Sep 13, 2010
Another school year has begun. These days, that can only mean one thing: another round of attacks on the schools at every level.
Across the country, state and local education budgets are being slashed. Arts and athletics programs are being cut, and “pay-to-play” fees are being instituted or raised. Entire schools themselves are being closed, teachers laid off, students moved and class sizes jumped up.
The effects can clearly be seen in Michigan. In one Detroit suburb, elementary class sizes will go from 25 to 32 students per class. In Detroit, 30 schools have been closed this summer, forcing class size in the remaining schools to jump up once again. The Los Angeles Unified School District laid off 2682 people last year, and says it could cut 4,500 more this year. Of course, more students are jammed into each classroom.
Officials claim that budgets must be cut because times are tough and money is tight. Yes money is tight – because billions are still handed to the largest corporations in good times – and even more in tough times.
Cuts in education are part of a larger drive to dismantle public services and infrastructure spending across the board, to hand that money over to corporations – and line the pockets of the multi-billionaires who own them. For those multi-billionaires, any dollar not going to increase their wealth is a dollar wasted.
Behind all these attacks at the state and local levels is the continuing attack at the national level. With wonderful sounding slogans like Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and Obama’s “Race to the Top,” Republicans and Democrats have organized attacks on the schools. If a school is found to be “underperforming,” it is closed. The result is that students are squeezed into fewer schools. The effect is to drain money from the schools that need it the most – schools in poor districts, with little money to improve.
The same goes for the teachers: if they are found to be “underperforming,” the solution offered is to lay them off, or to cut their wages. Teachers “underperform” because schools are drained of money, because class sizes are too big, books and supplies too few and too old – and because extra help is not given to the children of poverty.
Will children be helped when their teachers have classes of 35 and 40 students? Or when their teachers are forced to take outside jobs to make ends meet? Of course not!
As if these attacks weren’t bad enough, both Bush and Obama have pushed requirements to turn public schools over to private charter schools, including many run for profit. The districts with the greatest number of charter schools are poor and working class districts; it is yet another way to drain resources away from the children who need it most. It’s the final insult.
When officials close schools, they say it’s for the kids; when they lay off teachers and administrators; when they cut school budgets and open for-profit schools; when they stuff more and more children into a single classroom, they pretend it’s all for the kids.
It’s obvious: they’re not doing any of this for the kids. They’re doing it so that the money can go to the wealthy. And to hand more money to multi-billionaires, they’re consciously choosing to throw these kids away. Like garbage.
Our children, the children of the working class and poor are precious – they have many capacities, talents, curiosity, intelligence – they deserve schools that would bring those capacities to life.