FRONT ROYAL, VA — Dr. Richard Bishirjian serves as president of Yorktown University, an outstanding online graduate school. An advocate of innovative education for years, he recently shed light on a long-standing mystery: why don’t “conservatives” in Congress have more success in fighting the government education monolith?
Bishirjian tells the Rubble that, “in 2006 and later in 2009, when we faced regulatory issues that only Congress could resolve, we found that most members of the Education committees of Congress were left of center on issues most important to us.”
Bishirjian credits Yorktown University trustee and former Congressman Bob Schaffer for the explanation.
During his time in Congress, Schaffer served on the House Education and Workforce Committee. “The assignment is not ideal for conservative Republicans,” he observed, “because the committee doesn’t attract donor support. Teacher unions reward Democrats who serve on those Education committees, but Republicans are more attracted to supporting Members serving on Defense, Ways and Means, and other committees where their interests are directly affected.”
And where there are more Republican donors, of course.
Rep. Schaffer’s candor pierces the bipartisan fog that usually surrounds discussions of education. It also makes sense historically.
As president, Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education [DOE] as a reward to the school unions (I hesitate to call them “teachers”), which had become increasingly politicized during the early 1970s.
Then Ronald Reagan disappointed millions of conservatives when he failed to shut down DOE in the 1980s (however, on his first priority, he won – specifically, the Cold War).
Bill Clinton’s support earned him the National Education Association’s “Friend of Education” award. And ten years ago, George W. Bush actually compounded the problem further with No Child Left Behind.
Rep. Schaffer’s insight applies to a much wider swath of the GOP than membership on a congressional committee. At a meeting of Paul Weyrich’s “Coalitions for America” when “No Child” was introduced, virtually no conservative leader expressed support for the bill.
Yet, the groups they led were focused on other “single issues,” and they thus failed to put up a common front opposing the government education forces.