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Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

The LA Teachers Strike Adds to the Decline of Reaganomics

January 23, 2019 Comments off

“Reagonomics is on the Ropes”, a post election analysis by Assistant Professor of Management for Legal and Ethical Studies at Oakland U. Michael Greiner suggests that the defeats of the GOP in Kansas and of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a repudiation of Reagonomics, a repudiation that will be reinforced as the public becomes aware of the adverse impact of the Trump tax cuts.

In the article published in Medium, Mr. Greiner offered a brief history of Reagonomics and concluded that section of his article with this paragraph:

Reagan’s personal popularity, and a pretty robust economy for much of his term, created a myth, one that became the basis for today’s Republican party. At this point, it is a reflexive matter of faith that taxes and regulations should be cut. To Republicans, there is no such thing as a good tax or a good regulation, even if the lack of them result in the problems we have today: high income inequality, huge deficits, and environmental catastrophe in the form of global warming.

Mr. Greiner then showed how this faith in deregulation and low taxes played out in Kansas and Wisconsin, where he sees the recent rebuke by the electorate as two strikes against Reaganomics. He then posits that the Trump tax cuts will be the third strike:

Billed as tax reform, (the tax cuts) fooled nobody. These were simply a give-away to the rich while the difference would be made up by cuts to social programs such as Social Security or healthcare. In this last election, people rejected that policy agenda by a wide margin.

The margin of victory WAS wide, but because the GOP still controls the Senate and the White House the wide margin will not be enough to strike down Reaganomics.

But another blow to Reaganomics AND neoliberalism just hit in Los Angeles where the teachers won a victory in their six-day strike. As reported by Diane Ravitch, the teachers union secured almost everything they sought and the price they paid in terms of public support was minimal. In a post late yesterday she wrote:

The United Teachers of Los Angeles went out on strike on January 14. The strike will end if the membership approves a new two-year contract. The union won almost everything it sought. The teachers will get a wage increase; the district will limit class sizes and eliminate a waiver that allowed class size limits to be voided for economic reasons; there will be full-time nurses in every school, a librarian, more counselors. And more.

After reading the comments, though, I had a sense that the tentative agreement is not universally seen as an unequivocal victory. Several of the commenters felt the union could have gotten more if they dug their heels in and some saw the whole exercise as a political stunt designed to give the unions leaders more clout in California politics. To those commenters, I offered this feedback:

…there is no guarantee that a protracted strike would yield a better outcome and some evidence that a longer strike might erode the good will the teachers now have. The big issue facing CA is the referendum to change Proposition 13 and as Diane notes the local school board elections are critical as well. Any voter antipathy toward teachers would undercut both of those crucial votes and any sense of good will toward teachers will help. From afar, it seems that the teachers are getting as much as they can without compromising their standing in the community.

To which I added a link to Mr. Greiner’s Medium column. It took decades for the GOP to undercut the public’s confidence in public education. It may take decades to win it back. The LA strike and the wildcat strikes across the country are bringing the privatization movement to the public’s attention without adding to the resentment toward “government schools” that the right wing of the GOP promotes. The LA strike is another log in the fire. Let’s keep the blaze going.

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Maryland’s Latest Commission Calls for More Spending, More Responsibilities for Public Education

January 20, 2019 Comments off

As a former member of a State “Blue Ribbon” Commission on school funding in the State of Maryland, a commission whose report was immediately set aside because it required higher spending levels, I was interested to read Liz Bowies’s report on the most recent State Commission report in the Baltimore Sun… a report that I believe will quickly be cast aside.

The Kirwan Commission, named for the former Chancellor of the University of Maryland who chaired the group, has ambitious goals:

  • an overhaul of curriculum
  • raising professional standards for teaching
  • a redesign of high schools to include career paths for students that would certify them to be ready for specific jobs after graduation.
  • pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds
  • pre-school for 3-year-olds from low-income families
  • more spending to enhance special education programs
  • new spending for school-based health centers
  • new spending for initiatives to support community schools with large numbers of poor students

And these initiatives require one thing legislators hate to see: a large price tag— $3,800,000,000 over 10 years.

