Oct 31, 2016
Welcome, everybody. For three decades, politicians – from both parties, at every level of government – have pushed one plan after another that were sold as ways to “improve” the schools. But the schools for children of working people only got worse.
The Bush administration pushed No Child Left Behind; the Obama administration replaced it with Race to the Top, which was the same thing in a different package. The politicians pushed testing. They graded teachers, and graded schools and school districts, and punished the teachers. They removed funding from and closed schools that scored low. The state took over the Detroit Public Schools (and other districts in the state – like Highland Park, Flint) and ran them into the ground. Detroit got five emergency managers – dictators – one after the other. Half the schools disappeared.
Democrats and Republicans introduced so- called “choice” into the school systems – with charter schools, and “school of choice” districts. Instead of giving every district what it needed to provide an excellent education, they told parents, it’s up to you. Don’t like it where your children are? It’s up to you to shop around for somewhere else to take them. Find a charter school or find another district. It’s up to you to get your kids into a good school, or keep shopping until you can. It’s up to you to get your kids to that school, no matter how far away it is.
So now, if your children are receiving a poor education, they say you have no one to blame but yourself. Because you had the right to choose and didn’t use it....
If charters and school choice are supposed to be so great, if competition between schools is supposed to improve all the schools, why do the wealthy communities fight tooth and nail to make sure that nothing like that is imposed on their districts? Because they know.
They know exactly what it TRULY takes to provide an excellent education for children – it’s what THEY have, and what they insist on having: NEIGHBORHOOD public schools that have remained well-protected and well-funded. No school-choice revolving door. A stable school budget with a per-pupil funding that is nearly TWICE that of districts like Detroit....
And why shouldn’t working class students have the same excellent education, with the same excellent resources and opportunities and teacher-to-student ratios as the wealthy communities have?
Is that a pipe dream? Absolutely not. The wealth, the resources are there. The problem is who controls the wealth. In the capitalist system wealth and public money has been lodged in the huge profit margins of the banks and the corporations.
The money IS there. But the federal, state and local governments have been using it to bail out banks and corporations, to give huge tax breaks and grants to these banks and corporations. The State of Michigan is giving more away to corporations than it is taking in in taxes this year! THAT is why they can’t fix our schools, or our roads, or our WATER SYSTEMS. They’ve given the money to the corporations and the banks. They put profit first.
Working class people have different priorities. We put our lives, and our children’s and grandchildren’s lives and futures first. Put the kids BEFORE the banks and corporations. TAKE that money from the banks, and fund schools for our children! If the capitalists can’t make their profits, oh well! Not on the backs of our children!
THAT is what it means to have working class politics.