What’s a Teacher Got to do to get a Candidate Around Here?
By Dr. Michael Flanagan, Co-Director BATs Action Committee
|Dr. Michael Flanagan speaking at NYC Education Justice Conference|
I have watched every debate, both democrat and republican. I sat through almost every town hall and recap of the day in politics. I read both the liberal Huffington Post and the conservative FOX News to get a sense of what both party candidates are saying. As a teacher and education activist I have waited patiently for at least one candidate to speak to the issues of public education. I am not talking about the crisis of student loan debt, although that is incredibly important. Yes, several of the republican candidates have mentioned Common Core, and some New Jersey hack has now begun calling out Bernie Sanders for his lack of support for charter schools, but other than that, crickets.
No mention of the brave Detroit teachers who risked their jobs speaking out against dilapidated conditions in Detroit schools, or the Chicago teachers who took to the streets and were arrested while protesting for their students. Silence on the take over of Philadelphia schools, the push back on charters in LA, malfeasance in Ohio, the national attacks on teachers’ pensions and union busting laws against dues collections. No discussion of the exorbitant profits that testing and tech companies are making from our education tax dollars. Why is it that no candidate has had the courage to address the opt-out movement, one of the most important civil disobedience actions of this generation? How is it that no one running for the presidency of the United States is speaking out on behalf of the hundred million parents, teachers and students who are victims of the worst education policies in American history?
I was on a conference call with members of the BadAss Teachers Association leadership when my friend and colleague Denisha Jones voiced the concern we all had. “I want to be able to say I support this candidate because of his/her stance on education”. We all agreed that millions of citizens would line up to support a candidate brave enough to speak out for our concerned parents, educators and suffering students. One would think at least one candidate must need millions of voters concerned about public education.
We do clearly hear from the education reform contingent. Gates, the Waltons, Broad, the Kochs, Murdoch, ALEC and their minions all are courted. Countless governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle have no qualms against attacking and trying to end teachers unions, privatize pensions and implement merit pay during stump speeches. They fall all over themselves seeking vouchers and the removal of caps on charter schools, regardless of the consistent examples of corruption, mismanagement and failure. Both the federal government and state governments promote bills to address the failed “Common Core Roll out” and push for better “teacher evaluations”, while at the same time making provisions for tech based comprehensive education assessment and social impact bonds, all designed to enrich the hedge funds and billionaires. But which candidate will speak of the hundred million who have been victimized and ignored since NCLB and the “school choice” scam began?
Perhaps the better question is, why are none of the candidates saying anything? The Pope makes an innocuous statement, and it is national headlines. The content of speeches to banks, or arrests from the 1960s dominate cable talk shows. Campaign mailers and photo-shopped pictures of candidates are front-page news. But the education of our children, rights of parents and dignity of our teachers is never even given lip service? That is one of the clearest examples of corruption in our government.
The bipartisan issue of our time is the pillaging of our public education system. The republicans will talk about the Common Core, but completely support charters, vouchers, tech and high stakes testing. Not to mention destruction of public sector teachers unions and raiding pensions. The democrats also cater to the hedge fund and vulture philanthropists like the Waltons, Bill Gates and TFA. No candidate will speak to the suffering of a hundred million citizens, because both parties are profiting from it. Who would have known that political parties that cannot agree on whether the sun rose this morning are in complete symbiosis on the destruction of public education?
It would stand to reason that if even one of the candidates would come and claim us, and speak to our resistance of corporate education reform, we would rally to them and practically guaranteed their win in the election. Teachers and parents will both vote and donate for the betterment of our schools and the future of our children. But the power of Wall Street and its middle managers in the federal and state governments, in conjunction with the corporate media pundits who cash the same checks, remain silent. I know they see and hear us out here, in the streets and on social media. How long can they avoid us? And what will be the ultimate cost? Where is the candidate who will support a free and appropriate public education for all children? What does a teacher got to do to get a candidate around here