From where I sit, each of these initiatives is worthwhile and, taken together, they would  greatly improve the opportunities for children born into poverty. But from where I sit, I do not believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that they will be funded. As Ms. Bowie notes, the issuance of the report was delayed from its slated December 2018 release because “….it was too late to get such comprehensive education legislation through this year’s 90-day Assembly session“. Some spending advocates insist that the issuance now will not be a problem:

Maggie McIntosh, a commission member, said that despite the delay, legislative leaders are committed to seeing more funding for education in that budget.

State school funding will increase by at least $236 million next year, McIntosh said, with $200 million set aside by the legislature last year and $36 million added by the governor.

McIntosh said legislators will have to cut from the governor’s proposed budget to identify additional money for public schools.

Whether the legislature will be able to find enough money in the proposed operating budget to fund all of the commission’s 2020 priorities is unclear.

The commission also suggests that the legislature set aside $750 million this session for additional funding for schools in the 2021 budget year.

But… as the blog-faced and underlined sections of Ms. Bowie’s report imply, Ms.McIntosh’s “commitment” to more funding is contingent on cutting the governor’s budget and redirecting this cuts to education… and… even if the happens, the $236,000,000 will fall short of the amount needed to achieve the $3,800,000,000 the Kirwan Commission calls for.

And here’s the real problem: the “reformers” will be able to tout their “solution” of choice and deregulation as the best road forward because it won’t require billions of new dollars and they will satisfy the evangelicals because their “reforms” won’t increase the scope of government interference with parenting by insisting that 4 year olds be placed in school and social services be provided in school.

And the beat will go on….

Bernie Sanders Gets It— His Letter Supporting Teachers in LA Says So

January 18, 2019 Comments off

I’m sure readers of this blog are not surprised that I am on Bernie Sanders email list and may also sense (accurately) that I was somewhat disappointed that he did not make his loathing of privatization as clear as he should have in 2016. This email I received yesterday indicates that he is all in for 2020— assuming he wants to run again. I await similar unequivocal support from others part form Robert Ojeda who was scheduled to walk the picket lines. It would be good if some CA legislators donned some red apparel and joined in! Here’s Bernie Sanders’ letter:

Wayne –

There is something happening in Los Angeles that you need to know about and that we all need to do something about.

Today, for the first time in 30 years, more than 30,000 Los Angeles public school teachers are on strike fighting for smaller class sizes and decent wages, for nurses, counselors and librarians in their schools, and against a coordinated effort from billionaires on the right to make money privatizing public education.

Public education is fundamental to any functioning democracy, and teaching is one of its most valuable and indispensable professions.

So how is it that the top 25 hedge fund managers in this country make more money than the combined salaries of every kindergarten teacher?

How is it that the billionaires of this country get huge tax breaks, but our teachers and children get broken chairs, flooded classrooms and inadequate support staff in their schools?

That is what a rigged economy looks like.

In the richest country in the history of the world, our teachers should be the best-paid in the developed world, not among the worst-paid.

So I stand in solidarity with the United Teachers of Los Angeles. Because a nation that does not educate its children properly will fail, and I applaud these teachers for leading this country in the fight to change our national priorities. Today, I am asking you to do the same:

Add Your Name: Tell the striking teachers in Los Angeles that you are following their struggle and stand in solidarity with them. We will make sure your messages of support get to these teachers.

But what we really need in this country is a revolution in public education.

What we accept as normal today with regards to education, I want your grandchildren to tell you that you were crazy to accept.

And in my view, that conversation starts, but does not end, with early-childhood education.

That is not just my opinion. Research tells us that the “most efficient means to boost the productivity of the workforce 15 to 20 years down the road is to invest in today’s youngest children.”

