Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system–i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools. The most feasible way to bring about such a transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend. The voucher must be universal, available to all parents, and large enough to cover the costs of a high-quality education. No conditions should be attached to vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore, and to innovate.
“Public Schools: Make Them Private” Milton Friedman
Emanuel in fact has built a strong base of donors outside the labor movement, including corporate and cultural icons and even some prominent Republicans. He received a $50,000 donation from real estate magnate Donald Trump, who flirted with a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, a disclosure to the elections board showed.
“The new vision, championed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who used to run Chicago’s schools, calls for a laser focus on standardized tests meant to gauge student skills in reading, writing and math. Teachers who fail to raise student scores may be fired. Schools that fail to boost scores may be shut down.
And the monopoly that the public sector once held on public schools will be broken with a proliferation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run— and typically non-union.”
“Chicago Teachers Striking Out on Education” Jayne Matthews-Hopson
I’ve been reading pieces by Doug Henwood, Corey Rubin, and then Jane Van Galen on why, despite the Chicago Teacher’s Unions’ strong progressive record and detailed, reasonable agenda for the Chicago public schools, so many liberals seem to echo the traditional conservative hatred for both teachers and for teachers’ unions. This liberal mistrust seems to have deep roots in class bias as much as in economic and political opportunism.
Mayor Emanuel, and Jayne Matthews-Hopson, one of his many allies at the Democrats for Education Reform, seems to sit right at the crossroads of several important currents in U.S. culture. Van Galen and Rubin both suggest that many upper middle class or wealthy Americans have long felt a powerful disdain towards teachers, people who have in their view “opted out” of the race for wealth and so are either failures or simply mediocre.
Friedman offers intellectual cover for these attitudes and hints in a not so subtle fashion that an enormous amount of money could be made if the economic potential of the public education system were “unlocked.” Buried down there somewhere is that freakish worship of markets and private enterprise, a religious fanaticism that, after the collapse of so many countries and businesses, ought to be transparently grotesque but somehow isn’t yet.
The teachers, and the teachers unions, are scapegoats, stand ins for the larger issues of the concentration of wealth and the rise in poverty. This is the story, as Corey Rubin reminded me, of Diane Ravitch’s description of the strange love some have for the reactionary documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman'”. Mayor Emanuel, and the DER, want us to forget that we can’t fix education unless we are willing to try to ameliorate poverty.