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Why You Can Kiss Public Education (and the Middle Class) Goodbye

All around us, our public institutions are disintegrating, and the most important public institution of all – our public education system – will likely be the next to go.
 
 
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Quick - when you hear "public housing," what picture jumps into your mind?  Or "public hospital"? 

All around us, our public institutions are disintegrating, and the most important public institution of all – our public education system – is the next to be ghettoized.

Despite several progressive victories this Election Day, there was one significant defeat in Georgia, as voters approved of Constitutional Amendment 1, which changes Georgia’s Constitution to give Republicans in that state the power to create charter schools as part of Georgia’s public education system. The result will be crucial taxpayer dollars being funneled away from free public schools and directed toward brand new, sometimes for-profit, privately-run charter schools.

Even though studies show that costly private schools don’t produce any better educational results than free public schools, for-profit schools have popped up all around the nation in recent years because of how valuable they are to corporate America. In fact, the historic Chicago Teachers Union strike earlier this year was largely in response to the city’s push to open up more charter schools to replace traditional public schools.

Education is a recession-proof industry that will always be in high demand. The corporate money-changers know if they can get their hands on this industry, "reform" it to replace decently-paid teachers and faculty with McTeachers, and then get taxpayers to foot the bill, quarterly profits and lavish bonuses for CEOs can explode.  Even in so-called "non-profit" charter schools, management can make big bucks. 

And that’s exactly what Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment 1 accomplishes. Expect similar amendments to pop up in other state elections in the near future.

This is a major shot in the multigenerational war on public education part of our commons. 

Ultimately, as more states pass charter school amendments like Georgia, and money is sucked out of public schools, then public schools will meet the same fate as the rest of the ghettoized public institutions in America.

Public education will be just like public housing, which most Americans think of as low-income, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Or it will be like public hospitals, which most Americans see as disease-ridden institutions filled with impoverished, sick people. Because, in both cases, these institutions principally serve the very poor, there’s little sympathy for Americans stuck in public housing or public hospitals.  Little sympathy also translates into little funding, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and the disintegration of our public institutions.  

But up until the Reagan "reforms," public education had avoided this same ghettoizing fate. Historically, our public education system was a marvel for the rest of the world, producing generations of scientists, doctors, and engineers from all races and socio-economic classes. Whether you came from a wealthy family or a poor family, the American public education system didn’t discriminate. As much as possible, it was a multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-class public institution that produced great results.  

But as state governments embrace for-profit charter schools, traditional public schools will be neglected and see their funding cut until eventually they, too, will suffer the same fate that ghettoized public housing and public hospitals.

Even prominent Republicans are owning up to this. After passage of Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment 1, Lee Raudonis, the former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, penned an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  warning that passage of the amendment was, “an endorsement for a drastically altering public education as most Americans define it.”

Raudonis foresees a future in which there’s a “new type of public school” as a result of this move toward charter schools. He describes this new public school as, “one for those children whose parents were not motivated enough to move them into a charter or private school or for whom there were none available.”