So it is not a radical idea to say that we need to provide free, full-day, high-quality child care for every child, starting at age three, so that they will be guaranteed a pre-kindergarten education regardless of family income.

That is common sense.

But in the twenty-first century, a public education system that goes from early childhood education through high school is not good enough.

The world is changing, technology is changing, our economy is changing. If we are to succeed in the highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world, I believe that higher education in America should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few.

That means that everyone, regardless of their station in life, should be able to get all of the education they need.

Today in America, hundreds of thousands of bright young people who have the desire and the ability to get a college education will not be able to do so because their families lack the money. This is a tragedy for those young people and their families, but it is also a tragedy for our nation.

Our mission must be to give hope to those young people. If every parent in this country, every teacher in this country, and every student in this country understands that if kids study hard and do well in school they will be able to go to college, regardless of the income of their family, that will have a radical impact on primary and secondary education in the United States—and on the lives of millions of families.

That is what we can accomplish by making public colleges and universities tuition-free, because every American, no matter his or her economic status, should have the opportunity for a higher education. And, at the same time, we must substantially lower student debt.

But getting there will take a political revolution in this country, and a radical change in national priorities.

Instead of giving huge tax breaks to billionaires and profitable corporations, we must create the best public educational system in the country. Instead of major increases in military spending, we must invest in our kids.

And today, the most important step in that direction starts with standing in solidarity with the teachers in Los Angeles.

Add Your Name: Tell the striking teachers in Los Angeles that you are following their struggle and stand in solidarity with them. We will make sure your messages of support get to these teachers.

Through our support for these teachers, we have a chance to reaffirm our support for quality public education and the right of all children to receive the best education possible.

Thank you for standing with them.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

ADD YOUR NAME

Arkansas Blogger Connects Dots Between Los Angeles and Little Rock… Profiteering Billionaires

January 17, 2019 Comments off

Arkansas Times blogger Max Brantley wrote a post yesterday linking the strikes in Los Angeles with the takeover over Little Rock Public Schools that drew on an article in Jacobin to help connect the dots. He opened his article with this quote from Jacobin describing the real goal of the strike in Los Angeles:

The plan of these business leaders is simple: break-up the school district into thirty-two competing “portfolio” networks, in order to replace public schools with privately run charters. As firm believers in the dogmas of market fundamentalism, these influential downsizers truly believe that it’s possible to improve education by running it like a private business.Not coincidentally, privatization would also open up huge avenues for profit-making — and deal a potentially fatal blow to one of the most well-organized and militant unions in the country, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). As union leader Arlene Inouye explains, “This is a struggle to save public education; the existence of public education in our city is on the line.”

As always, the privatizers adhere to the belief that running ANY public enterprise– be it a school, sanitation department, or tax collection– like a business will reduce costs which will simultaneously add to their bottom line AND provide them with a business opportunity. Its “win-win” for the taxpayers AND the businessmen… the children raised in poverty who no longer have an opportunity to attend a quality school and the middle class city employees who lose their jobs are collateral damage.

Mr. Brantley then describes how recently passed laws in Arkansas are giving deregulated for-profit charter schools free reign in Little Rock and, being a blogger in Arkansas, Mr. Brantley warns people across the country to be on the lookout for bills that are headed their direction to do the same things as happened in HIS state AND Los Angeles:

Those of you around Arkansas who think this is just a Little Rock story best think again. This could happen to you, too.

From Jacobin’s enemies list:

The Walton Family

In a watershed moment for the drive to take over Los Angeles public education, pro-charter billionaires spent an unprecedented $9.7 million to buy the 2017 Los Angeles school board elections. A key funder of this campaign to elect charter school acolytes was none other than the Walton Family, best known as the founders of Walmart.

