Race and the Right’s War on “Government Schools”

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The history of private school vouchers is inseparable from white resistance to desegregation.The history of private school vouchers is inseparable from white resistance to desegregation.

“These white property holders who suppressed the vote of all other citizens really did not want to pay taxes to support the education of any but their own children.”

Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America [1], is one of the most buzzed-about books of the summer. But her book is also about public education, and the right’s long crusade to privatize what they call “government schools.” In the latest episode of the Have You Heard Podcast, AlterNet education editor Jennifer Berkshire talks to MacLean about why public education is in the crosshairs of the radical right, and how the history of private school vouchers, a passion of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is inextricably linked to efforts by Southern white elites to resist desegregation.

Jennifer Berkshire: There’s a fierce debate [2] right now about the racist history of school vouchers. But as you chronicle in Democracy in Chains, the segregationist South was really the testing ground for conservative libertarian plans for privatizing what they called “government schools.”

Nancy MacLean: This was the moment, the crucible of the modern period in which these ultra free market property supremacist ideas got their first test, and it is in the situation of the most conservative whites’ reaction to Brown. What was interesting to me, in finding this story and seeing it through new eyes, is that Milton Friedman, I learned, had written his first manifesto for school vouchers in 1955 as the news was coming out of the south. That was after several years of reports on these arch segregationists, saying they were going to destroy public education and send kids off to private schools. Friedman wrote this piece, advocating school vouchers in that context. He and others who were part of this libertarian movement at the time, I was shocked to discover, really rallied in excitement over what was happening in the south. They were thrilled that southern state governments were talking about privatizing schools. They were applauding this massive resistance to the federal government and to the federal courts because they thought it would advance their agenda.

JB: The economist James McGill Buchanan, who is the subject of your book, was the architect of a plan to privatize Virginia’s schools, including selling off its school buildings and even altering the constitution to eliminate the words “public education.” He was basically making the same argument that school choice proponents continue to make today, that public schools were a “monopoly.”

NM: Two students from the economics department at the University of Chicago, James McGill Buchanan, who is my focus, and a man named Warren Nutter, who was Milton Friedman’s first student, started pushing these voucher programs in the South and pushing them very opportunistically. They wanted to take away the requirement that there be public education in the constitution, which would then enable mass privatization. Friedman himself actually came down to University of North Carolina in 1957 to a conference designed to train these new arch free market economists, and he actually made schools the case in point, so he was really pushing for this in the South at the moment that it’s happening.

They did not care what would be the impact on black students of their pushing this agenda, and they capture that in saying, “Letting the chips fall where they may.”

Ten days after the courts ruled that Virginia couldn’t shut down schools in some localities while leaving them open in others, Buchanan and Nutter issue this report calling for, essentially using the tools of their discipline to argue that it would be fine for Virginia to privatize its schools and sell off these public resources to private providers. In other words, what they were doing is using this crisis to advance their what some people would call neo-liberal politics or ultra free market politics or breaking down the democratic state. There’s many ways of describing this, but whether they were or were not consciously racist or most motivated by racism, I don’t know, and it’s kind of almost not relevant. The thing is, they did not care at what they could tell would be the impact on black students of their pushing this agenda, and they capture that in saying, “Letting the chips fall where they may.”

JB: Much of your book centers on Virginia at mid-century, in the years leading up to and following the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. Yet the story you tell feels so relevant to today. You argue, for example, that what we’ve long viewed as a battle over segregation was also a fight over who pays for public education.

NM: Actually, what the white leaders always said is that black residents weren’t paying enough taxes to have better schools in this situation of segregation, which was, of course, a total source of frustration to the black parents, because they said, “How can we make bricks without straw? If you don’t give us education, how can we get better jobs in order to pay more taxes?” I just raise that, because the way that I look at Brown and the fight over schools in this book is a little different from what we’ve heard over the years, in that it draws attention to the public finance aspect of racial equality in the schools, and shows how even back in the time of the cases that led up to Brown vs Board of Education, these issues of taxes were always foremost. These white property holders, these very conservative white elites in Virginia, who suppressed the vote of all other citizens, really did not want to pay taxes to support the education of any but their own children. In that sense, I think it’s a really contemporary story. It has such echoes of what we’re hearing now.

