Greedy corporate interests that are politically well-connected, that’s who. Just as our health care system has been crippled by insurance companies that deny treatment so they can divert medical care dollars to generate corporate profit, our public education system has been targeted by corporate bandits that are increasingly successful at siphoning off education funding for their own profit. They are in fact destroying public education in order to grab the tax dollars that support it. This did not happen overnight.
First it was necessary to destroy the reputation of public schools and the teachers who give their heart and soul to the young people of our nation. So, while everyone was giving lip service to the idea that “children are our future” public schools have been starved for funding and teachers (and our unions) have been bashed at every opportunity.
The next nail in the coffin was spurious testing. Remember No Child Left Behind? Wonderful slogan, bad public policy. It has given us robotic scripted curriculums, endless “periodic” tests, high-stakes one-shot assessments that are culturally biased and that fail to adequately measure what students really know, and an entire industry that scores the idiotic assessments after teachers give them. All of that siphons off public education dollars while schools are starved of resources they really need and students miss out on the true joy of learning.
Schools that “fail” the worthless assessments are forced to give public funds to largely unregulated “tutoring services” that are supposed to provide remedial instruction formerly given after school or on Saturdays by classroom teachers. The tutoring company diverts a portion of that public funding for its own profit. Schools with high numbers of English language learners are most likely to “fail” since many students are taught and tested in a language they have not had time to master (ignoring common sense as well as research that invalidates that approach.) Then those schools can be reconstituted under NCLB – turned over to a charter operator who can fire all the teachers and abolish union contracts that might have protected any teacher brave enough to speak out against abrogation of students’ and families’ rights, higher class sizes, pay cuts or loss of benefits. Union-busting is profitable for the corporations.
This whole alarming privatization process is accelerating across the country and here in California, propelled by corporate interests who are writing state legislation and school board policies to facilitate their takeover of public schools. Hardly anyone is standing up to say how very wrong this betrayal is. As a bilingual first-grade teacher in an immigrant community of Los Angeles, I am alarmed and saddened by the tsunami headed our way. I fear for my students’ future, and for our future as a society.
Anne Zerrien-Lee is an active member of United Teachers Los Angeles in her 10th year of teaching at a public elementary school in Los Angeles, California. She donated many hours to the historic election campaign of President Barack Obama, calling voters in California and in several battleground states, but believes that President Obama’s education stimulus funding program “Race to the Top” accelerates the destruction of public education while purporting to save it.