Having made their fortune through union-busting and infamously low wages, the Arkansas-based Waltons — now the richest family in the world — have spent much of the last two decades bankrolling the privatization of public education. Nominally, this philanthropy is dedicated to improving life prospects for low-income families. Yet as journalist Harold Meyerson notes, “a more direct way to help them would be to give workers at Walmart . . . a raise and to give them more hours.”

For the Waltons, their $2.2 million contribution to the 2017 school board election was just a drop in the bucket. Over recent years, the Walton Family Foundation has given $84 million to Los Angeles charter schools and it has spent $1.3 billion on “school reform” efforts nationwide. And in a further effort to capture the hearts and minds of Angelinos, a Walton-funded media outlet, The 74, took over the well-respected LA Schools Report in 2016.

These initiatives have already had a major impact on Los Angeles. About 18 percent of students now attend charter schools, a rate far higher than in the rest of the country.

As Mr. Meyerson notes, the Waltons could provide living wages to their employees if they wanted to help the needy. And if they wanted to help fund public schools across the country they could stop seeking tax breaks when they locate stores in local communities. And if they wanted to help make our country great again they could sell only products made in our country. But if they did take those actions, their profits would plummet and their art museum in Arkansas would only feature the works of local artists…. which would provide them with support but would not attract national attention.

Has the NYTimes Seen the Light? Diane Ravitch Sees Progress in Op Ed by Miriam Pawel

January 16, 2019 Comments off

From my perspective, it is heartening to see the LA teachers strike making national news despite the headline grabbing government shutdown and the ongoing political bickering that accompanies it. But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, the LA strike HAS national ramifications for it ISN’T about wages and working conditions in a lone district. The LA strike is about an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party about privatization of public services: between the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the party that has embraced the idea that the private sector should take over more and more government functions and the “Roosevelt” wing of the party who sees a strong government as necessary to eliminate poverty and racism and eliminate the distortions in our economy that have emerged since Reagan proposed that “government is the problem”.

Thus far, the NYTimes has reliably taken the side of the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the democrats, going so far as to reject countless articles on the ills of privatization from Diane Ravitch. But in a post yesterday, Ms. Ravitch pointed to an op ed article by fellow education historian Miriam Pawel as evidence that MAYBE the Times has seen the light! In “Whats Really at Stake in the Los Angeles Teachers Strike”, Ms. Pawel describes the recent history of public education in California in general and Los Angeles in particular, tracing the decline in public school quality to the passage of Proposition 13… and tracing the passage of THAT law to racism:

In the fall of 1978, after years of bitter battles to desegregate Los Angeles classrooms, 1,000 buses carried more than 40,000 students to new schools. Within six months, the nation’s second-largest school district lost 30,000 students, a good chunk of its white enrollment. The busing stopped; the divisions deepened.

Those racial fault lines had helped fuel the tax revolt that led to Proposition 13, the sweeping tax-cut measure that passed overwhelmingly in June 1978. The state lost more than a quarter of its total revenue.School districts’ ability to raise funds was crippled; their budgets shrank for the first time since the Depression. State government assumed control of allocating money to schools, which centralized decision-making in Sacramento.

Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help.The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

As Ms. Pawel goes on to note, the problems whose roots can be found in Proposition 13 got even worse when deregulated charter schools were offered as the “solution”. These schools siphon funds away from public schools, which creates a cycle Ms. Powell describes in one paragraph:

It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

And because billionaire Eli Broad spent millions to elect a pro-charter school board who, in turn, appointed a business-minded Superintendent with no experience, LA finds itself mired in a strike… a strike unlike any witnessed by a veteran mediator:

“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”

Like President Trump and the Tea Party wing who want to diminish the effectiveness of government, the LA school board seems to be intent on ruining what is left of the public school system in Los Angeles. Ms. Pawel concludes her op ed with this sobering description of what is at stake:

This strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.

From my perspective, it IS heartening that voters in California have supported tax increases to upgrade their schools and their legislature is sending more of those funds to economically deprived districts. But if those districts, like LA, use their funds to expand privatization Los Angeles schools will lose their luster forever… and the billionaires will prevail… the Winners WILL Take All.

