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Edward F. Berger: Greedy Reformers Are Splintering Our Communities

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Edward Berger, who lives in Arizona, has joined with friends and neighbors to try to save their public schools from the corporate vandals of “reform.”

In this brilliant article, he explains the toxic consequences of reforms that shatter and splinter the community. Their message: Our schools are failing (they are not); our educators are terrible (they are not); we must turn to privatization (we should not).

He writes:

There are forces at work that are so destructive they can shatter the hopes and dreams of our citizens and splinter our communities. Our communities serve the needs of citizens via good schools, good medical facilities, good policing, good and great services in almost every area. However, there are forces of greed and power that have come back to haunt us from the Industrial Age and The Age of Robber Barons when individuals – responsible to no one – ground fellow human beings into dust. Their control of America became a license to rape, rip, and run.

“I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.”
—Theodore Roosevelt (1907)

The cycle is repeating. We see it fracturing our own community as school and community college funding has been systematically cut off. The facts are clear. Our really outstanding schools have been driven into deep financial trouble. These problems are not caused by bad education or bad anything the schools have done. Certainly, the schools need and will always need to keep working to evolve and get better, but that is not why they are in trouble. The majority of parents enroll their children in district schools that have the wide range of expertise, services, and programs they need. If you are a parent of a child in school, you should be outraged and fighting like a wounded mother bear for your child’s school and education future. Our community schools suffer because a political agenda – an ideology – is attempting to starve and destroy them.

The reality is that the forces that control how our tax dollars are distributed have attacked and wounded our community schools. At this time, we cannot expect those who have coordinated these attacks on America’s future to adequately fund public schools. If we are to save our schools and our free society, our Prescott community must commit to adequate funding and insist on quality education for our children. That requires that We The People dig deeper into our pockets and pass the upcoming bond issue and override. If we do not do this, our community will never recover. Area schools will not survive. Our children will be irreparably damaged. We already see the impact of funding cuts and school closures as dollars and students have been siphoned away from public education and the District is being forced to close schools.

What hurts communities the most is the spawned divisiveness that has grouped people around planted lies and destructive ideologies. In our past, people, regardless of religion, political beliefs, or limited understanding, worked together to build local government and collectively provide the services the community needs. There were always disagreements, but they were resolved. There were always fringe individuals and groups that screamed “No New Taxes,” but as demands for more and better services increase and more people are served, every reasonable person knows that these services are necessary and really a great deal….

The attacks on public schools and educated people are increasing in force. An inculcated belief that public education must be killed because it cannot be fixed has become a common mantra. Other schools were formed – partial schools, charter schools – a few developed exemplary programs. All took funds away from the district schools. Hundreds of millions of dollars remain unaccounted for and the entire public education system is weakened and severely damaged. A large percentage of this money went to duplicate facilities and services the public is already providing. Rather than merge new and effective programs into the existing system, as was the original plan, the alternative schools are encouraged to define the district public schools as wrong.

Corporate raiders use the Press to convince American parents that the American education system has failed, in spite of massive evidence to the contrary. They base this presumed failure on skewed test scores. They ignore what schools actually do. As they spin these lies continually, people without crap detectors begin to believe them. Those who have taken power use it to bypass or infiltrate elected school boards, privatize schools, and open new schools without public accountability so they can steal money that taxpayers think goes for kids. They use their power to take over elected bodies and financially attack and starve excellent public schools and community programs – kill them – and steal the tax dollars. They use ill-gained political power to allow school operators to build Real Estate empires while supporting Legislators who stop calls for accountability. They call this privatization.

I find it impossible to do this essay justice by excerpting parts of it. It is so thoughtful, so beautifully written, so clear and compelling, that I urge you to open the link and read it all.

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