Friday, April 16, 2021


If you have any doubt about the Republican-libertarian-right wing agenda to privatize public schools, please read this piece from a Washington Post blog written by Valerie Strauss called The Answer Sheet. In it, the Network for Public Education's Carrol Burris interviews Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the school privatization people. Understand that the privatizers want to destroy public education and unions and they have loads of money to do it.

The beginning of the interview:

BURRIS: Let’s get straight to the point. It is becoming more obvious that all of the voucher and charter expansion legislation we see this year is part of a larger mission being pushed by libertarian Republicans. First, am I right? And second, what is the ultimate goal?

SILER: There’s virtually no other initiative in the education space that’s a bigger priority for the Right today than creating and expanding unaccountable, unrestricted, universal voucher programs. The easiest way to recognize this reality is to look at the incredible number of school voucher bills being pushed across state legislatures just this year.

They aren’t doing it because their constituents are demanding these programs. Voters continually reject voucher programs, and in any state where a public response is permitted, the wave of public opposition to these programs dwarfs the astro-turfed support for them. They also fervently refuse to include any kind of measures to mitigate fraud, waste, abuse and lack of accountability in these voucher programs despite having evidence from established programs. But simply setting up voucher programs isn’t their ultimate goal; it’s just the current next step towards their ultimate goal.

Their ideal is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families who want to protect their extraction of wealth from the rest of us. They see private wealth accumulation as a virtue signal because a person can only become wealthy by creating something of exceptional value for the public. In their world view, the more money someone has, the more moral life they've lived, and any attempt to take that money through taxation or other means is a moral issue.

That's why they work so diligently to undermine public infrastructure, whether that's public schools, public transportation, military spending, and even the carceral system.

They also work to undermine collective action in the form of unions, voting blocks, protests, and more. To them, it's equally immoral for a union to demand higher wages of a business owner as it is for voters to impose a higher minimum wage on business owners. The same people pushing for school privatization are the same ones pushing for voter suppression, and that's why. They fear the power of people.

On charter schools:

BURRIS: We are now seeing charter expansion legislation paired with voucher legislation. How do charter schools fit into the agenda?

SILER: Charter schools are part of the incremental march towards full privatization. Sometimes charter schools are part of the hook for large donors. A number of wealthy privatization financiers have become part of the movement by funding large grants and other programs for charter schools.

Also, charter schools can be set up in a number of different ways depending on the local political climate, all while starting the shift of public funds into private investments. Charter schools also help garner the support of white voters as charters often find creative ways to discriminate against students of color, increasing segregation. Charters create a number of loopholes in the public education space, from financial and academic accountability to legal protections for marginalized students, which begin to normalize those problems for the general public. In many ways, charter schools are the gateway to total public school dismantling.

And more:

BURRIS: Who are the major funders of the so-called school choice movement, and why are they hostile to public education?

SILER: I can’t speak about specific funders or donors who haven’t been identified already in a public way, but some are pretty obvious. Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made dismantling public schools part of her life’s work, and through the DeVos Family Foundation, she funds privatization efforts across the country. Her work as a financier likely has done and will do more damage to public schools than her entire tenure with the Trump Administration.

The heirs of the Walmart fortune, the Walton family, also funds privatization across the country — especially charter schools. The Koch Foundation is probably the most publicly villainized supporters of dismantling public schools, and in many ways, there wouldn’t be such a vast network of pro-privatization advocates had it not been for the tireless support of Charles and David Koch. There’s also the Bradley Foundation which contributes to numerous conservative groups and is also a financial driver of school privatization.

But it's not just billionaires. It's also local businesses funding privatization efforts, either through donations made by their owners or investments into state and local chambers of commerce. It's individuals, small donors, too. But they really aren't sufficient to make the entire machine, the industry of school privatization, function. It truly takes the massive investment of the exceptionally wealthy to drive the privatization agenda.

Their hostility to public education is best described as being the nexus of three parts. First, they want to minimize any government spending whatsoever, and public education is one of the largest line items in any state budget. Getting rid of public education spending would massively reduce the tax burden on wealthy individuals at the state level.

