Thursday, March 2, 2017
Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are right?
However, their statement has further reaching and deeper implications than either imagines.
When DeVos and Trump use the term Civil Rights, they are thinking of what our political system “allows” people of color to have. That is Not What Civil Rights Are.
Civil Rights belong to everyone, including Blacks, Whites, Immigrants, and Indigenous People– All Peoples regardless of exceptionalisms. Civil Rights are those Inalienable rights Jefferson talked about- Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
At this moment in our history, the greed of Free Market Capitalism, in the form of Global Corporations, is trying to take All our Civil Rights away. In their paradigm all assets are for private ownership, to be bought and sold for gain, with no room for inalienable rights to be commonly held.
Civil Rights are those necessities which are needed to survive as humans– such as access to clean water, air, food, control over our persons, and yes, education. They deal with assets that should belong to all, not just to corporations or the wealthy, and certainly not just to certain ethnic groups.
The current Drive to Privatize - Schools, Water (both above and below ground), Public Lands, Access to Healthcare, and assorted other public needs is a drive to take away all our Civil Rights.
This is not to diminish what privatizers have done already to communities of color around the nation. The labeling of schools as failing based on invalid tests and narrowly defined data, the closing of schools and firing of Black teachers in exchange for charters, virtuals, and younger whiter, less well trained classroom presences, has had devastating effects on communities across the nation. From LA to Newark, from New Orleans to Detroit, from Florida to Philadelphia and Chicago: the damage has been savagely cruel and every bit a full denial of Civil Rights.
However, the rest of the country should not be fooled into believing that what DeVos and Trump plan is a return to a time when people of color were denied Civil Rights, but whites were not. This iteration of Privatizing targets the schools of McDowell County West Virginia and North Carolina, Alaska, and Vermont for takeover just as much as those in the inner cities.
In 2014 “Rural Policy Matters” concluded: “But the charter/privatization dynamic is changing. For example, in North Carolina, a dramatic expansion of the state’s charter law is putting pressure on cohesive higher-performing rural communities, especially those in low-income counties.”
At this point in time, even districts once considered affluent suburbs are struggling with funding due to long term degeneration of funding from outside sources, the erosion of property values from the 2008 crash, and exemptions to local taxation given to attract large corporate businesses. It is unfortunate that the federal government sought to bail out the banks, but never considered bailing out our communities' losses due to the housing crash. With the current precarious funding structures pushed on localities from the states’ lack of support, and unfunded mandates from the federal level, even once invulnerable districts are at risk.
Vouchers and Virtual Curriculum will be simply too attractive to cash strapped localities to resist, and the resulting bifurcation of rich and poor students from the siphoning off of even more dollars from local schools, and the inability of middle and working families to make up the difference between voucher grants and real tuition will be disastrous for our most stable districts, just as the last round of privatization was for communities of color. In the final analysis the Civil Rights of the solid middle class will go the way of our poorer communities, to lower learning rates and reduced life expectations.
So, yes, Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump have a point. Their plans to gut the public schools of America through a massive transfer of assets to private ownership of what should be a commonly held Civil Right for all, is the issue of the 21st Century.