Monday, September 27, 2010

Public Education Should Not Be Privatized

Public Education Should Not Be Privatized
By Gary L. Flowers
Executive Director & CEO
Black Leadership Forum, Inc.
September 26-October 2, 2010


Prior to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and seating of a Constitutional Convention, the issue of public education in our nation has always been a divisive issue. In nearly every colony restrictive codes existed which prohibited public education for all people of color and virtually all poor White people. The rationale in against public education 18th Century America rested on the notion that an un-educated enslaved Black or indentured White made for a better worker who had few options other than hard labor.

As colonies were formally federalized into the United States of America the question of whom among the nation’s citizens should be educated and at what quality of instruction divided public policy makers. Initially, only White males were considered American citizens, and thereby entitled to be educated through colonial educational policy. While a Constitutional Amendment (14th) was enacted in 1868 to grant citizenship to newly freed African Americans another Amendment (10th) granted states control over public education. Legislators—federal and state—across the nation were sharply split over public education. One school of thought (slave owners, Confederates) was that public education should be reserved for Whites only. The other school of thought (abolitionists and educational liberators) held than all children—regardless of race, religion or resources—are entitled to public education.

Against such a polarized philosophical background the public school system in the United States was established in 1852. However, unlike other industrialized countries around the world that completely funded public education the American system was established with limited federal funding, resulting in control of educational policy primarily posited in state, county, and municipal government. Yet, confederates and capitalist never die.

Following the American Civil War and the erosion of federal authority in favor of states’ rights public education was declared “separate, but equal” in the infamous Supreme Court ruling in Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896. State control and racially segregated schools persisted until the landmark High Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Following Brown, many White Americans, rather than allow their children to attend pubic schools with students of color (particularly in former slave states in the south), removed them and formed all-White private academies. However, upon realizing that their public tax dollars were helping to fund racially mixed public schools the “voucher” plan was conceptualized to allow “some” public students to attend special public schools funded by private financiers.

Today, the issue of private funders of public schools can is being debated in cities such as Washington, DC and Newark, NJ. In Washington, DC the outgoing mayor, after dismantling School Board, lost his reelection bid in large part due to his education “reform” plan for public schools that included private funding. In fact, when private corporate funders realized that the outgoing mayor would probably lose his party’s primary CEO’s essentially threatened to pull potential funding if the presumed incoming mayor would not retain the Public School Chancellor who supported private funding for public schools.

Two weeks later, ironically, Mark Zuckerberg, Executive Founder of Facebook appeared on the world-renowned Oprah Show to announce that he would donate $100 million dollars to the public school system of Newark, NJ. His reason: the “leadership” in Newark. Ironically, the mega money will help to restore control of school system to the current mayor of Newark. Hmm? Fancy that: The public votes out a mayor in the nation’s capital largely for supporting private funding for that school system, and in a matter of days, a privateer grants big money to same type of public school system in Newark rejected by the people in Washington, DC.

Ultimately, the public should fund the American public school system to do so; the federal government should increase federal outlay for public schools (currently set at only 9%). Such an increase in funding could go a long way to incentivising potential teachers in college, and improving public school facilities and faculty. If the federal government would support legislation to fiscally value public schools, privateers would not have an inroad to unofficially influence educational policy. Not to do so would render the public school system in the United States of America “open to the highest offer.”

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