Public schools are also incredibly popular, and they don’t want the general public to view public institutions as effective or popular. It’s why they’ve driven a false narrative about “failing schools” for decades now, and it’s also why they continually attack Social Security, Medicare, public pensions, public transportation, and more because they know it’s impossible to get people to share their vision for limited government when people have so many positive experiences with government programs. And lastly, it’s about diminishing collective power. Taking down public schools also means taking down teachers’ unions, PTO’s, local school boards, and all the other ways those of us who aren’t exceptionally wealthy come together to push for collective investment in our communities.

Public schools and the communities around them represent the kind of togetherness privatization advocates despise.


Anonymous said...

Families of color benefit most from school choice. Look at the stats and waiting lists for entry into charters.
Our children: our choice? Not in this case.
Queer black womyn teacher here.

Anonymous said...

This Key Understanding #5. The UFT has been fully bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers and the astroturf folks

These are the five key takeaways to understand UFT collaboration with the DOE:

1) Unity is a one way street.
2) Teacher harassment using weaponized observations is a symptom of a repressive organization.
3) Systemic teacher inadequacy is the "common core" of a delusional conspiracy theory.
4) New racists pose as anti-racists.
5) Double standards are justified for the greater good of promoting corporate privatization.

Anonymous said...

As a NYCDOE teacher, no matter how bad the situation with the DOE gets, public education represents an opportunity for every student - an equitable opportunity.

In my home country, privatization of education has completely abolished the public schools in the home state of my home country. Now there are majority for-profit private schools and many children are unable to go to school due to it being an expense that many can't afford. What's worse is that these schools teach primarily in English or the majority language of my home country - completely disregarding the language that home state speaks (a population that is a minority both ethnically and religiously).

Public education is the only way of providing children of all backgrounds an equal chance to learn and grow and achieve success.

I really hope us Americans don't let public schools disappear as it did in my home state of my home country. That would be the most tragic death that I will ever see - the death of an opportunity for all people, no matter color, creed, economic or social status. It will only hold back those who truly need it to succeed.

I think in the midst of the DOE chaos and apathetic students, we forget that there is a subsection of students that still do care and try. We can't punish them and we need to fight for them. Because if we don't, then who will?

The rich kids are able to have access to schools whose mission is to develop the child as a whole. They have access to schools that specialize in helping special needs students make it in this world. The poor kids will get stuck with charter schools that don't care about Special Needs or the child's social and emotional health - they are just a number to them, one whose only purpose is to boost standardized test averages for that school.

Why don't we all take a moment to step back and reflect on the predicament that this is? We all had a chance to receive public education during times where things were great for everyone. Why can't we all recognize how important it is to ensure that future students have the access to the same experience?

My experience as a NYCDOE student literally saved me. I will forever cherish the experiences I had in my K-12. I loved school and I saw that my teachers did too. Every kids deserves that.

TJL said...

Interesting and mostly fair (for WaPo) read.

Personally I would love to see more true privatization. I've worked in a private school that was unionized. It was good for students and teachers too.

The problem for both public and private schools are the charters. They're frankensteins. They take public money but operate like a private. "Publicly subsidized, privately profitable". They hurt public schools and private schools can't compete with them, and close.

We're in a tough spot. The RINOs love the corrupt charters and so do the DINOs. Eva, Arne Duncan, John King, all part of the institutional left and all-in on charters.

Anonymous said...

Hey 1:18, You are advocating for your own demise.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Mulgrew and Randi should read it and readdress their roles. Would he still allow pro-charter mayoral candidates to be vetted by the UFT if he truly understood what’s going on? Would Randi continually equivocate, on absolutely everything that means anything? I’d say yes. With leaders(!) like this survival isn’t a given. Based on Randi’s actions and inactions I believe she is in the pocket of the very folks you wrote about - Mulgrew just follows her lead mindlessly. Bill Gates is up to his eyeballs in trying to eradicate us and bring back slavery of the masses.

Anonymous said...

