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Est. April 5, 2002
October 12, 2017 - Issue 715

The Origins of the Assault
Teachers and Public Education

"Former President Obama and his Education
Secretary Arne Duncan, whom he appointed
at the Cartel’s direction, essentially set up the
school privatization infrastructure that President
Trump and his Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos
are taking to the next level.

Public education, teachers, and the broader public sector have been victims of a systematic mugging since the 1950s which began after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown Decision, overturning racial segregation in public schools. The late James McGill Buchanan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1986, wrote the blueprint for the strategy in 1956 while professor and chair of the Economics Department at the University of Virginia (UVA). He had the support of UVA’s President, Colgate Whitehead Darden, who secured the necessary funding to launch the project which was designed to subvert social justice and majority rule and was able to survive and thrive despite the successes of the civil rights and other progressive movements (see Figure 1).


Despite the push back against the current demonstrations against police brutality and inequality started by the former NFL San Francisco 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, protests via kneeling, marching, fist raising, etc. have been central to the progressive push for social justice throughout American history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968 due to his success in leading social campaigns that desegregated busing in 1957and led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and Congressman John Lewis was almost beaten to death while marching across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama to promote the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Americans across racial groups have marched and kneeled to protest the Vietnam War, for abortion rights, for gay rights, for school desegregation (even after the Brown decision), for public education, for jobs and freedom, and a host of other social causes which have improved our nation.

In her riveting book, Democracy in Chains The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America (2017), Nancy MacLean details the creation of schemes to hoodwink America into supporting policies and programs that would disproportionately benefit the few to the disadvantage of the many by transferring control of public policy and public services to the corporate elite.

It would take several decades for these privatization proposals to gain traction, and an increasing number of corporate chieftains, led by Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, generated the necessary revenue to sustain this initiative. Over time, the plan was revised and expanded, and since 1990, there has been a concerted effort to privatize K-12 public education, to abolish unions, and to reduce support for teachers and public schools.

This has been achieved by the corporate reform Cartel’s co-opting of elected officials at state and federal levels with large and continuing contributions to their political races. For example, during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, all seventeen candidates were beneficiaries of its generosity. The Cartel’s guiding idea is that organized labor has pushed a legislative agenda that has resulted in the majority of the nation’s citizens becoming “takers” from the wealthy, through taxes, that support a growing array of social programs that levy a heavy financial burden on the “makers” (the Cartel). It should be noted that these are terms that are regularly used by Congressman Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. Speaker House of Representatives and a leading Cartel surrogate.

That viewpoint was a contributing factor to the defeat of the Republican 2012 presidential standard bearer, Mitt Romney, when he was secretly taped saying, "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president (Obama) no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it … These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." These statements were adjudicated to be false, but they remain part of the core philosophy of the stealth campaign to undercut democracy.

MacLean has also pointed out that those who would destabilize our existing political system have planned for the long game and have pursued the privatization of public education since 1954 even when there were enlightened efforts during the 1960s and 1970s: court-ordered desegregation in northern and western cities; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965; and SCOTUS’s Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg busing decision of 1971. But the Cartel slowly struck back by writing policies and electing U.S. Congresspersons, Senators, and Presidents who rolled back the aforementioned gains. Republican Presidents also appointed conservative SCOTUS Justices who reversed some of the earlier liberal rulings. SCOTUS declared segregated school districts unitary, which led to decreased support for teachers and public schools. Congress converted ESEA into No Child Left Behind (NCLB) under President George W. Bush, which allowed for school closings and teacher dismissals, and the Cartel drafted Race to the Top (RTTT) for President Barack Obama, which opened the flood gates for corporate charter schools, attacks on unions, and the demonization and escalating terminations of teachers.

Currently, the alleged Democratic allies of unions and teachers have been almost as aggressive, although in a somewhat subtler manner, in the privatization of public education as have Republicans who receive most of the blame. Former President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whom he appointed at the Cartel’s direction, essentially set up the school privatization infrastructure that President Trump and his Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos are taking to the next level. Moreover, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who is currently vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has enjoyed continuous union support during his fifteen-year political career as Newark, New Jersey’s City Councilman and Mayor, and now as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator. He collaborated with New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie to promote school privatization in Newark and across the state from 2009 until now.

It is becoming apparent that teachers and unions have not developed long-term strategies to ensure the stability and adequate funding of public education while their privatization-oriented opponents are constantly producing a variety of structures to shift more public dollars into the hands of the “makers” at the expense of the body politic whom they have labeled the “takers.”

links to all 20 parts of the opening series 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. 




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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