The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Only the Working Class Can Fix the Schools

Sep 27, 2021

Children have returned to school across the U.S., to find themselves in the same old mess—starting with severe overcrowding that plagued most public schools already before the pandemic.

The overcrowding goes hand-in-hand with a severe teacher shortage. Since March 2020, when school systems across the U.S. switched to “remote” or “hybrid” learning, thousands of teachers who qualified for a full pension have retired. Many of these teachers did not want to return to the “circus” of having to teach, in effect, two classes at once—as one 51-year-old Michigan teacher considering an early retirement put it. And many other teachers quit without a full pension, for fear of catching the virus in overcrowded classrooms and bringing it home to elderly and at-risk family members.

These experienced teachers should never have been pushed to such frustration. And not nearly enough new teachers have been hired to replace them either. School districts and county and state officials had a year and a half to do that; but they did nothing—neither to keep the existing teachers, nor to recruit and train new ones.

But it’s not just teachers that are in short supply. Already crowded classes are merged and doubled up because there are not enough substitute teachers to cover for teachers who are out. Long lines form for lunch and snacks because of a dire shortage of cafeteria workers. And the ride to and from school can take hours because bus drivers, also short-handed, have to make multiple rounds to transport students.

For all these workers—the essential workers that make schools run—these jobs simply don’t pay enough for them and their families to live on. But school officials and politicians still parrot that tired lie of “people don’t want to work,” instead of increasing pay.

And then there are the shortcomings of school facilities, starting with the lack of adequate ventilation to prevent the virus put into the air by one person from infecting others.

The only safety measure school officials have offered is masks—which, alone, cannot prevent the spread of the virus. And when Covid cases and even outbreaks inevitably occur, these same officials simply send students home for forced quarantines, or even shut down the whole school—putting all the burden on parents, especially working-class parents who risk losing their jobs to stay at home with their children.

Is this really all this society can do for public school students—that is, the vast majority of the children in this country?

Of course not; so much more could be done, as some schools, especially some private schools—those the very wealthy can afford—have shown.

These schools have hired enough teachers and other school workers to keep class sizes small. They have made full use of existing buildings, and also expanded their facilities, to provide for social distancing during breaks also. They have set up constant monitoring and testing for Covid symptoms, and hired health care professionals to run them.

Yes, to apply these measures at every single school in this country would require a lot of money. But how dare officials claim that this society can’t afford these measures—that is, to keep our children safe from the virus—when, for example, the federal government has already handed over billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies to hoard several times more Covid vaccines than what is needed to get the whole U.S. population fully vaccinated?

But providing every child with a good education is not a goal that this society is organized to achieve. Instead, society is organized today, first and foremost, to allow business owners to make a profit. The biggest among these capitalists, who reap the biggest profits, hold their power over the whole society.

That’s why politicians and officials, who impose big capital’s agenda on us, will never put money into the education of working-class children—and they, Democrat and Republican alike, have proven this for decades.

Only the working class, if organized in our class interests, has the possibility to re-organize society for that purpose. The means for that, the wealth of the entire society, is created by the workers’ labor. The working class has to take it back from that tiny, greedy minority of hoarders, and use it for our needs—starting with the education of our children, who are the very future of our society.