by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
A national movement to save public education is coming to life, in the face of a decades-long bipartisan campaign to discredit, de-fund, destabilized and destroy public education. President Bush's Education Secretary said teachers unions were terrorist organizations. Obama's man Arne Duncan believes Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to education in New Orleans. Is it time yet to dump, and to dump on Arne Duncan?
School Closings Come To Atlanta This Week, To Your City Next Week: It's Time To Dump Arne Duncan
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
In a pattern that has become typical across the nation, the Atlanta Public School Board voted early this morning to close 7 neighborhood schools, all in mainly black neighborhoods. Some of the proposed school closings were announced the Friday afternoon before spring break, only ten calendar days, and one business day before the meeting that would finalize their closure. Other proposed closings were announced only 3 calender days before the school board meeting. Obviously the authorities wanted to prevent neighborhood parents from mobilizing to protect their children and communities.
Like their counterparts in cities across the country, Atlanta parents, teachers and neighborhood residents pointed out that their school board seemed more devoted to the promotion of charter schools and privatization than it was to the children in public schools, and that it was doing all it could to push as many children as possible out of the public schools into charters. They reminded the board that by their own flawed standardized tests, charters performed no better than public schools, and when they did it was due to their ability to cream off the best students, rather than their willingness to teach everyone's children.
Judging from last night's meeting the gap between what hundreds of local parents and teachers know, believe and demand, and the picture of public education brought to us by corporate media is vast and astounding. News coverage of the meeting, and of opposition to the cuts was sparse and condescending, and grossly misrepresented the intents and motives of parents and teachers.
Like school boards across the country, Atlanta's honchos turned a deaf ear to the children and communities they supposedly serve, even refusing to consider repurposing the empty school buildings as local community resources. In the rush to privatization, school buildings are valuable real estate prizes that can be awarded to well connected developers, and the only kind of economic development anybody has ever heard of is moving poorer people out of neighborhoods to attract richer ones in.
Atlanta is following the same script as Chicago and Philly and New York and Los Angeles and New Orleans. It's a bipartisan agenda of standardized testing calculated not to teach children, but to furnish the grounds to brand teachers and schools as “underperforming” so that staff can be fired, schools closed, and their resources funneled to charter school operators.
It's a local problem, but it's national policy. Atlanta's school superintendent is much like Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in that he's never taught an hour in any classroom. Duncan learned all he needed to know about education from his mother's tutoring programs, he says, and his time as a pro basketballer, his time in the financial markets and on Mayor Daley's staff. Atlanta's Eroll Davis says he learned all he needed to know about running a school system from his time serving on the board of British Petroleum.
Atlanta's school chief says he's closing black schools to give them the same thing wealthy and mostly white neighborhoods have, an academic support system. His national counterpart Arne Duncan famously declared that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to education in New Orleans. Duncan's predecessor as Chicago schools CEO was immediately dispatched to Louisiana where he closed more than 100 New Orleans public schools and fire the system's entire teaching, administrative, maintenance and support staff.
While the place to fight for control of education is in your neighborhood, in your public school while you still have one, it's a national fight as well. Public school closings, the de-professionalization of teachers and the push to charters have been national policy under the Bush and Obama administrations. So it's entirely correct to call for the resignation of Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well.//www.blackagendareport.com/images/stories/153/ed_stooges04.jpgnt>
We wrote about how Duncan teamed up in 2009 with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton to do a national tour promoting charter schools, privatization, teacher merit pay and other anti-education schemes. Since them the Obama administration's Race To The Top has made these things pre-conditions without which no state, no school board receives much in the way of federal funding, and the states that fire the most teachers, close the most schools, and grant the most charters get most of the funding. It's truly a race, and not to the top.
While it's time to redouble our efforts to save, rebuild, democratize and re-imagine public education in our cities and neighborhoods around the country, it's also time to come together nationally and demand an end to federal policies that force charters, standardized testing. Change comes from the bottom and from the top. It's time to demand the resignation of Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Thousands of educators and students and ordinary citizens have already signed the petition at http://dumpduncan.org. You should too, and forward it to everyone you know.
Those of us on Facebook should click here to join the Dump Duncan group on Facebook, from which you will be able to connect with people concerned and active about saving public education around the country, and access a vast array of helpful resources. Duncan's and Obama's Race To The Top, as Diane Ravitch assures us, is really a race to the bottom.
Visit Dump Duncan on the web or on Facebook. Sign the petition, get connected locally and nationally. And get busy.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.