advance transformational education policy in the coming year.
The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act—or HERO Act— introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., would empower states to allow any entity to credential courses, which could pave the way for a more flexible college experience for students and make possible a dramatic reduction in college costs.
The proposal would allow states to establish flexible accreditation models that would infuse a level of customization in higher education not possible under the existing accreditation system.
Accreditation reform is long overdue. By enabling states to take the lead on accreditation, the HERO Act creates a promising way to drive down costs and increase customization and opportunity in higher education.
In other words, by deregulating the Board of Education, profiteers can move in with their own accreditation agencies. Makes sense if you consider the ongoing City College of San Francisco (CCSF) fiasco in which beleaguered ACCJC corpora-darling Barbara Beno has been unable to convince elected officials that a thriving, excellent community college needs to be shut down.
But wait… there’s more! Heritage’s paper, known as Backgrounder #2728 on Education: “Accreditation: Removing the Barrier to Higher Education Reform,” reads like a free market privateer manual to open up taxpayer funds for private venture: create reform policy; leak policy into media; create state-level legislation; spend money to get legislation passed; siphon public funds away from public programs toward privately owned weak facsimiles; toss education under the bus and into the open market.
Meanwhile at another co-Koch think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, the Center on Higher Education Reform put together a paper boldly named “Protecting Students and Taxpayers: The Federal Government’s Failed Regulatory Approach and Steps for Reform,” in which Hank Brown, “former U.S. congressman, senator and president of the University of Colorado, writes that the nation’s accreditation system is a ‘public policy and regulatory failure by almost any measure.'” Hmm, while the ACCJC, the Lumina Foundation, and the Gates Foundation work one end of the candle, the Accreditation Reformers work the other.
With such heavy hitters girding the Koch’s dream of a United States free of the united and the states, plural, is it any wonder the HERO Act, like so much other Higher Education Reform legislation, is creeping in right under our noses? In light of this, it really doesn’t matter if ACCJC’s bungling is purposeful or not. The vulture philanthropists aren’t giving up their war on education without a fight. And they’re impatient, too, for it’s not enough to lure giddy wannabe administrators to the K-12 dark side. And it’s not enough to replace long time experienced teaching professionals in administrative HE positions with corporate CEOs & CFOs. Better to control via the state, a place where ALEC’s friends reside.
by Marnie Webster