Sunday, April 25, 2010

Voucher and School Privatization Advocates Get What They Want in Demonization of Teachers

Many educators and education leaders are scratching their heads regarding how teachers in particular and educators in general have suddenly become the obstacles of reform and the enemies to getting what is best for kids done in our schools. Just like all educators, I am scratching my own head because a presidential administration I voted for and even contributed to financially has chosen to contribute to this demonization of teachers. No matter how many times Secretary Duncan says that teachers are the “unsung heroes” in education, his policies have poisoned the water for all teachers in this country, and those same policies are giving opponents of public education license to push draconian reforms that seek the destruction of public education as we know it.

Let’s face it, one of the greatest obstacles to school voucher programs and the eventual privatization of education are teacher unions and teacher organizations. The political right has known this for a long time, and our President has basically given those same opponents to public education the means by which to tear down public education in this country. With teacher unions and teacher organizations marginalized, the pro-voucher and school privatization movement no longer has one of its greatest enemies. If President Obama and Secretary Duncan continue to push their current education agenda, they will basically hand over our public school system to those who believe that the power of markets better shape educational efficacy. Perhaps this is what President Obama and Secretary Duncan have had in mind all along. I hope not. Teachers and principals who really care about the direction that President Obama’s education policy is going, need to let him know loudly and clearly that he is demonizing the wrong people. He is basically setting the stage for a complete turn-over of the Great American Education System to market-based forces who have profits in their sights and not the best interest of kids. Afterall, that same blind faith that markets would keep coal miners safe in West Virginia resulted in the worst coal mine disaster in history. We should not give for-profit education companies the same chance to devastate the lives of our kids. I am afraid that education reform according to Arne Duncan and President Obama is going to do just that by allowing one great obstacle to education privatization to be removed: our teacher unions and teacher organizations.

1 comment:

  1. I think, sadly, this is the only explanation of this policy.

    You did, however, forget one other piece of the puzzle that this solves... how many states across the country have mismanaged their state employee pension funds? Privatizing education and ending the defined benefit, government-run pension plans will solve problems that were created when we denied teachers a wage commensurate with the job and gave defined-benefit pensions instead... and then used the "surplus" in the pension funds to mask state deficits.

    What we are seeing now, in my opinion, is nothing less than the betrayal of public trust -- our own government is undermining its own system so that it can absolve itself of the obligation to education its children. Instead, government will become the block grant funder of a private educational system and all they will do is shuffle what schools in our poorest communities receive their accreditation, and every time the new "accountability" agency that is set up in this model says that a school that isn't making its numbers cannot receive vouchers -- thus shutting them down in our cities -- the politicians will use that as evidence that they are serious about education.

    All the while, our kids in our poorest communities will be shuffled from school to school, parents with a voucher check in hand.

    I keep wanting someone to tell me a better narrative to explain what we're seeing, and I don't want to be this cynical, but it's the only story that makes any sense.

    Or do people think that Newt Gingrich has suddenly become the champion of the underprivileged?