Accountability Betsy DeVos Charter Schools Corporate Reformers Education Industry Education Reform Privatization Testing Unions Vouchers Walton Foundation

The Working Notes for My Speech at Oberlin Conference on the State of American Democracy

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Some readers have asked for a copy of the speech that was so beautifully illustrated by the graphic posted earlier today.

I didn’t have a speech. I made notes and used them as talking points, on which I elaborated. When some in the audience (composed of progressives) insisted that charter schools were saving lives, I should have pointed out that the single biggest funder of charters is the anti-Union Walton Family Foundation, which is known for low wages and resistance to workers’ rights. About 95% of charters are non-union. The best kind of social justice that could be done by the Waltons is to pay their one million employees $15 an hour and allow them to unionize, in the stores and the charters they fund.

Here are my talking points.

“War on public sector.

“Take any public sector activity and google it with the word “privatization.”
Police, firefighters, prisons,hospitals, libraries, parks, schools—and what we once thought of as public is either privatized or under threat of privatization.

“Powerful movement—some driven by profit, some by libertarian ideology—seeks to shrink the public sector and monetize it.

“My area of specialization is education.

“There is today a full court press to privatize public education.

“How many in this room went to public schools?

“The fundamental purpose of public schools is to develop citizens, to sustain our democracy. To prepare young people to assume the duties of citizenship, to vote wisely, to understand issues, and to sit on juries.

“Our current obsession with standardized testing has corrupted the purpose of schooling. Clinton, Bush, Obama. We are now locked into a marketization approach to education: Testing, Accountability, competition, Choice. This is market-driven education, with winners and losers.

“The Bush program: NCLB. The same children were left behind.
THE Obama program: Race to the Top. Same as NCLB. Where is the top? Education is not a race.

“Test scores are fundamentally a reflection of family income and education. They are now cynically used by rightwing politicians to declare schools to be failures and set them up for privatization.

“Public education is one of the foundation elements of our democracy.
The movement to privatize public schools is a threat to democracy.

“Education Policy today is decided not by deliberation and debate but by big money.

“The Queen of Dark Money in education is now Secretary of Education.

“Betsy DeVos sees education as a Consumer good, not a civic responsibility
She has Compared choosing a school to choosing an Uber or choosing which food truck to buy lunch from. These are trivial choices, consumer choices. They are not public goods.
She really doesn’t understand the role of the public school in a community, as part of our democracy

“Dark Money, major philanthropies, and Wall Street billionaires have collaborated in attacking democratic control of schools. They have encouraged State takeovers, Charters, Vouchers. Private management. Mayoral control.

“Goals:

“School Choice, which promotes segregation by race and social class
Get rid of unions
Attacks on teaching profession.

“Venture philanthropies back Privatization: Gates, Broad, Walton, Arnold Foundation, Fisher Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, Dell Foundation, Jonathan Sackler, many more

“Dark Money funneled to state and local elections— by such groups as: Education Reform Now, Stand for Children, Families for Excellent Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Walton family. All have the same goal: Privatization.

“Half the states now have vouchers for private schools, enacted by the legislature, despite the fact that vouchers have always been defeated in state referenda.

“Betsy DeVos paid for a voucher referendum in Michigan in 2000. It was defeated overwhelmingly. So Michigan went for unbridled Choice with charter schools, no district lines. 80% of the charters in Michigan operate for profit, more than any other state. Michigan’s standing on national tests dropped from the middle of the pack, to the bottom, between 2003 and 2013. Detroit is overrun with charters yet it continues to be the lowest scoring district in the nation.

“Milwaukee has public schools, charters, and vouchers, and all three sectors are low performing.

“Demand for vouchers is actually very low: Indiana, only 3% use them, less in Louisiana. Only 6% in charters. Yet every dollar for vouchers and charters is taken away from the schools that educate the great majority of children.

“Katherine Stewart in the current American Prospect: “Proselytizers and Profiteers.” Religious extremists in the voucher movement made “useful idiots of the charter movement.” Community public schools replaced by Corporate charter chains. Some of the biggest charter chains are owned and run by evangelicals and fundamentalists.

“The real Dark Money wants vouchers, religious schools, homeschooling, charters, anything but public schools.

“DeVos, American Federation for Children
Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity (Libre Initiative) (AZ referendum)
ALEC— model legislation for charters, vouchers, ending certification, breaking unions.

“Public schools struggle where there is high poverty.

“Income inequality is the scourge of our society.

“Privatizing public schools won’t solve poverty.

“Hopeful signs:

*Virginia election: pro-public schools, many of the winning candidates are teachers

*Douglas County, CO, rebuff to vouchers

*upcoming referendum in AZ on vouchers, which Koch brothers want to knock off the ballot

*In 20 State referenda, vouchers have lost every single time.

*support for charters dropped from 51% to 39% in the past year, among both Democrats and Republicans, largely in response to scandals, prosecutions, and also NAACP criticism of charters.

“The origin of school choice was in segregated states fighting the Brown decision.

“Betsy DeVos is such a polarizing figure that she reminds us of the importance of public schools.”

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