Most of this Charter School phenomena—got its start under Republican Bush45/Cheney and exploded during the Democratic Obama/Biden years. Seems that it doesn’t matter about political affiliation—as the wealthy are only interested in Charters at the expense of public schools.

Anonymous said...

Who needs this when we have Mulgrew?
The UFT continues to fight to make sure NYC public schools are safe for students. UFT President Michael Mulgrew had this message for families during a recent conversation on WBAI: “We want your kids back. We’re going to keep them safe.”

James Eterno said...

Most Republicans and corporate Democrats are fairly similar on the issue of Education. We get lip service from Dems and maybe a crumb or two and outright hostility from Republcans.

Anonymous said...


These folks have bought Mulgrew and Weingarten. They own these stooges.
Gates money, Koch money, Bloomberg money & lucrative
connections with crony capitalists and plutocrats

Anonymous said...

NYC public school budget is 34 billion dollars a year. Nobody can justify that kind of expense (waste) with the ridiculous results that are produced. Is there any other entity (other than the US Gov't) that can waste that much money and produce such failure? It is not just that I have to pay out of pocket for a private school education for my children and pay taxes for the public schools to produce overwhelmingly uneducated people. I would not mind paying the taxes if the public schools had standards.

I used to be Pro UFT, anti charter and anti vouchers but after what I have seen and been through since Bloomberg took over the schools, I have made a 180 degree turn. Perhaps that was Bloomberg's agenda all along.

Anonymous said...

Commenters say they think we teachers should cut off our noses to spite our faces.

Anonymous said...

The charter school vs public school argument misses several key points many times. First of all, they try to make apples to apples comparison. This is impossible as public schools for the most part take anyone but many charter schools are self-selective, meaning they are only taking students of parents who made the effort to be part of the “lottery” or admissions process. Also as another commenter pointed out the charter schools do not open up their books. The second main point that public school advocates miss is that we don’t include parents and more importantly students as part of the decision making process when it comes to the schools. If they were and a true parent-teacher outreach was attempted (not really done in my school) then we would get more support from parents against the privatization movement. We hate as teachers when we get top down micromanagement from central but bristle when parents/students make suggestions. Teachers/parents/students who are in the trenches should be a true part of decision making in the schools. This would make public schools more popular among the public.

Anonymous said...

Not paying dues doesn't cut off my face or my nose. It just saves me $1,500 a year. Why pay a corrupt union who has abandoned us?

TeachNY said...

It’s also a failure because teachers aren’t allowed to teach how what they deem best for students. It’s always a dictated mother freaking scripted curriculum. Therein lies ONE of the issues. Also-not removing kids from building who constantly disrupt the learning of others. Why we can’t create special
Schools to house disruptive students is beyond me. Pay those teachers extra. Or give those kids a remote option.

James Eterno said...

Leaving won't help anything but your bank account temporarily. I would rather work to change the UFT, hence this blog.

Anonymous said...

How long do you plan on working with no change?

James Eterno said...

I am in it for the long haul. Still plugging away even after being retired for three hours.

Anonymous said...

@1:48 You can look at it the other way:
For a public school teacher like 1:18 above to support school choice is a brave statement and shows her prioritizing the well-being of her child, community and country over her pecuniary interests.
Maybe we should celebrate such selflessness instead of disparaging it?

Anonymous said...

Why would you work in a system you want destroyed? Is that the modern version of selflessness or just more hypocrisy?

Anonymous said...

1:29 because they’re stupid enough to pay me.

Anon2323 said...

This issue crosses both parties that is for certain. It's time for new york to have a Republican mayor.nIt has been beyond out of control last 10 years with full dem leadership.

Bill Gates can go to hell immediately, he's a computer guy stick with Microsoft. He has a hand in everything education and the vaccines guy is a monster.

Charter schools have a tremendous amount of fraud between grading regents in-house, manipulating data and kicking students out of school if they do not meet standards or have slight behavioral issues. WHY IS THIS PUSSY UNION SPENDING 100 MILLION FOR SUBSIDIES FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS TO FIND SPACE ??