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Gabriel Estrada’s classroom at Zavala Elementary Jennifer Boomer support from some parents, teachers, and others concerned about poor public schooling, the movement is heavily supported and well-funded by the business sector. Charters fit in with notions of freedom from government regulation and individual initiative and infuse education with the rhetoric of privatization;”competition” and “choice” are mainstays of charter school rhetoric. Few have done more than UT Regent Charles Miller on behalf of the charter school movement in Texas. Miller helped found the Charter School Resource Center of Texas, which gives assistance and logistical support to charter schools around the state. He is a tireless cheerleader for pro-privatization efforts. Miller has long been the Daddy Warbucks of the education reform movement in Texas. He first became involved in education reform in the 1980s, when he helped found the Texas Business and Education Council, which encourages CEOs to get involved in education. Many credit the Council as the original source of the “accountability” rhetoric eventually adopted by then-Governor Bush, which led in time to Texas’ current program of standardized testing and school ratings. Later, Miller helped found Just For the Kids, a non-profit devoted to standardized testing and curriculum development. As a UT Regent, Miller tied Just For the Kids to UT-Austin in 1999 via a joint initiative called the National Center for Education Accountability, which is focused on standardized testingone of the hottest business and research areas since the passage of No Child Left Behind. He recently pushed for standardized testing at UT-Austin itself, to the dismay of many faculty members and students. Regent Woody Hunt is also a player in the charter school movement. Through his non-profit Cimarron Foundation, Hunt has made contributions to charter school start-ups in Texas. Like Miller, his idea of education reform goes far beyond starting a few charter schools, however. He told a Daily Texan reporter that he was,”especially interested in privatizing higher education.” This is rapidly becoming a fait accompli at many major state schools, which increasingly rely on corporate funding for “applied” research tailored to industry needs. p ressed for an example of a successful charter school in Texas during debate over his education reform package, Bush cited the KIPP Academy in Houston. By this time next year, look for Bush to be referring reporters to the University of Texas East Austin Elementary Charter School, which is shaping up to be a handy laboratory for his ideas. That’s how Bush’s education guru Sandy Kress seems to view the project. Kress, who is collecting $15,000 a month for his work on UT’s education initiative, said, “I think one of the advantages of the charter school is that the research that is being done at the University will find its way into teaching and instruction at the school… [that is] to have a school that can model the results of research.” Kress is in very friendly territory at UT, where he can expect carte blanche to experiment with the new Republican education agenda. In the words of Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, “there’s no daylight” between the UT regents and Bush. Bush’s reading guru Sharon Vaughn will get a chance to fine tune her research in East Austin as well. She will take time out from developing a national policy on reading instruction for Bush to put together a reading curriculum for the charter school, using what she calls the “best research” available. How children are taught to read, as those who follow educational politics know, can be a very tendentious subject, and Vaughn’s work is generating buzz on both the left and the right. Parents and students at the new charter may be distressed to learn, however, that she has no experience whatsoever in bilingual education. The stakes involved in UT’s foray into elementary education are higher than they may seem. As the architect of the No Child Left Behind Act, Kress has a considerable stake in proving the effectiveness of standardized testing and charter schools. The presence of Kress in Austin has attracted the attention of Washington notables, including Under Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok, another advocate of school “accountability” and charters. He told the Board of Regents that they were “really making educational history in this country.” In recent letters of support to UT, the heads of various Texas charter schools congratulated the university on joining “the Movement.” UT officials have made it clear they’re signing up for the revolution in education. Is East Austin ready to be on the front lines? David Peterson is a UT alumnus. Forrest Wilder is a UT English Senior. Both are co-founders of UT Watch, a University watchdog organization. www 12/20/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19