The New Jim Crow – No educational access

by Lisa Hussein

Right now in the United States of America public education is under attack.  The GOP has been attacking public education since the 1800’s but it regained popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s after Milton Friedman, an economist and economic advisor to Reagan, began pushing a modern-day version of “school choice” or education voucher system.

DEFUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Right now, Tom Corbett Republican governor of Pennsylvania, has decided that he wants to institute educational vouchers; even though the majority of Pennsylvanians do not want it.  Consequently there are several school districts in PA that are on the brink of closing.  Chester Upland School District is one such district.  The teachers and administrators are currently working WITHOUT PAY.  If they did not work without pay ALL of the public schools in the district (except for the charter schools) would close.  Why not the charter schools?  Well right now the charter schools in that district are sucking up $39 million per year of that district’s budget.  UPDATE:  According to information on Ed Shultz show on MSNBC, the TWO charter schools in the district receive about 48% of the district’s budget!

State special education payments to Chester Upland this year are $3,600 per student, but the district has to pay charter schools $14,670 per special education student in addition to the rate it pays them for its regular education students, the lawsuit said. That violates special education law and equal protection provisions, the lawsuit said, and should be declared unconstitutional.

Remember, charter schools are privately run schools that use our tax money to pay the bills.  Incidentally, the operator of the charter school that serves Chester Upland is also a major GOP contributor…

THE NEW JIM CROW

Because anything that the GOP wants is usually steeped in racism… just kidding.  But I’m not, really.  Let’s look at the situation.  According to the Deseret News, during the 1960s in southern states, public schools were closed and vouchers given to parents for their children to attend private segregated schools.   Reagan and Milton revitalized the movement in the 1980s and it keeps reappearing to rear its ugly head.

We know that education, especially a good education, can be an equalizing force in America.  Yet, inner-city schools that educate mostly children of color, are set up to fail.  The most inexperienced teachers are sent to inner-city schools. The most inexperienced or do-nothing administrators are sent to inner city schools. (at least this is the case in the LA school district and is probably replicated to some degree across the county) A lot of school districts decide the amount of funding a school will receive based upon their property taxes.  If real estate in these areas have low values then the property taxes are lower and concurrently the funds to those schools are less.  So, it will not come as a surprise to learn that the Chester Upland district is 90% African American with over 60% eligible for free or subsidized lunch.

WHY VOUCHERS WON’T WORK (and a district of 100% charter schools)

For the record I’m not necessarily against charter schools.  But I am against them at the expense of our traditional public schools.  Most of our presidents from the last century and this one were educated in public schools.  If it’s good enough for them…  Additionally, I am against charter schools run by private corporations.  Some things in our society should be non-profit or government run.  We should NOT have the main purpose of our education system to be increasing shareholder’s value!

The average private school in my area is about $20k per year.  Meanwhile, the average salary is $50k per year.  The government would have to subsidized a private school education for the average family to the tune of $15,000 per year. Meanwhile my school district spends about $9800 per student per year.   If the school district gave vouchers for 100% of their per-student spending to each family that chose private schools, only upper-middle class on up would be able to afford the private schools.  The students relegated to the public schools system would see their budgets cut even more with about 20% of its funding going to private schools.  Who would be most adversely effected by education vouchers?  Poor children and children of color would.

If it weren’t for Ed Shultz, I would not have heard of the situation in Pennsylvania.  If this were happening in western Pennsylvania whose inhabitants are rural, low-income, white people, I think the mainstream media would be screaming from the roof tops.  But it’s just poor black kids so only the true Progressives care… and you.

UPDATE

Chester Upland middle school teacher, Sara Ferguson, was invited to sit in the First Lady’s box at the 2012 State of the Union address.  Kudos to president Obama for recognizing the injustice of the situation and importance of a good education in leveling the playing field.

 

 

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