More on the USDOE Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program
On May 14, 2014, I wrote this post on the US Department of Education’s (USDOE) Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program (PAF). I note that via PAF, it is possible for US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to monitor and control local districts of education.
My concern is that districts employing Duncan’s PAFs unwittingly open the door to site-level federal intrusion in education affairs.
I am not advocating that all principals who demonstrate an interest in the PAF program desire to equip Duncan to enforce his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver and Race to the Top (RTTT) conditions, not the least of which are evaluating teachers and administrators using student test scores and adherence to the “state led” (tongue in cheek) Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I am advocating that principals participating in PAF might well find themselves placed in the regrettable position to do so.
First, consider this PAF job description from the USAjobs website:
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is looking for the best and brightest to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation. If you are a highly-motivated , creative individual who would like to work for an agency that establishes policies on federal financial aid for education, distributes as well as monitors those funds; collects data on America’s schools and disseminates research; focuses national attention on key educational issues; and prohibits discrimination and ensures equal access to education, ED is the place for you!
This application is for ED’s inaugural Principal Ambassador Fellowship (PAF) program, specifically for the 2013 part-time Campus Principal Fellowship. The Department of Education recognizes the critical impact that principals have on student achievement, family engagement, and school improvement. Building on the success of its sister program, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program, the Department wants to engage these important voices more deeply into the national policy dialogue in a more structured way. This position will provide outstanding principals who have a record of leadership, student achievement, strong communication skills, and insights from their school experiences an opportunity to highlight the voice of the principal within the education community and the country at large. [Emphasis added.]
The PAF job description indicates that PAFs would be working for the federal government– USDOE– an agency that “establishes policies for federal aid” and “collects data.” Thus, “engaging” these PAFs “in USDOE… in a more structured way” could well involve communicating to USDOE (now the PAF’s employer in concert with the PAF’s school district) the degree to which the PAF’s site school (and possibly district) are complying with those federal-aid-garnering “policies.” It is also possible toat the PAF could be used by USDOE to “collect data” related to those USDOE “policies.”
Here is some of the IPA language that could apply to the PAF program:
If the assignee is detailed to a set of unclassified duties, the assignee continues to be paid directly by the non-Federal organization at a rate of pay based on the assignee’s non-Federal job. The Federal agency may agree to reimburse the non-Federal organization for all, some, or none of the costs of the assignment. [Emphasis added.]
Note that the IPA includes language that would allow USDOE to pay the PAF’s employing district for the services of the PAF.
In other words, via the IPA, USDOE could offer to pay a local district for employing a PAF.
Such fiscal “reimbursement” language opens the door to the possibility of USDOE attempting to lure districts into PAF program participation in order to establish a federal connection between a local education site.
Via this language, USDOE could entice districts to employ PAFs at a cheaper cost (due to federal reimbursement) than non-PAFs, and as employees of USDOE, those PAFs could be required to deliver to USDOE information regarding school or district compliance with federal education policies, such as student-score-based teacher and administration evaluation and adherence to CCSS.
Given the increasing pressure from USDOE for state and local compliance with federally-endorsed corporate reform of public education, districts would do well to consider the implications of such potential portals for increased federal intrusion into local education.