Thu, 24 March 2016
Good News, Bad News as Fight For Public Education Goes Local
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Barack Obama passed up multiple once in a lifetime opportunities that might have made him the most popular president since Franklin Roosevelt. Obama refused to lock up any of the Wall Street crooks that caused the crash of 2007. He made investors whole but not homeowners, he legalized and absolved Bush-era torturers, and he used the auto industry bankruptcy to slash wages, eliminate pensions and offload retiree medical care onto workers unions instead of their bosses. Obama let automakers to go back to making the same deadly defective climate-destroying products as before, when he could have redirected the industry's vast army of scientists and engineers to develop new products and processes to help us transition to a post-fossil fuel economy.
But the Obama presidency hasn't been all about missed opportunities. Barack Obama did seize the chance at $4 billion in one-time stimulus funds he could distribute with no congressional or judicial oversight to further the bipartisan elite goal of wrecking and privatizing public education. He let consultants from the Gates, Broad, Walton Family and other pro-privatization outfits draw up the award guidelines for what the president called his “Race To The Top.” It was really a race to hand over tens of billions in public assets to a galaxy of shady charter school operators and contractors, a race to normalize Common Core and other profitable test-and-punish regimes that provide the excuse to fire hundreds of thousands of teachers. It was a race to compromise the educational futures of millions.
The Obama administration inflicted incalculable and lasting damage upon public education in the US, and helped seed the administrations of school districts, states and the federal government with thousands of pro-privatization stooges from Teach For America, the corporate foundations, the US Chamber of Commerce and similar places.
The good news, in the final year of the Obama administration, is that with the stimulus money all gone, the federal Department of Education has far fewer means to force privatization and Common Core on states and school districts. The new Elementary and Secondary Education Act reserve states and school districts the autonomy to reject some federal initiatives while Race to the Top and Common Core have spawned grassroots opposition among working class whites across the country, including many nominal Republicans.
The bad news though, is that enormous damage has been done. The same charter school sugar daddies and privatizers who bought the allegiance of Obama and elected Democrats also own Republican governors and state legislatures too. And that's where the fight is now.
As the sun sets on the Obama era, the battles against school privatization, charter school corruption, test-and-punish, and run-the-school-like-a-business schemes are shifting to the states, to state governors and legislatures, to local school boards, and crucially to the national movement of parents and educators encouraging parents and students to opt out of the standardized testing regimes which have always provided the excuse to classify schools targeted for privatization and replacement.
There's a video of a little black girl weeping because President Obama will soon have to leave office. If she and her parents knew what the First Black President had done to education, she wouldn't be crying. It's time for the organizers of the opt-out movement to double down on getting the case for opting out before black parents across the land who are perfectly capable of choosing between allegiance to their nominal leaders, and allegiance to their own children and the futures of their families. You can find the National Opt-Out Movement online at unitedoptout.com. That's unitedoptout.com, and they should be able to hook you up with concerned parents and teachers near you.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA. Contact him via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.