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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 20, 2014

 
Vergara and the billionaire attack on schools and teachers

by David Atkins

There's a big battle going on that could change the face of education in America for the worse. It's called Vergara vs. California, and the implications of a negative decision in the case could be devastating. Karoli at Crooks and Liars has a good write-up on it:

David Welch is a billionaire with a mission, which is to pretend that it was so difficult to fire "bad teachers" that he needed to fund a lawsuit led by a high-powered legal team, "for the children."

That lawsuit - Vergara vs. California-- is now underway in downtown Los Angeles, with lead attorneys Theodore Boustros and Theodore Olsen of anti-Proposition 8 litigation fame.

The goal? To destroy current negotiated protections for teachers, like tenure and fair hearings for misconduct, on the basis that such protections for teachers harm the civil rights of disadvantaged children in the school system. The entire theory is so utterly cynical you'd think it was ripped right from the pages of the Koch foundation, and maybe it was. But it's playing out in a city with a lot of education issues that have nothing to do with teacher tenure or unions...

Welch is funding this incredibly expensive lawsuit through an organization by the name of Students Matter, which is a subsidiary of -- wait for it -- StudentsFirst.

The heart of this lawsuit really centers around whether or not the state has adequately funded its schools. Since Proposition 13 passed, it has not, and as funding decreased and teachers' resources were taken from them, the quality of California public schools has declined. Teacher tenure has nothing to do with this. It seems laughable to me that the same billionaires who fork over millions to Teach for America to intentionally plant ill-trained future hedge fund managers in public schools for a year or two are somehow arguing that teacher tenure is the reason underprivileged children's education suffers.

Where is their concern for the poverty of these children, for their health, for their neighborhoods? Where are they worried about the impact school closures have on their educations?

No, once again it's all about teachers, because this is not a lawsuit about tenure. It's a lawsuit about breaking teachers' unions.
The main backers of the case against teachers are the ultra-wealthy magnates Eli Broad, Charles Schwab and Fischer family (owners of the Gap, among other things.) Billionaires have been aggressively funding education "reform" efforts for years under the theory that there's nothing wrong with education that destroying teachers' unions and privatizing education can't fix. It's important to remember that these are the same people who spent millions in 2012 trying to defeat California's Proposition 30 to fund schools, and to pass Proposition 32 preventing unions from spending on elections while allowing corporations free rein.

Interestingly enough, however, StudentsMatter posted the following tweet saying they supported Proposition 30.



But that's a lie. we know that Eli Broad, one of the biggest donors to StudentsMatter, spent millions against Proposition 30. Had he succeeded, education in California would have gone into a total tailspin.

And that's really the whole point here: destroy teachers' unions, eliminate the possibility of the government being able to attract decent teachers, then use the resulting chaos to privatize the entire education system. The billionaires want to do this not only because private education is a big, booming business, but also because they want to change the way children are taught to make them more docile, pliable units fit for the brave new corporate workforce of the 21st century. That's what the anti-Proposition 30 efforts were all about, and that's what the Vergara case is all about.

It's certainly not designed to actually help children. We already know what produces good results in education, based on examples around the world: 1) incentivizing adults to pursue a career in teaching by paying a decent salary, 2) teaching real critical thinking skills instead of rote memorization; and 3) properly funding education. As long as teachers can barely make ends meet and our society encourages every bright college-age student to try to become the next Wolf of Wall Street or SnapChat millionaire, we're not going to be able to fix education--or anything in society for that matter. As long as we continue to preach the lie that anyone who can't do advanced calculus is not only destined to live in poverty but ought to do so, we can't fix education. And as long as we continue to believe that it's more important to lower taxes on billionaires than to properly fund our schools, we can't fix education.

We know how to fix education. But the billionaires aren't interested in actually fixing education. They're interested in profit. If they get their way, the country will be much the worse it.




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