h/t Corey Bower who was reminded of education reform when he saw this cartoon.
How the Corporate Right Divided Blacks from Teachers Unions and Each Other
by Glen Ford
By the turn of the millennium, the Bradley outfit solidified its position as George W. Bush’s “favorite” foundation when it invented “faith-based initiatives” to funnel millions of public dollars to churches to provide social services. Faith-based funding and private school vouchers comprised the totality of Bush’s first term outreach to Black America. Neither program drew masses of Blacks into the Republican Party – even the wealthy social engineers at Bradley can’t perform miracles. But Bradley and its far-right sister funders – the Walton and DeVos Family Foundations, Olin, Scaife, Freidman and other troglodytes – had succeeded in penetrating Black Democratic politics, where the real action would unfold. Cory Booker, Harold Ford, Jr., the 29-year-old who inherited his father’s congressional seat in Memphis, in 1996, and other hustlers were the “new Black leaders” ready to embrace “pro-business” solutions to inner city problems, said corporate media boosters. The Democratic Leadership Council, the party’s corporate money bagmen, launched a frenzied, and quite effective, recruitment campaign among Black office-holders and aspirants.
This is the national stage onto which Barack Obama stepped with his U.S. Senate campaign, in 2003-2004, as the very embodiment of the “new” Black politician, full of phrases like “public-private partnerships” and other codes for corporate penetration of the public sphere. By this time, the wealthy foundations were directing much of their money and attention to hawking charter schools as the cure for what ails education in the inner cities. Not that the Waltons and Friedmans and Scaifes give a damn about ghetto kids, but because they understood that Black parents were desperate for anything that might save their children, and would be receptive when fellow Blacks made the pitch. From its inception, the purpose of the project was to drive a wedge between teachers unions and Black constituencies. In addition to being unencumbered by sticky constitutional considerations, charter schools are technically public schools, and African Americans remain broadly committed to the concept of public education. Most importantly, from the rich man’s point of view, charter schools are the gateway to corporate access to the public education purse, a “market” worth hundreds of billions a year in which the public takes all the risk – a capitalist’s paradise! Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan – a veteran Chicago union buster and corporatist – have labored mightily to erect an alternative national system of charter schools.
The Hard Right foundations now had even bigger company as boosters of charter schools: the institutional weight of Wall Street, huge hedge funds, and individual billionaires, all out to make a financial killing, knock off teachers unions, and mold the world views of new generations. After more than a decade of corporate cultivation of ambitious “new Black leaders,” a large cadre of business-friendly African American politicians was in place – including, by 2008, in the highest place of all.
President Obama is the guy that Michael Joyce, at the Bradley Foundation, was dreaming about when he launched his campaign to split Blacks from unions, 15 years ago. Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan – a veteran Chicago union buster and corporatist – have labored mightily to erect an alternative national system of charter schools, plugged into a private financial and educational services sector, that in some cities is as large or larger than the traditional public schools. Obama, because of his race and his party affiliation, is a far more effective foe of public education and teachers unions than his white Republican predecessor.
Michael Joyce was right; he knew that the crucial battle over school privatization would have to occur in Black Democratic circles, if it were to work as a fractious wedge issue. Last month, the NAACP and the United Federations of Teachers filed a lawsuit to halt the closing of 20 public schools and to stop giving preferential treatment to charter schools that often share the same buildings. The differences in learning conditions, schedules and equipment are so striking, says the NAACP, as to reduce public students to second-class citizens. Charter schools, which President Obama fawns over like his own legacy, are blatantly favored by school systems and corporate sponsors. The NAACP is seeking to prove – in a different age and racial context – that separate is not equal, in New York City and other sites of breakneck charterization.
The inequalities are by design. From President Obama on down, charter school strategists hope to expand their privatized systems by deliberately making charters relatively more attractive than traditional classrooms, in order to create a political constituency for more charters. At root, it is a kind of bait-and-switch that is not sustainable, and will come to a halt once the public school “competition” is marginalized or eliminated. By then, the political forces necessary to revive public schooling will have been exhausted in fratricidal battles, and the corporations will have established a system to suit their own purposes– as Michael Joyce foresaw.
