This is my plea to rural America and to all the people who carried Mr. Trump into the White House. Please remember your power and use it well. Don’t let corporate interests ruin our American small-town way of life.
Preserving our public education system is at the heart of this battle. And the public can both preserve and improve our schools…Why close them or leave them behind?
This past election season should give us hope. In Massachusetts (the state that has proven that true education reform is possible), voters said “NO” to lifting the cap on charter schools. Why?
“…almost all of the fiercest Question 2 opponents were cities and towns whose public schools are losing money to charter schools.”
And as one principal expressed…
“Community members and parents I talk to want to fight for the resources to improve the public schools we already have rather than opening more schools.” He [Peter Bachli] added, “It’s as if the refrigerator light went out and instead of fixing it you bought a new refrigerator.”
Many people are considering the consequences of “school choice” as we now know it. Charters, school vouchers, and technology are the main products being sold to fill the gaps in education decisively created through our laws. Yes, the market was created.
To make a buck (or billions), the education industry under the guise of education reform has put a price on the heads of children — again and still. Urban markets were tapped first. Now, schools in rural America are in the crosshairs.
But rural America doesn’t have to go the way of America’s urban districts. Not if we learn from their experiences.
And here in Idaho, we can learn from other small towns that have all but been destroyed by our modern-day version of “school choice.”
My hometown of Albion, Michigan is a perfect example. Crippled economically by unfair competition leading to de-industrialization, families paid the price for “globalization” (a nice code word for the development of multinational corporate monopolies).
At the same time, the farce of test-based reforms in K-12 education fueled the development of school choice laws.
So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.
The fabric of the community was shredded.
Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.
Step 1: Direct funding…
Step 2: Get state law in line…
Step 3: Coordinate federal law …(while claiming more state and local control)…
Step 4: “Grow-your-own” market even when that means you direct funds AWAY FROM IMPROVING SCHOOLS….really.
The decades-long standards, assessment, accountability, and technology movement continues making “choice” a moneymaking instrument easily sold to freedom-loving people.
For Idaho this began in the 1990’s with the Albertson Foundation sponsoring the development of “new” standards. Then came the assessments and accountability mechanisms to spawn competition between schools thus creating a market for “choice.” They focused their money and our laws (and money) on standards and testing for math and reading at the expense of better quality education. Their vision. Their plan. Their lobbyists that created “our” laws that in turn foot the bill for education products to fix what they helped ruin.
Now, they have much of Idaho believing we don’t understand “what policies and practices are likeliest to help” improve our rural schools. That simply is not true.
In January of 2013, one conclusion of state research was that our rural schools wanted their teachers to have the opportunity to obtain multiple certifications. Administrators wanted to improve the quality of their teaching workforce.
Instead, in August of 2013, the Albertson Foundation brought in out-of-state experts to examine OUR rural schools.
They found a new frontier — for rural charter schools — based on “the fantastic work done by charter management organizations” and “human capital organizations” like The New Teacher Project…..Wait? Who?
Let’s be clear. We are talking about philanthropic venture capitalists. These are the same people who put their money (and ours) on Common Core.
You think Common Core is simply going away because Mr. Trump doesn’t like it? Not when those who teach the teachers, develop the leadership, and lobby the lawmakers are in control. The Common Core System is in place. With the change of a name, in the blink of an eye, we still face the same problem of no real local control. Charter schools are not the answer to that problem.
And there seems to be a belief that charters will only come in where they are needed and wanted. Can the public just say no and have it be so? Ask congress.
So knowing how the laws have been fixed to profit the charter industry, as I traveled across rural Idaho over the Thanksgiving weekend, I tried not to think about it. But unfortunately while passing through one small town in particular, a horrible thought struck me. How long would it be before the food chain consisted of ConAgra, Monsanto, and Walmart?
And what will the schools be like under this new world order? Well, if the purpose of education is workforce development, we know who’ll be calling the shots.
On the other hand, I’m not convinced that corporate America will trump rural America.
Will America be made great again by those who control the schools?
Will rural America choose to give control to the same people who manipulate our laws to benefit their industry?
Or will rural Americans reclaim the “new frontier” as their own?
How will we see success?
“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln
P.S. Special thanks to the undistinguished Americans that go unacknowledged for the extraordinary research they selflessly do everyday (without pay) in an attempt to enlighten all of us. I for one appreciate their contributions to this blog.