BATs Position Paper to the Candidates: How Will You Fight for the Children?
We are America’s public school teachers. We are the parents of America. As American citizens we have the fundamental civil right to a strong, free, and appropriate public education system. Yet public schools, public school children, and public school teachers are under attack by special interests on both sides of the political spectrum. These relentless attacks are occurring upon the very same public school teachers that are our society’s first responders against ignorance, poverty, and injustice. Our nation’s public school teachers take body blows, mental blows, and sometimes even bullets, in order to protect and educate our children.
From preschool to 12th grade our public education system is a target-rich environment for corporate privatization by education reformers using tactics worthy of insider trading to sell school “failure” as a way to market quick fixes and hedge fund solutions. Corporate privatizers use the word reform to work in tandem with politicians dedicated to removing racial and cultural equity from our society. ALEC-- working under everyone’s radar--systematically authors laws to amplify fear so that the failure narrative has surged. “School choice” privatizers applied union busting “right to work” logic that has been used for decades.
A Nation at Risk even blamed education and educators for the problems of poverty in an attempt to divert the nation’s attention from the truth. The truth is that too much corporate interest has pushed its way into public education, preventing our nation from creating true solutions to poverty and inequity.
Poverty is deeply understood by American teachers because we address the real effects of poverty every single day. Census data tells us that 20% of children in the US come from impoverished homes and live with inadequate nutrition and poor hygiene in homes where there is little room to support academics due to high priority of these survival issues. Our public school teachers work hard to mitigate the effects of poverty. Yet the reality is our children and our teachers are not thriving. The agenda to systematically defund our public school institutions has left our educators with the daunting task of always having to do more with less.
Public education is one of this nation’s best weapons against poverty, and can play a major role in fixing poverty IF schools are fully funded and resourced. Corporate privatization that deflects full funding from public education will not help. Authoritarianism will temporarily silence the realities of poverty, as evidenced in Ferguson. But it will not fix cruelty and injustice. School privatization reinforces heinous pathways of segregation and cultural bias.
What may be most egregious is that, in spite of our efforts, public education has become part of the school-to-prison pipeline because the systemic roots of poverty have not been addressed.
This must stop.
Currently our United States Department of Education promotes charter privatization, even though “rigor” and “no excuse” policies have been proven to be ineffective in addressing behaviors that can stem from poverty. In a majority of states, charter schools are not held wholly accountable for the public money that they receive. It is common practice to “boot” students back to the public school system when test scores are not reflective of a successful school image. Public school teachers are then left to remediate learning and behavior issues that have been neglected or mishandled. The false narrative of school choice has done NOTHING to address the real issues of poverty except to further deepen ethnic and cultural polarization.
Communities are greatly impacted by this narrative of school “choice.” With the marketing techniques of these shiny new corporate charters, public schools are losing their students to the promise that everything will be better. But the narrative that charter schools are better is one of false promise, and the result is often chaotic and damaging to a community. Established public schools are being forced to close their doors at an alarming rate, displacing a community of students and education professionals. When these charter schools fail, as so many do, once again it is the communities that suffer. These schools suddenly close without warning, leaving students, parents, and educators left to flounder.
If the trend of education reform is allowed to continue, corporate monopolies will be in charge of the education of our children and of future generations. Neither the dictation of policy nor the definition of best practices can be allowed to fall under the control of corporations that do not have the best interests of our children first and foremost in their minds. These are the same people that seek to undermine the union protections that guarantee the certainty that teachers can speak out for these children, like the teachers in Detroit who pointed out the shameful and unhealthy conditions of their schools. These teachers were threatened by the very same people that are responsible for the poisoning of the citizens of Flint through the public water system. In Virginia, a specious bill was introduced by a Koch-funded legislator that would make it a Class-5 felony for teachers to use administrative leave to speak about union matters.
These are only a few examples. Each state has its own examples of how corporations are seeking to infringe upon the rights of educators and the public through union busting tactics.
The outcry to our leaders has been clear. We will continue to raise our voices until we are heard and changes are made.
When will we be heard by our leaders? As a candidate you must make your position very clear on the ways you intend to uphold the real mission of our public schools.
How will you join us in this fight? How will you help us to reverse the damage that has already been created? How can we help you find the remedies that historically have and will continue to work? How will you restore the checks and balances to what has become unchecked by those who have initiated and forced these systemic imbalances?
How will you fight for the children?
Berliner, D. C. & Biddle, B. J. (1995). The manufactured crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools. New York: Basic Books.
Berliner, D. C. & Glass, G. V. (2014). 50 Myths and lies that threaten America’s public schools: The real crisis in education. New York: Teachers College Press.
Pocan, M. (2011). Inside the ALEC dating service: How corporations hook up with your state legislators. The Progressive, p.19-21.
Underwood, J. & Mead J. F. (2012). A smart ALEC threatens public education. Phi Delta Kappan, 93, p. 51-55.
Listenbee, R. & Torre, J. (2012) Defending Childhood, Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.