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Est. April 5, 2002
 
           
July 28, 2016 - Issue 664



2016 National and State Elections
Implication for Public Education


"Unless parents, teachers, unions, the clergy,
and other activists for public education band
together to aggressively push back against
this rising tide of school privatization and the
corporatization of the wider public sector, there
will only be remnants of public institutions that
have been the foundation of our democratic
society, and our teachers and other public-sector
workers will have been sacrificed on
the altar of corporate profits."


New Jersey Updates: Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson’s appointment of Councilor-At-Large Rich McMahon to the Montclair Board of Estimate to replace Councilor Sean Spiller is a victory for Don Katz and his corporate Cartel allies. They resented Spiller’s strong support for the adequate funding of the Montclair Public Schools. McMahon has no real connections to or support for public education, and it is believed he will be much easier to manipulate for their interests.

Montclair Residents Opposed to the Fulbright Charter School, a recently formed parents group with 800 members on Facebook, is actively lobbying against the approval of the Montclair Charter School (previously named Fulbright Academy) with letters to New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe and the Montclair School Board (whose privatization gang of four) is privately supporting the charter at the behest of local Cartel leaders. But these Board members are now being surrounded by parents, Supt. Bolandi, Montclair Cares About Schools, teachers, and countless members of the Montclair community.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, an unannounced candidate for the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial election, had his first public dust-up with South Jersey political boss, George Norcross, at a breakfast for Democrats at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Norcross laid out his strong gubernatorial support for New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, his long-term friend and protégé. The battle is on!

As noted in previous columns, public education is at great risk for being radically reconfigured after the 2016 elections by the corporate education reform Cartel (a syndicate of conservative foundations; Political Action Committees; insurance companies; energy and oil companies; hedge funds; Wall Street Investment Banks; etc.) on the local, state, and national levels. At the presidential level, there is a clear choice between Democrats, Hillary Clinton, and Tim Kaine, who have largely supported public education, and Republicans, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, who fervently support corporate charters, vouchers, and other structures to privatize public education for profit.

Huge inroads have already been made, and more corporate educational interventions are already queued up in legislative committees at the federal and state levels. Fueling these initiatives are legislative takeovers by Republicans in more than twenty states and the bipartisan cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in so-called Democratically-controlled states.

The leaders of these Cartel school privatization initiatives are Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, who along with their billionaire and multimillionaire cronies, are funding hundreds of majority and minority grassroots advocacy and political groups, research organizations, and politicians to carry their agenda from coast to coast. By funding elected officials on both sides of the aisle at every level of government and in all racial, ethnic, and gender groups, the Cartel’s influence has increased exponentially. Thus, backers of public education are in the crosshairs of their erstwhile supporters, Democrats, and opponents, Republicans.

The Koch Bros. placed their bold imprint in the platform of the 2016 Republican national Convention: reducing oversight of homeschooling, privatizing schools through voucher and charter school programs, and replacing federal student aid for college with private “investment.” The Cartel funds the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that drafts their proposals into legislative templates that are distributed to their state and federal officeholder surrogates to pass into law.

At the national level, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and recent recipient of the National Education Association’s (NEA) Friend of Education Award, has crafted a federal voucher bill that he will pass out of his committee with the already promised votes of Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African Americans in that legislative body (provided that Donald Trump wins the presidency and that the Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate). They have been two of the most assertive black advocates for corporate school choice, and both are primarily funded by the Cartel.

There is also a move afoot to federalize charter school legislation so that the corporate charter movement is not inhibited by citizen and legislative input at the local and state levels. With these changes in place, the march to dismantle and privatize public education would be virtually unstoppable. At the same time, the Cartel and the broader private sector are imploding public- sector pensions and benefits, thus placing current and retired teachers at a significant disadvantage. Two states at the forefront of this movement are North Carolina and New Jersey.

In North Carolina, Republicans who control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature have turned public education upside down since 2012 when they assumed control. They have eliminated teacher tenure, dismissed thousands of teachers’ aides, revised teachers’ salary structure, and drafted laws designed to place the state’s low-performing schools in a corporate charter system that will have almost no oversight. A bill is also being drafted that would push teacher pensions into private-sector management.

The battle over public education and the non-discriminatory treatment of the LGBT community has become so acute that in the 2016 governor’s race, the Republican incumbent, Pat McCrory, is currently trailing the challenger, Attorney General, Roy Cooper, in the polls. Public education stakeholders, several major business leaders, and gay rights activists have joined together in a ground operation to defeat Gov. McCrory who has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in convention cancellations in the aftermath of his signing of the anti-LGBT law (HB2).

New Jersey’s teachers’ pension and benefits system has already been overhauled, resulting in teachers’ take-home pay being reduced even when they have received modest increases in negotiated contracts. And Democrats control both the Assembly and the Senate. Democrats have systematically cooperated with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to pass anti-public education and anti-teacher statutes since his first term began in 2010.

The lifting of the charter cap, numerous voucher proposals, a proposal to eliminate collective bargaining, school district takeovers, the demonization of teachers and teacher unions, and numerous other school privatization schemes have been co-operatively advanced by Gov. Christie and his Democratic allies with no attempts to override his bill signings. Christie has also announced an equal funding plan for the public schools which would place low-wealth districts at a severe fiscal disadvantage as many would receive budget cuts above forty percent. The objective is to force poor districts into default whereby they would have to accept privatization remedies to survive.

These are but a few examples of what is at stake for teachers and public education in the 2016 elections. Unless parents, teachers, unions, the clergy, and other activists for public education band together to aggressively push back against this rising tide of school privatization and the corporatization of the wider public sector, there will only be remnants of public institutions that have been the foundation of our democratic society, and our teachers and other public-sector workers will have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate profits.

In the coming weeks, state-level school privatization assaults will be examined.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series


BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 



 
 

 

 

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