JB: I’m a devoted chronicler of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is an heiress to the right-wing libertarian vision that your book is about. One of my great frustrations is that people decided early on that DeVos is a dimwit and so they don’t challenge her ideas, where they come from or how extreme they are.

NM: I have to say I think that intellectual condescension is the Achilles heel of the left, particularly right now with the Trump administration and DeVos. There’s a sense that, “Oh, these people are stupid,” rather than, “No, these people are working with a completely different ethical system than the rest of us and a different philosophy, but it’s a coherent one and they are pursuing their goals with very strategic, calculating tools.” That’s also why the right is so focused on the teachers’ unions. It’s not because they are only concerned about the quality of education and think that teachers are blocking that. First of all, this is a cause that hated public education—what they would call government schools; they don’t even want to say public education—before there were teachers’ unions. We can go back and trace the lineage of that. Today, with so many industrial jobs destroyed or outsourced or automated, our main labor unions are teachers’ unions, and teachers’ unions are really important forces for defending liberal policy in general, things like social security and Medicare as well as defending public education. In targeting teachers’ unions, they’re really trying to take out their most important opponents to the plans, the kind of radical plans that they’re pushing through.

JB: DeVos actually spoke to the conservative group ALEC a few weeks ago and she quoted Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement “there is no society” to make her case for a libertarian vision of education that consists of individual students and families vs schools and school systems. Universal free public education, paid for by tax dollars, is among our most “collectivist” enterprises when you think about it.

NM: They hate the idea of collectives they would call them, whether it’s labor union, civil rights, women’s groups, all these things they see as terrible, and any kind of government provision for people’s needs. Instead, they think that ultimately, each individual, and then they sneak in the family because of course no individual could live free of being raised by a mother and parents. In their dream society, every one of us is solely responsible for ourselves and our needs, whether it’s for education or it’s for retirement security or it’s for healthcare, just all these things, we should just do ourselves. They think it’s a terrible, coercive injustice that we together over the 20th century have looked to government to do these things and have called on and persuaded government to provide things like social security or Medicare, Medicaid, or college tuition support or any of these things.

JB: Unlike some of the other causes that you just mention, the push to privatize public education has support among Democrats too. What do you make of this?

NM: Part of what’s happened with the Democrats that’s very sad I think is that once the spigots of corporate finance of elections opened and Democrats are trying to stay competitive with Republicans in this, they have gone overwhelmingly to the financial sector for contributions. There are so many hedge fund billionaires who are interested in transforming the education industry because it is such a vastly huge potential source of cash, right, that could go into new, private schools. There’s this whole education industry that’s developed, and a lot of Democrats are really connected to that agenda. Corey Booker would be a case in point, and I’m sure you know about his work, but many other Democrats. Obama and Arnie Duncan and all these other folks I think are destroying their party’s own base and capacity to fight back against this horrible, anti-democratic agenda by attacking public education and teachers’ unions as they have.

By Jennifer Berkshire/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Betsy DeVos reveals her longtime education secretary aspirations: “I literally had never given it a thought”

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Image: Quartz

Her Senate confirmation last week—won by a hair’s breadth—didn’t help to make US education secretary Betsy DeVos any less blisteringly controversial. Neither, surely, will this. In an interview with Axios’s Jonathan Swan published this morning, DeVos—a Michigan billionaire with no personal experience in public education—revealed she was apparently just as taken by surprise by president…

Recalled DeVos:

It was the day after the election that somebody with whom I’ve worked for a number of years actually e‑mailed and said, ‘Would you ever think about secretary of education?’I literally have never given it a thought. But if the opportunity ever presented itself, how could I not consider it?

