Spellings’ test

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It’s unsurprising that incoming UNC System President Margaret Spellings commissioned an exhaustive study of the entire organization before she takes office in March, because it’s possible that she has no idea what the UNC System is.

She’s the first president of the system not to hold an advanced degree since the 1950s, the first to have no connection to any of the system’s schools and the only one who has ever worked for Karl Rove.

It was a blatantly political appointment that saw the resignation of the man who made it happen — former UNC Board of Governor’s Chair John Fennebresque — immediately afterward.

She was President George W. Bush’s secretary of education, remember, responsible for that bait and switch that was No Child Left Behind, an enabler of access for for-profit universities to the federal student-loan program and self-appointed protector of the nation’s youth who, without her official interference in 2005, would have been subject to a children’s television program in which one of the characters had two mommies.

That episode of “Postcards from Buster” never aired, but it looks like the UNC study is a go. The Boston Consulting Group got the contract — a behemoth corporation that provides market analysis, advice, consultations and data to two-thirds of the Fortune 500, and thousands of other clients worldwide in both the private and public sector. This is also not a surprise because Spellings worked there after she left the White House.

The BCG absolutely understands the difference between business and government  — the former exists solely to make a profit, while the latter exists mainly to enforce laws, provide services and do the things for citizens that they can’t do for themselves. But like Spellings, they seem to have a preference among the two.

BCG’s study of the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina resulted in one of the largest charter school systems in the country, educating most of the children in the public school system in privately managed facilities that exist outside the realm of pubic education yet are still funded by it. They urged the same thing in their study of Philadelphia’s pubic school system, advising that 40 percent of the students should be in privately managed charter schools. They’ve proposed similar schemes in Memphis and Little Rock, Ark., where the Walton Foundation — they of Walmart — hired them to assess the public school system.

Of course, this line of thought goes against everything the UNC System — the oldest public university system in the country — stands for. And BCG’s disdain for public education should be alarming to all who hold dear the traditions and values of this system.

What’s most alarming is the way this farce is being allowed to play out by people — namely the UNC Board of Governors — who should and do know better.

Unless, that is, BCG’s report, due out next month, doesn’t float the idea of privatization of our UNC System. That would be the only surprise here.