There is nothing as terrifying, and threatening, to fascists as an educated populace that is unlikely to fall victim to lies and misinformation meant to sway an ignorant population’s opinion that being set upon by tyrants is in their best interest. One tactic to control a population is prohibiting education for the masses by either restricting access to education altogether, or devising a means of controlling curriculum and instruction through private and religious institutions paid for with public funds that, in America, has long been a goal of conservative-movement fascists and actively pursued by corporate Republicans and their legislative arm the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Over the past month, while Republicans have kept stupid Americans mesmerized with phony scandals and outrage that the African American President is somehow imposing on their freedoms, state-level Republicans have quietly and with little exposure taken steps to privatize school systems, restrict education to white wealthy children, and ensure that education is steeped in religious and conservative propaganda.
Last year during the general election campaign, Rick Santorum opined that “smart people will never vote for Republicans” and it may be the first true utterance from the religious sycophant’s mouth. It also informed just one of the reasons Republicans are ramping up efforts to privatize America’s public education system, shutter schools in poorer neighborhoods, and shifting public school funding to charter schools owned and operated by conservative and religious crusaders. There were three specific stories that went unnoticed by the public at large that portend Americans’ tax dollars are being funneled to private education, the prison system, and into wealthy neighborhoods while poorer communities’ schools are closed and sold to corporate-controlled private charter schools.
In Wisconsin, at the specific direction of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Governor Scott Walker inserted a provision into the state’s budget that means school privatization will be enacted without public input, discussion, or debate. One of the provisions in Walker’s ALEC budget creates what they labeled a “Charter School Oversight Board” that approves entities as independent charter school authorizers following ALEC’s Next Generation Charter Schools Act. According to Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the ALEC measure “wrests control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards,” because according to ALEC’s law, if a charter school proposal is rejected by the community and school board, an ALEC-installed authorizer would become “a defacto appellate mechanism” and the private charter school operator could move on to the unelected independent authorizer for approval. Wisconsin voters rejected a similar proposal in 2011, so ALEC instructed Walker to insert the measure into the state’s budget that also expands the school voucher program to divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools to subsidize private and for-profit schools.
The proposal also creates a new teaching license for individuals with no formal education background to teach in the charter schools that is ALEC’s Alternative Certification Act. It is ALEC’s attempt to reduce requirements for becoming a teacher to produce failing schools, push more privatization, kill unions, and allow publicly-funded ideological religious curriculum to slip unnoticed and unaccounted for in charter schools that are immune from public oversight. As it is now, Wisconsin taxpayers will have sent an estimated $1.8 billion of public school funding to private and religious schools by 2014-15 as a result of privatization interests spending well over $10 million on Republican candidates with Walker receiving $2.35 million to push ALEC’s privatization efforts.
In Philadelphia where the city is so cash-strapped the Pennsylvania School Reform commission approved a budget closing 23 public schools (10% of the city’s schools), the Republican-controlled House passed a corporate tax cut costing the state between $600-800 million annually, and then approved a $400 million prison. The penitentiary is “the second-most expensive state project ever,” and construction began days after cutting education spending that wipes out the 23 public schools. The school closings will “disproportionately affect youths of color,” but with little education they will likely be funneled directly into the brand new $400 million prison. The state intends to sell the shutter schools to private charter authorities in a continued push to privatize education, control curriculum and instruction, and create a population indoctrinated in religious and conservative ideology.
In Washington DC, school privatization advocate Michele Rhee’s protégé and successor, DC School Chancellor Kaya Henderson, recently planned to close 15 public schools to disproportionately affect minority and special needs students in spite of no evidence the closings will improve educational outcomes or save the district money. It turns out that all 15 schools are located east of the unofficial dividing line between poor minority communities and affluent white neighborhoods that lead to allegations the school closings are an attempt to privatize public education at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable residents. The school closings will impact over 2,700 students that includes just two (less than 0.01 percent) white children even though white students account for 9 percent of the overall student population, and follows the practice of privatization advocate and former DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee who closed 24 public schools in “mostly low-income neighborhoods of color,” leading a grandparent of two affected students to complain that “They keep taking things away from our kids and expect our kids to achieve, this is discrimination against our black kids.”
Republicans, ALEC, and racist privatization champions are not just discriminating against minorities, they are judiciously pushing to eliminate the concept of a free public education for all Americans by shifting public school funding to private charter schools that are immune from following Constitutional protections public schools are bound to follow. Charter schools do not all require state approved curriculum, teacher certification, and particularly are not required to provide equal education opportunities to all children; especially minority children.
The assault on public education is not confined to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C., and in April it was revealed that a Southern California city was invaded by a Los Angeles-based group funded by billionaires calling itself Parent Revolution that organized a local campaign to harass and intimidate parents of school children with heavy-handed tactics particularly targeting undocumented Latino residents who complained of “bribery and extortion.” In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal continues thumbing his nose at the Constitution, and federal courts, by using public school money to fund private religious schools teaching children that Noah herded dinosaurs onto the mythical Ark to ride out a 40-day rainstorm god used to exterminate all by Noah’s family.
America’s education system is under assault by fascist Republicans and their corporate legislative arm, ALEC, despite their intended plans are rejected by the voters at every turn. It is true there are religious fanatics hell-bent on inserting the bible as curriculum to indoctrinate all public school students, but they are in the minority, and lacking funding to create their own little Madrasas to instill religion in their own children, they have turned to ALEC and Republicans to steal public school funds to inculcate the bible into all children’s education. Besides controlling curriculum and instruction to produce the next generation of illiterate Republican supporters, ALEC and the GOP intends on destroying teachers’ unions and enriching corporate-run private schools at the public’s expense. It is but another example of the fascist coup d’état of corporate Republicans who are unable to impose their will on the public through democratic process such as public discourse and voting because thus far, America’s educational system has worked well enough to keep the masses informed to reject privatization efforts, and it is why ALEC, corporations, and Republican fascists are secretly transforming public schools, and America, into a private enterprise producing what Republicans need most to win elections; stupid, ignorant, and superstitious people to vote against their own interests.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.