Last weekend a policeman in Ferguson shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old under circumstances that are unclear. Riots between citizens and heavily armed policemen have ensued along with looting and tear-gassing. The most poignant article I’ve read about this situation, “Michael Brown’s School“, came from the Daily Kos. The article should be read in it’s entirety to gain a sense of the preposterousness of the situation, which includes the following tidbits:
- The senior class at Michael Brown’s school had two graduation gowns that everyone used to have their graduation pictures taken.
- The taxpayers in Michael Brown’s town, Ferguson, paid the highest rates in the state, but were unable to raise enough money to cover the costs for a quality education
- The State Board forced Ferguson to merge with a neighboring community whose tax base was equally stressed and both communities enrolled predominantly African American students.
- The accreditation of the school Michael Brown attended was withdrawn by the State Board and the students from school were allowed to enroll in neighboring districts… until the costs exceeded what the Ferguson taxpayers could pay… at which point the State Board restored accreditation thereby preventing ferguson students from attending neighboring districts.
- The school district is now operated by Peter F. Herschend of Branson, Missouri. To quote the article: “Herschend isn’t a former teacher, or a former principal, and doesn’t have any training in the education field. He’s the owner of Herschend Family Entertainment, which runs Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks. He’s also one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party in the state.
The article concludes with this paragraph, which tells you all you need to know about the future of privatized public education:
So, when you’re wondering who runs Michael Brown’s school district—when you’re wondering who’s in control of an urban, minority district so poor that the students have only two graduation gowns to share—it’s a white Republican millionaire from out state.
A businessman who never taught school, led a school, or has training in education… but knows how to make money. I hope that’s NOT the future of public schooling in our country.
After 9-11, our country responded with fear instead of love. As noted in an earlier post, in September 2001 I received and forwarded an email called bomb them with butter that was written by Rabbi Moshe Woldoks of Brookline MA (this was before Facebook). I just wrote this post on Facebook with a link to the original Bomb Them With Butter email:
In September 2001 I received this email and forwarded it to people on my email list at that time. If we had taken THIS path instead of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan would we still be entangled in the politics of those countries? If we had taken this path instead of providing 400 local police forces with military equipment to protect us from terrorists would we be reading about the riots in Ferguson MO? IF we had spent all of the money we’ve poured into armaments on butter would we be viewed differently in the world? If we spent all of the money we’ve poured into armaments on butter would we view ourselves differently?
Needless to say, the other question that needs to be posed is this: If we spent all the money we poured into armaments on SCHOOLS would we be better off than we are today?
The new NEA President is speaking truth to power. I wish the American Association of School Administrators and National School Board Association would support the NEA’s position on this issue. Associations representing “management” have planks in their platforms that mirror the NEA’s. We ALL want full funding for special education and support legislation that provides more funding and social services for children, for example. This isn’t about being “pro-union”, this is about rejecting practices that are not research-based and corrode the public’s support for public education.
Paul Krugman’s column in this morning’s NYTimes describes the latest development in profiteering:
…the tax-avoidance strategy du jour: “inversion:”… a legal maneuver in which a company declares that its U.S. operations are owned by its foreign subsidiary, not the other way around, and uses this role reversal to shift reported profits out of American jurisdiction to someplace with a lower tax rate.
Readers of this blog should recognize this as the same strategy that corporate tax dodgers use to pit town-against-town and state-against-state in their efforts to race-to-the-bottom on employee compensation… and local and state property taxes.
I believe two underlying principles that “everyone agrees with” make it impossible to change our attitude toward taxation. The first principle, repeated over and over again by BOTH parties in various shades, is the Reagan mantra: GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM. If “everyone agrees” that government is the problem then all taxes are confiscatory and those of us who are being “robbed” by the government taking OUR money have sympathy with the government taking, say, the Koch brothers’ or the Walton’s money… and we don’t begrudge a company for taking steps to avoid paying these onerous taxes.
The second principle is that of shareholder primacy, whereby profit-making trumps any sense of corporate public responsibility. As noted above, this plays out in local and State governments as well as at the Federal level. Pull the curtain back behind any announcement of a corporation locating in a community and you’ll see a sweetheart tax deal.
Both of these principles effect public education. Over the past decades the term “government run schools” was coined, repeated, and entered into the lexicon as evidence that PUBLIC education can’t work because it is run by the government… and we “all know” that government is the problem. And when local corporate taxes are rolled back or limited the burden is shifted to either state sales and/or income taxes or local property taxes and when they start increasing the push back is inevitable… and is often to the detriment of schools, roads, and publicly funded services.
I keep waiting for some politician to make the point that we are all in this together and we need to share in the responsibility for improving our country by paying our fair share of taxes. Doing so would not hurt 99% of the taxpayers…. but for the time being, it appears that the majority of Americans don’t see it that way, in part because no one has taken the time to explain how the system works.