Neo-liberalism and Charter Schools

Published on Dissident Voice, by Danny Weil, December 27, 2009.

The Los Angeles Board of Education, little more than a managerial club belonging to LA Mayor Villaraigosa and his privatized charter crew, including Green Dot Schools, other educational maintenance organizations (EMO’s) and deep pocket entrepreneurs approved a resolution in August of 2009 to turn over 12 long-struggling campuses and 18 new ones to bidders from inside or outside the district, including some charter operators.1 The effort is all part and parcel of the capitalist “reform of education” that is sweeping the nation below the radar screen of any national news. It includes using the government, which the neo-liberals say they abhor, to asset strip the public realm; in this case to orchestrate the legal seizure of actual public buildings that house public schools paid for over the decades by public taxpayers. 

The insurgency is brutish and the mugging unconscionable as the hostile takeover of public schools is happening precisely at the same time that many schools are being closed and shuttered under the insidious No Child Left Behind provisions that allow for such pernicious disinvestment. Of course the efforts of the neo-liberals are hastily moving along with the disastrous loss of public funds for public schools and the horrific budgetary crisis slamming the state like a virtual Tsunami. Feasting on disaster is the model for these corporate market fundamentalists who see huge profits in the for-profit or non-profit ownership and management of public schools by educational maintenance organizations who want the actual building titles for the public schools and thus the imminently the facilities themselves. This is asset stripping done in broad daylight, a public pillaging that goes unreported by national media on both the left and the right … //

…What is needed now:

With all due respect, lawsuits simply are not enough. They can act as platforms for forthright organizing and education but what is needed now is bold direct action on behalf of teachers, students, citizens and communities looking to safeguard their neighborhoods and public institutions from the locusts of privatization. If we are to secure the educational commons and seal if off from the crass entrepreneurs and privatizers that seek to parcel it out based on race, gender and social class for profit; if we are to protect our children from a loss of childhood under siege by ‘measureable outcomes’ and ‘efficiency targets’ begot by standardized tests linked to bankrupt federal policy; if we are to shed any attempts at merit pay and assure decent wages and working conditions for teachers, along with real and secure pensions and adequate and affordable health care; if we are to put forth an educational reform plan based on what we know works (lower class size, teacher collaboration, participatory democracy, preparation time for teachers to develop creative lesson plans, pre-schooling, etc.); if we are to educate the public about the urgency and exigency of public education with an emphasis on learning to think critically and developing the values and dispositions necessary for citizenship education to advance participatory democracy so we might confront the daily horrors of inequality, a lower standard of living, lack of participation in power, and divisiveness honed by racism, sexism, class, gender discrimination and gender inequality, then we must seek active coalitions for social change. These coalitions must grow and they must involve more and more public and private workers who see nothing in the future but growing inequality, tightening economic hardship, and the further destruction of childhood, promoted and fostered by the neo-liberal politics of late stage capitalism. (full text).

(Danny Weil is a public interest attorney, an educational writer and a professor of philosophy at a junior college in California. Read other articles by Danny).

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