Home > Uncategorized > The Predatory Elites Dodge Taxes, Invest in Privatization, Destroy Public Schools

The Predatory Elites Dodge Taxes, Invest in Privatization, Destroy Public Schools

September 21, 2018

Jeff Bryant, a reliably excellent source of information on those who seek to destroy public education, wrote a particularly illuminating article for the Education Opportunity Network earlier this month titled “Wealthy People are Destroying Public Education One Donation at a Time“. The op ed piece describes two recent papers that show how this demolition of public education is happening.

The article opens with a description of “Confronting the Education Debt”, a report from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. This report, which “…examines the nation’s “education debt” – the historic funding shortfall for school systems that educate black and brown children,” calculated that federal funding shortfalls from 2005 through 2017 underfunded public schools serving impoverished children to the tune of $580,000,000,000! As Mr. Bryant noted, that amount would have greatly helped these schools close the funding gaps that lead ultimately to the performance differentials:

The impact of not fully funding Title I is startling, the report contends, calculating that at full funding, the nation’s highest-poverty schools could provide health and mental health services for every student including dental and vision services, and these schools would have the money to hire a full-time nurse, a full-time librarian, and either an additional full-time counselor or a full-time teaching assistant for every classroom.

The report also notes that states have been complicit in this shortchanging of schools serving children raised in poverty… a shortchanging that was taking place at the same time as states were offering corporations huge tax breaks!

State and local governments contribute to underfunding too by keeping in place tax systems that chronically short schools, particularly those that educate low-income students, mostly of color. Two school districts in Illinois are highlighted – one where 80 percent of students are low-income and gets about $7,808 per pupil in total expenditures, while another, where 3 percent of students are low-income, spends $26,074 per student.

The disparities were made worse after the Great Recession in 2008, when most states slashed taxes for funding schools and often gave bigger tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, while many local governments rolled out tax abatement programs that exclude corporations and developers from paying taxes that fund public schools.

As readers of this blog realize, things are not getting any better. Mr. Bryant goes on:

“There is a direct correlation between dwindling resources for public schools and the ongoing political proclivity for transferring public dollars to the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations,” the report declares. “The rich are getting richer. Our schools are broke on purpose.”

While wealthier Americans are being increasingly unburdened of the expense of educating the nation’s children, many of those same individuals have decided to spend their dollars on education politics instead.

This led to a segue to the NPE’s recent report I recently wrote about that describes how billionaires are using their “freedom of speech” dollars to finance school board elections so they can use vulture capitalism tactics to direct tax dollars to underwrite for profit charter schools, some of which they own.

Mr. Bryant concludes his essay with quotes from Anand Giridharadas, whose recently published book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, offers a carefully researched analysis of how philanthropists are getting good publicity for avoiding their social responsibilities of paying taxes.

“Rich people are playing a double game,” writes Anand Giridharadas… “On one hand, there’s no question they’re giving away more money than has ever been given away in history … But I also argue that we have one of the more predatory elites in history, despite that philanthropy.

In a recent interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Giridharadas derides the “win-win” game wealthy folks play, insisting they can keep their huge sums of money sequestered from taxation while donating for “social change that offers a kickback to the winners.”

Giridharadas accuses the nation’s billionaire class of “peddling a lot of pseudochange instead of actually fixing the American opportunity structure, instead of actually repairing the American dream over the last 30 to 40 years.”

Instead of attacking structural inequity in the system, something that would likely require the wealthy to pay more taxes, “they offer a light facsimile of change,” says Giridharadas. “They offer change that doesn’t change anything fundamental.”

Mr. Bryant notes that public schools serve as Exhibit 1 in this “…change that doesn’t change anything fundamental.”

Although Giridharadas doesn’t mention it in the interview (I’ve yet to read the book), nowhere is this charade played out by the wealthy more evident than in public education, where rich people have steered public policy to minimize their taxes, which would fund school programs and resources low-income kids really need, while they peddle false promises like charter schools.

“A move that America’s plutocrats have been making for a long time,” he argues, is that “the arsonists are the best firefighters.”

They’re certainly doing a good job of burning down public education.


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