Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Joseph A. Ricciotti Ed.D.
Retired Educator

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is to be applauded for his recently announced presidential platform and for his courage as a presidential candidate to address the issues that are crucial to the future of the United States as well as emphasizing the importance of fighting for the middle class. However, what should also be included in his campaign platform as well as in the campaign platforms of other presidential candidates that is also highly significant is the future of public education in the country. Including the role of public education in the upcoming presidential is critical in order for the United States to maintain its prosperity as well as its global leadership in the decades to come. Hence, the United States needs a president with a 21st century outlook who will elevate the importance of public education as a presidential campaign issue.

Public school teachers, parents and administrators need to elevate the issue of how public education in this country is under siege and currently undergoing its greatest challenge for survival from the threat of privatization and high-stakes standardized testing. Just as Bernie Sanders believes that the middle class in our country is in jeopardy from the oligarchs, likewise oligarchs such as Bill Gates, Bill Walton, Michael Bloomberg, to name a few of the corporate education oligarch reformers, are threatening to change and destroy public education in the nation by replacing public schools with charter schools.

Sadly, in the tri-sate areas of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, we also have governors who are in the privatization camp as all three governors have implemented policies that are considered by many teachers and parents to be anti-public education and who also advocate the replacing of public schools with charter schools. Their anti-public education stance and their erroneous philosophical beliefs are evident as Governors Malloy, Cuomo and Christie have all appointed commissioners of education in their states who support and promote privatization practices. These include their support of education programs such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with its stifling high-stakes standardized testing which is meeting severe parent resistance throughout the nation as the “opt-out” movement spreads like wildfire.

Unfortunately, two of the tri-state governors are Democrats who supposedly belong to the political party that has always supported public education. Needless to say, support of public education is not part of the playbook of either Governor Malloy or Governor Cuomo who have earned the dubious title of “education assassins.” Their anti-education policies are meeting with fierce resistance from organizations such as BATs, United Opt Out, Save Our Schools as well as the Network for Public Education which places the political futures of these Democratic governors in jeopardy as parents and teachers in these states are working together and have formed political movements that are in opposition to the anti-education policies espoused by Malloy and Cuomo. It appears to be a political movement as these groups of parent and teacher activists are in the process of developing clearly articulated positions that are highly critical of the tri-state governors. Likewise, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago faces similar political opposition in his political future. This also raises the fascinating question regarding whether Hillary Clinton in her campaigning for the presidency can choose to ignore this political movement

As most public school teachers, parents and administrators are aware, our present Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been a champion of the wealthy privatization corporate reformers such as Bill Gates. Moreover, Secretary Duncan, a non-educator, has been Bill Gates’ primary advocate of converting public schools into charter schools. Jeff Bryant, an associate at Campaign for America’s Future writes, “a national moratorium on charter schools would stop the hemorrhaging of funds from traditional public schools.”

Needless to say, this type of educational leadership in Washington needs to stop and the next president needs to give serious consideration to appointing a person such as Dr. Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book “Reign of Error” as the next Secretary of Education and someone who will help to restore public education and to support the teaching profession.

Public school teachers today are considered by the corporate education reformers as merely “clerks” whose expertise, craft and artistry are no longer valued. As an outgrowth of Common Core, teachers no longer have any say or voice in the curriculum and can no longer function as reflective practitioners as the corporations and testing companies now determine what is taught and how it is taught. Likewise, local control of education has been seriously eroded and has become a thing of the past by the new federal Common Core standards. Educators realize that Common Core is a top-down reform movement developed by non-educators and supported by Bill Gates.. It is, in essence, sheer politics with no chance of succeeding. Is it any wonder why teaching has been dehumanized when teachers must adhere to the mandates of the corporate reformers even though they know that these mandates run counter to the interests and needs of their students? It is time for teachers and parents to push back against these corporate education reformers and to help restore the dignity of teaching and public education.

1 comment:

  1. Bernie Sanders has not commented on specific education policies, but he has spoken out against the testing culture and privatization agenda. He has said the following: "We want our kids to be educated holistically, not just to take tests" and: "No public funds for private schools" and furiously: "The koch brothers have been trying to eliminate public education." His voting record is extremely consistent with what he says. He is against oligarchy and corporate greed. He listens and is a man of reason.

    Bernie Sanders will support public education. There is already so much on his plate -- look at all the huge issues he has to talk about. Give him time. He will get around to the details. At the very least, he has the capacity for learning and doing the right thing. The other potential candidates don't have this at all.


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