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Est. April 5, 2002
Sept 16, 2021 - Issue 879
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As the new school year gets off to a wobbly start, public education is under increased assault. Governors in the red states of Florida, South Dakota, and Texas are leading the way as they crackdown on student masking, distancing, and vaccines as the antidote to COVID-19. Now that students of color are the majority, public education is in danger.

In the recently completed California gubernatorial recall election, opposition to coronavirus reduction remedies was at the center of Republican opposition, with the Democrats only prevailing after massive campaign spending during the final months of the race.

These Republican political moves are gaining steam in the 27 states helmed by Republican governors, and 54 percent of legislatures are also under their control. As the nation continues its rapid trek toward a demographic status where Whites are no longer the racial majority group, Republicans are pulling out all stops to stay in power.

Therefore, they are attacking those venues of the nation where people of color and their children are making rapid gains - K-12 public education and voter registration and participation. As noted often in this column during the past two years, our nation is moving toward a system of Apartheid whereby a White minority group controls all aspects of life.

Dr. Christine Beltran, a professor and Director of Graduate Studies, at NYU, stated that we must mobilize to pass Congress’s proposed For The People Act to prevent this from happening.

Some would say that it is perhaps conspiratorial to conclude that the disinvestment in public education, urban and rural infrastructure, voter access, police reform, and a lethargic COVID-19 response are, collectively, a mugging of democracy and our current way of life with an aim of making it more flawed. We need to forestall a bleak future.

Add to this the Republicans’ xenophobic focus against immigrants of color who Fox News’ leading TV host, Tucker Carlson, has labeled a “replacement group for White Americans” due to what he alleges to be their obeisance to the Democratic Party.

As the Delta and other more infectious coronavirus variants are overwhelming hospitals with a herculean increase in the number of the unvaccinated, many of whom are children, being admitted, Republicans are standing by blocking any meaningful response. Democrats appear to be idling in place, confused and/or immobile, and unsure of what to do.

It is difficult for many to see the connections between the aforementioned issues, but it is a reality that former President Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ about supposed voter fraud and irregularities have seized upon these falsehoods to pummel Democrats in every arena of politics.

Public education is at a crossroads in that its Democratic allies are not giving voice to its plight due to their internal dissension over the filibuster, safety-net spending priorities, and other progressive initiatives. For the time being, K-12 public school students are not on the front burner of Democratic political discourse, and they should be.

Children of color who are the rapidly growing majority of public school populations are further decimated by residing in neighborhoods of increasingly concentrated poverty with parents whose employment has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Now that the latter’s state and federal government subsidies have ended, their plight is worsening.

Another menace to public education is the largely ignored threat of the corporate funding of school choice vouchers and charter school expansion during the COVID-19 crisis while many school districts had resorted to remote learning. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into school choice schemes to privatize K-12 public education.

And the school choice corporate cartel also perpetrates the ‘Big Lie’ that vouchers and charter schools provide a higher quality education to low-income students of color than their public school counterparts. That was untrue when they first said it a decade ago, and it is untrue now.

Corporate lobbyists have also intervened in police reform, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) the appointed Senate lead on police reform legislation and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), appear to be slow-walking any meaningful changes in the infamous qualified immunity police statute.

Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s summoned Sen. Scott to his private Hawaiian island in early 2021 after Ellison made a $10 million contribution to a political organization aligned with Scott. Ellison is also a major funder of school choice groups, especially the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that has developed much of the school choice legislation.

It is also evident that these same lobbyists have rallied their corporate employers to contribute tens of millions of dollars to Sens. Scott’s and Booker’s campaign coffers, during the past decade, who have also been consistent advocates and have delivered votes for school choice legislation. Thus, public education is in an awkward position.

Finally, the made-up controversy over critical race theory, which is essentially the accurate teaching of American history, warts and all, can also be added to the list. A Taliban-like insurgency that places today’s students at cumulative risk as Republicans target them, directly and indirectly, is emerging.

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 and BC.

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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
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