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NAACP Sounds the Alarm on Charter Schools, Warns of Racist Discipline Policies, Segregation, Lack of Oversight and Accountability

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Photography for the Mystic Valley Charter Schools (American Enterprise Institute)

Mystic Valley Charter Schools (American Enterprise Institute)

The debate over charter schools — and whether they provide a benefit or do harm to Black and low-income children — is brewing once again.  And the Civil Rights and Black Power movements are drawing a line in the sand.  This, as parents seek control over their children’s schools and the educational process.

The NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, recently passed a resolution at their national convention in Cincinnati calling for a ban on privately managed charter schools.  The resolution said the following:

“CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE INCREASED SEGREGATION RATHER THAN DIVERSE INTEGRATION OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.”

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The Danger of Charter Schools.. Dr. Umar Johnson

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Please listen to this video, it further shows you the truth behind charter schools. Liberal Girl has expressed her disdain about this issue for some time.

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White Parents In North Carolina Are Using Charter Schools To Re-Segregate, Secede From Education System

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Duke professors have found that charter schools in North Carolina are tied to an unsettling trend of re-segregation that started around the time the state’s first charter schools opened in 1997. The professors state that charter schools have provided a way for white parents to remove their children from the public school system.

Economics professor Helen Ladd, one of the authors of the draft report, stated to the Washington Post, “They appear pretty clearly to be a way for white students to get out of more racially integrated schools.” Proof that the professors are on to something is the fact that charter schools in North Carolina tend to be overwhelmingly made up of students who are white or Black, as opposed to traditional public schools whose racial composition is more evenly distributed.

More than two-thirds of the states charter schools are considered highly segregated, meaning they are more than 80 percent or less than 20 percent white. Linking the trend to charter schools is the statistic that shows that in 1998, less than 10 percent of charter schools were overwhelmingly segregated, with more than 90 percent of the students being white; by 2014, one-fifth of all charter schools were more than 90 percent white.

Although charter school admission processes are race-blind, white students simply do not apply to schools that they do not consider white enough, making it impossible for charter schools to more thoroughly integrate. Prior research shows that white parents in North Carolina prefer to send their children to schools that are less than 20 percent Black. More than a quarter of schoolchildren in North Carolina are Black, meaning white parents do not prefer to send their children to schools that reflect the diversity of the general population.

The authors sum up the trend stating, “Even though Black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of Black student sets up a tippling point. Once a school becomes ‘too Black,’ it becomes almost all Black as white parents avoid it.”

North Carolina is not alone. The ACLU and the Community Legal Aid Society filed a complaint in December, citing the fact that charter schools in Delaware were re-segregating students, partly because charter schools there are allowed to impose admissions requirements. Without proper planning, charter schools all over the country are running the risk of resurrecting the once private “segregation academies” that allowed white parents to send their children to segregated schools to avoid integration.

From/KultureKritic

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The Big Cheat: Why Teachers Are Going to Prison While Charter School Operators Get Accolades

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No one likes a cheater.

So you’d think plenty of people would be pleased to hear that educators in Atlanta, on trial for cheating on standardized tests, were found guilty of those charges and sentenced “harshly,” according to the New York Times.

As CNN reports, of the 12 educators who went on trial for “inflating test scores of children from struggling schools,” 11 were convicted of racketeering—a crime normally associated with mob bosses—and other lesser crimes. Of those who have been sentenced so far (one sentencing has been postponed), eight have been given jail or prison time and three will serve at least seven years. Only those who admitted guilt and waived appeals were spared.

But even before the sentencing was finalized, there was widespread condemnation of the idea that prison terms were even in consideration. An “outrage” one commentator called it. “Racist,” declared another.
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Taxpayers fund creationism in the classroom(MUST READ)!

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Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies. Now a major push to expand these voucher programs is under way from Alaska to New York, a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment.

Public debate about science education tends to center on bills like one in Missouri, which would allow public school parents to pull their kids from science class whenever the topic of evolution comes up. But the more striking shift in public policy has flown largely under the radar, as a well-funded political campaign has pushed to open the spigot for tax dollars to flow to private schools. Among them are Bible-based schools that train students to reject and rebut the cornerstones of modern science.

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