It has been over twenty years since frustrated educators, idealists, and those wanting to destroy public education offered School Choice, and partial schools, as options for parents. These experiments have been given more than a fair test. The results of this gamble are now clear. The great majority of parents – nearly 90% – have examined the options and support community public comprehensive schools with full curricula and services. They demand schools with democratically elected school boards and complete financial accountability. There is no doubt about what parents, educators, and citizens want and what children need. The frightening thing is that a minority in power ignore the will of the people.
There can be no doubt that parents reject the school choice option. Most parents never placed their children in incomplete education programs. A majority of those who let their children be experimented on have regretted their decisions. Many are now aware that that public comprehensive schools offer much more than partial schools. Children need more than drilling and practice just to pass tests in math, English, and a few select subjects. Yet the political forces and the self-appointed reformers that have taken control of states and local school districts refuse to respond to the will of the great majority. None of these self-aggrandized kings and queens have ever been vetted, trained, or are experienced as educators, yet they force their ideologies on the great majority. There are several reasons for this:
First, is the profit motive. Rupert Murdoch said it best when he noted that taxpayers pay over $500,000,000.00 (billion) dollars each year for public education. His goal, and that of the majority of people who call themselves “Reformers,” is to gain access to the pool of taxpayer money. Every dollar they take (profits and scams) deprives districts and children of services. To extract this money they have declared war on the watchdogs: Elected community boards and state boards of education and, in fact, Democracy. In States that have opened the tax coffers to profiteers, schools of choice operate with public money but without accountability equal to that required of district schools. The profits they take for “services,” which usually duplicate expenditures the taxpayers are already paying for, are hidden from the public.
Second, is best understood by examining the motives of those involved in political movements designed to destroy and privatize public education, privatize prisons, and stop any form of worker representation. This is the mantra of the John Birch Society (Fred Koch) which has been evolved by his sons into many well-funded organizations. The main one is ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). One may assume that every elected Representative who is a member of ALEC or any of these groups with similar agendas, is working to destroy and privatize public schools, privatize prisons and end worker representation. In states like Arizona, the Koch-ALEC-Goldwater Institute-GOP groups have succeeded in controlling the public coffers and severely starving and damaging public schools. They do not represent the will of parents or the greater society. Their agendas do not benefit their State or America.
Third, America is totally unprepared for the oligarchical takeover of our governments (Federal, State and Local) by people with great wealth. The current system that has caused so much damage to America, and especially public schools, children, and educators, is one based on wealth, not knowledge or experience, training or even intelligence. Most of these modern kings and queens operate through tax-exempt foundations and well protected LLCs. Most employ people of dubious experience who have, with the support of the oligarchs, worked out powerful programs that seem to make sense to those who have incomplete ideologies like hedge fund managers, the Waltons, or too often, poorly informed, trained and experienced TFA (Teach For America) members and alumni. Their simple answers to complex problems are forced on communities. People like Michelle Rhee, who crippled and demoralized D.C. schools, and Joel Klein, desperately trying to cover the fact that his insights are flawed, and Eli Broad, who has forced his way in although he has a limited insight into education and children’s needs and a fact-adverse plan to destroy public schools. There are those like Bill and Melinda Gates who work through their foundation to force changes that are solutions to problems they have never bothered to identify or understand. The damage these “deformers” have done to children, educators, and communities is beyond measure.
For all of these “Deformers” there is one universal thread. They have never understood or addressed the real problems that families, children, teachers, and our society have to deal with. They refuse to address a failed economic system that is at the root of our problems. Instead, they jump to false solutions that only compound the problems. There are also politicians like Arne Duncan who failed badly to assess and help Chicago’s public schools when he was superintendent. To cover his failure, when his buddy appointed him head of the USDOE, he got in bed with corporate raiders who, following Rupert Murdoc’s advice, were going after taxpayer dollars by data mining (testing is part of this plan) and using privileged information about our children to devise teaching and testing scams that rake in billions.
Politicians like Arne found support from Bill Gates and others who never bothered to see beyond their own myopia, and jumped in bed with companies like Pearson, and others. They ignore the will of parents, facts provided by educators and research, and the voices raised against them. The people have voted. The great majority of the population rejects their unearned, self-anointed expertise. The opt-out movement is but one indicator that the reformers are ignoring the voices of those served.
There is one more group that needs to be addressed. These are the honest educators and education leaders who have been hooked, as I once was, by the dream of charter schools which could break out and demonstrate better ways to help children and then bring that expertise back into the public schools. Where they once believed they could demonstrate a better way, many realize they have been set-up to fail. Many of these charter school governing boards (not elected by the community) fire the qualified teachers and hire TFA or other unqualified, uncertified people who will work for peanuts. Many contract-out education and other services to for-profit companies (usually run by them, a friend, or a relative) who sap the meager budgets and the education programs – for profit, not for kids. Almost all charter schools direct money needed for education to “administrators,” resulting in small schools having per pupil spending for administration that exceed those of districts which serve thousands of our children. (For example, BASIS directs upward of $2,000 per pupil for “administration,” Parkview over $3,000, and PUSD only $732 per pupil for administration). These examples of excess expose taxpayer money that is taken from public school budgets and spent on partial schools where there is no accountability.
Charter Schools are intentionally setup to fail. To survive, they have to duplicate almost every service and advantage the public schools (our tax dollars) are already providing. They must do that with the minimal amount of money the state takes from public school budgets. They must depend on teachers (even those with no qualifications) to subsidize the partial school. They must compete with powerful, well-funded, profit-driven charter schools which are often Real Estate businesses building their wealth by exploiting children and using tax dollars for personal gain. All this because the State Legislatures protect them from accountability because they are part of the plan to destroy and privatize public education. Parents, children and the future of our country be damned.
What must happen in many states is happening in Arizona, a state dominated by a small minority of the extreme right wing. Arizonans have gone against the GOP and this handful of powerful and frightening people who control the State. Our communities were told not to vote for bond issues or overrides that would help to fight the starvation plan the Legislature has approved. Yet, throughout the state, the citizens in all but two districts went against well-entrenched power and voted for the district schools. The people have spoken – progressives and conservatives. Will those in power let our voices interfere with their Democracy-killing agenda?
For more information and insights about threats to our public schools and communities you may be interested in these blogs:
Splintering And Shattering Our communities. Wait Until The Hammer falls. Parents Speak Loud And Clear.
All are attached to: www.edwardfberger.com