When the NAACP joined in the teachers union’s suit, charter school advocates declared war on the civil rights group. Two thousand people attended a May 26 rally in Harlem, accusing the NAACP of dividing the community. Of course, Michael Joyce knows who did the dividing – he and his right-wing schemers and billionaires wrote the script.
Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent).Bob Reich
What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.
How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains.
That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades.
Contrast this with the United States, where the top 1 percent went from getting 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s to more than 20 percent today.
My side, the teacher's side, the side that includes Diane Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, Jon Stewart and actual teachers believe that poverty stifles kids. There has been tons of research going back decades that shows, consistently, that the socioeconomic status of the parents is predictive of how well/poorly a child will do in school. We know that child poverty is higher now than ever. We know that wealth disparity is wider now than since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. We also now know of health issues that are a result of living in poverty, and new studies about the effects of poverty on people's health keep making findings and getting published.
The other side, the side that includes Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Jonathan Alter, Stephen Colbert, NBC, The Huffington Post, University of Phoenix, Michael Bloomberg, The Fordham Institute, and other powerful people and organizations, believe that the only way out of poverty is with an education. There are no studies that support anything these jokers say. Nothing. They might tout a position paper, or working paper, but they can cite no peer reviewed studies that show firing a whole staff, closing a school, making the day/year longer, hiring fresh young TFA teachers, ending LIFO, allowing for more charter schools, vouchers, VAM ,or alternative routes to a license will do anything for kids. None. Zilch. Zip.
So, which is it? Can we educate those mired in generational poverty out of it? Or must we first address poverty, and most of what we want for those kids will then flow from that?
And this, I think, is the battle. It is the battle between these two ideas to deal with the fact that so many of our impoverished kids do poorly in school. That is the reason for all the talk of reform, right? Too many kids doing poorly on tests and/or dropping out. Right?
You might think that there is a debate because some are creating one. Don't let that fool you into thinking too hard about it. It ain't rocket science! There is no debate about what kids need. There is a debate about who will get what they need, and who won't. It's a very old debate. Very, very old. Tunisia tried to end debate this year, along with Egypt and Libya. America won't do it until our televisions die, I'm afraid.
Think about why a kid from the worst part of town does worse in school than a kid from the best part of town. Got it? Don't think about the one or two kids who make it out because they worked so hard, like Obama. Remember, the correlation is socioeconomic status of the parents--Barack's parents were college educated. My little Gerard, who was a student of mine my first year of teaching ever (and who is clearly stuck in my heart), was too skinny (malnourished), meek, quiet, frightened, hungry, never complained about one thing, ever, whose father was absent and mom in jail, is not going to lift himself out of poverty, even with an education--an education he is ill-prepared to receive, much less work toward. He's hungry! Never saw a book until Kindergarten! His teeth were rotten. I wanted to take him home with me, but I made him lunch everyday instead. There are millions of Gerards. Millions. Fucking millions! In America (fuck yeah!).
The reformers have heard of Occam's Razor, but that won't make them rich so they are trying to show that the simple obvious reason for poor kids doing poorly are actually very complicated. No. They are not complicated.
Go to Michelle Rhee's Facebook page and read the vitriol aimed at teachers for "failing" these kids. Read and witness your fellow Americans calling people lazy and stupid. They are disgusting. They discount poverty and claim folks can get out if they just try harder. Really?
All the problems we face today in America are due to greed and the preservation of power by those in power. Voting might work, but I fear something more drastic will have to happen before a poor person can expect treated like a fellow human.
The reformers always ask us what are some solutions. I have three simple things that will help and they all require taxing the rich at a rate much higher than today.
1. Universal health/dental care.
2. Free high quality early childhood education programs
3. Books, books, some books, books, libraries, librarians, books and some free books.
Each one of my suggestions has a common sense basis as well as a research basis. We know ill health and hurting teeth make learning hard, so give them healthcare. We know impoverished kids start school with a deficit compared to their more affluent peers and providing high quality early childhood education programs staffed by credentialed teachers will help make up for the deficits and prepare impoverished kids for school. Kids like books, especially when they get to pick them and keep them. Everyone should give away books all the time. Quit closing school libraries, idiots.
There have been folks who have complained about the vitriol coming from teachers. Yeah, shut up. There's more where that came from.