Are Schools REALLY Over-Funded

January 15, 2019 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday based on the Forbes article by Peter Greene that I drew from in an essay I posted yesterday morning. Peter Greene’s article included this quote:

Teachers across the country are dealing with the problems created by systematic underfunding of public schools

And THAT quote elicited this response from commenter “BA”, a response that was echoed by many who left comments on the Forbes web page:

I don’t think that most schools are truly underfunded, they are mis-funded. The money is spent on computers, that are used for testing, which are priced per test. The money is spent on iPads to report “now we have one iPad per student!” but what improvement does this bring? Students don’t need to handwrite anymore, and type on a virtual keyboard – not even a real one – this is progress? Worksheets either purchased or printed, then thrown away – money and paper is wasted. All the pencils and pens that students steal, break, throw away. All the food that the students throw away. The fences and peace officers, that make schools look like prisons. Too long to list, the point is, if the money were spent where it needed to, that is, on working curricula (not on Whole Language or any NCTM-branded junk), on good textbooks, on notebooks, on good old paper-based testing and grading, on school furniture (have you seen those tiny desks that the kids have to squeeze behind?), on teachers themselves after all, then the results would be different. Compared to most other countries, the U.S. spends a LOT per student.

But as I noted in my response to BA’s comment, the problem isn’t mis-funding: it’s a change in the public’s perception of how the economy works… and it doesn’t work for employees!

One of the biggest problems for public schools is the same problem that plagued union factories that closed in rust belt cities: legacy costs that are built into existing contracts. Public school budgets need to include money to fund pension benefits; health and life insurance benefits for current teachers; and reimbursement for college and graduate school tuitions. In addition, they must budget for contributions to State retirement systems.

Those of us who want to see teaching remain an attractive career that provides middle class wages and benefits do not see these costs as unnecessary. The vulture capitalist reformers who want to be free from “burdensome regulations”, however, want to compensate their employees as little as possible. They want to avoid paying their current employees for benefits and do not want to promise their current employees ANYTHING for retirement. Unions who want to provide living wages and benefits for current employees and security for retirees are an anathema to reformers.

Welcome to the gig economy that most workers live in… an economy that currently fosters resentment toward unions. Maybe when the temp employees with variable schedules and at-will employees who staff most workplaces see that they are being played by the plutocracy sentiments will change. Here’s hoping it changes in 2020.

The 2020 Litmus Test: Do You Support the UTLA?

January 14, 2019 2 comments

As noted in previous posts, the United Teachers of Los Angeles are about to go on strike against the school board in that district. They are not only striking for the traditional bread-and-butter issues that unions seek (i.e. higher wages and better working conditions“) they are also striking for more social services for students in the schools, more elective offerings for students, and fewer charter schools. In short, they are opposing everything the pro-privatization board stands for.

And this excerpt from a Forbes article by Peter Greene explains, the Los Angeles strike has national ramifications: 

…When Los Angeles teachers walk out, it will resonate across the country because the issues they walk for are about the health and survival of public education for children in their communities, and those are the same issues that teachers all across the country are struggling with as well. That’s what makes this strike, like last year’s wave of state strikes, different–many teachers will see it not as simply a local battle, but as a skirmish in a larger national fight.

Here’s something to watch for in the coming days: will ANY of the POTUS wannabes in the Democratic Party come out in support for the UTLA? This should be a litmus test for both the NEA and the AFT when they decide which candidate they should support in the 2020 election. In my opinion, any candidate who takes the side of the school board AND any candidate who equivocates or remains silent regarding their support for the UTLA should be rejected as a candidate for President in 2020. From what I’ve read about the union’s demands, they are clearly on the side of public school students and parents. The NEA and AFT should use this strike as a means of identifying which candidates will support public education in 2020.