Public School Teachers Standing Up To Privatization Movement

The Private Battle Over Public Schools

The rising tide of teacher activism continues today, as thousands of educators in both Arizona and Colorado walk out of their classrooms and head to their respective state capitol. Unfortunately, they could be playing into the hands of those who want to bust teacher unions and divert billions of dollars to private schools.

public education funding battle

In Arizona, 78 percent of the 57,000 school employees who cast ballots across the state voted to walk out. Around 30,000 to 50,000 teachers and their supporters are expected to march through Phoenix to rally at the Arizona state Capitol to demand a 20 percent raise for teachers, about $1 billion to return school funding to pre-Great Recession levels and increased pay for support staff, among other things. In Colorado, more than 10,000 teachers are expected to demonstrate in Denver as part of a burgeoning teacher uprising. About half of the student population will have shuttered schools as a result.

The teacher walkouts are the climax of an uprising that began weeks ago with the grass-roots #RedforEd movement that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Colorado lawmakers from both parties have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the Great Recession. But teachers say that the state has a long way to go to make up for ground lost during the recession and strict tax and spending limits.

privatize public education

Arizona teachers, on average, make $48,304, according to 2016-17 salary data from the National Education Association. In 2016-17, the national average teacher salary was $59,660. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has said he’ll urge the state’s legislature to pass a combined 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020, but educators aren’t buying it.

About 100 school districts and charter schools in the state are scheduled to close on Thursday—meaning a combined enrollment of about 840,000 students will be affected, according to the Arizona Republic. Grassroots organizers with Arizona Educators United, a teacher-led Facebook group, have said that an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 educators will rally at the state capitol Thursday.

Union spokesmen said that tomorrow’s march to the Capitol is necessary after attempts at outreach have been ignored. There’s no end date for the walkout and he said educators might have to consider a ballot initiative for education funding if lawmakers do not come up with a plan on their own. The statewide teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma both lasted for nine days. Thomas said he thinks teachers in Arizona would be willing to stay out that long, too, if needed.

“A lot of that depends on the action of the legislature,” he said. “You cannot have 20,000 people at the capitol and have everyone act like they’re not there.”

One Republican state lawmaker has proposed a three-year, 1-cent education sales tax increase, which would provide the state’s public district and charter schools with $880 million a year more in discretionary funding, according to the Arizona Republic. It remains to be seen if that proposal will generate enough support in the legislature to pass.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed a 20 percent raise for teachers by 2020, but organizers of the so-called #RedforEd movement say his plan relies on rosy revenue projections and doesn’t address the other issues. He’s running a statewide advertising campaign to position himself as a savior–not part of the statewide education crisis. As such, he’s positioning the teachers as the villains and demons. In Fact, Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper is considering legislation that will punish, if not fire, teachers who exercise their right to free speech and assembly. Let’s hope that the teachers aren’t shot and killed like the coal miners who went on strike in Colorado more than 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s house majority whip, Kelly Towsend, announced on social media that she’s consulting with lawyers over a potential class-action lawsuit “for those who are impacted by the extended school year or other harm that comes to them by the teacher walkout.” She told the Arizona Republic that she’s worried the walkout will delay her son’s high school graduation, and her family members have already bought plane tickets for the event. Her comments were met with derision and anger from teachers and other citizens.

What’s missing from the debate is the fact that the crisis is really a tale of two teachers and two types of school systems. Those in charter schools have been somewhat insulated from the funding crisis.

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Students Caught In Private Battle Over Public Education

The Privatization Of Public Education

Teachers in public schools—and the schools themselves—are under attack. They are fighting for their professional lives. The assault is part of a national neo-political movement that’s fighting for control of public funding on many fronts. The gold rush of mass privatization is already chipping away at our public lands, military, healthcare, corrections, transportation, and much more. Those takeovers were easy pickings. The impact on America has been costly.

privatize public education

The battle for our public schools isn’t new. It’s just taking longer than some profiteers would like. That’s because our public schools represent a much more complex take-over target. Public schools are glass houses with thousands of stakeholders watching in every state. The recall of the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado is a great example of what an informed and motivated group of stakeholders can do in the face of corruption, collusion and fraud. Arizona is recalling the state’s Superintendent of Public Schools, Diane Douglas. Arizona’s Governor Ducey is reluctant to pay up on a recent court judgement that says Arizona owes public schools more than $330 million. When public servants ignore the best interests of communities in favor of greedy political agendas, they become public enemies.

privatizing public education

To accomplish these subversive take-overs, public schools are being thrust into crisis in an attempt to dismantle them completely. Our public schools have been converted into turf wars for the benefit of Wall Street and foreign corporations. Students, families and entire communities are caught in the crossfire. It’s an assault on democracy and it’s an assault on our children. Citizens and elected officials alike must defend our children’s civil right to public education.

As a result of the forced dysfunction, students are less prepared for college than ever. National SAT scores reached an all-time low in 2015 as public schools are being bled to death by a focus on over-testing, comparisons, vouchers, charter schools, special interests and partisan political battles.

If the crisis capitalists overthrow our public schools, a select group of private corporations can capture a multi-billion pot of gold that’s refilled every year with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, charter schools—the proposed solution—are riddled with corruption, debt and bankruptcy. Even in the face of mass favoritism, private schools are struggling to serve just a small fraction of the students served by public schools. Mass privatization is not a solution to reform. It’s merely a pathway to private enrichment. The privatization of public education under false pretenses is already causing damage to our communities, state and nation on many fronts. Our students, families and communities are being held hostage in the dysfunctional gridlock.

Public School Teachers Demonized

Even though teachers are still overworked, underpaid and buying many of their own classroom materials, they have been framed as part of the problem in our schools. Teachers are being positioned as scapegoats. They are being marginalized to silence their large political voice in the fraudulent race to reform.

Teachers and their unions represent the greatest threats to this sick form of crisis capitalism. Teachers are the largest constituency within public education. They represent a powerful voting block in every district. The privateers must neutralize this vocal voting block in every state in order to advance their agenda. As such, teachers have been marginalized, demonized and fragmented. Attempts to keep the teachers’ unions from recruiting new members have been experienced and documented. It’s old-fashioned union busting at its worst. The formula has worked very well in Wisconsin.

Stakeholders across America are being told that our students are failing in international comparisons. We are told to blame teachers and break their unions, turn more of our public education system over to private interests and rely ever more upon tests to make critical decisions. These and other tactics are designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy meaningful public education. Subversives are bleeding schools to death and forcing dysfunction upon them. They are promoting poverty among many students, teachers and communities, while promoting corporate greed.

This movement is being cloaked as a push for accountability, competition and choice. Privatization is being sold as a path to cost containment. Those elements are nowhere to be found in the substance of this elaborate scheme. 

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