Category Archives: Public Schools

Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist

For some time now, public school superintendents in Pennsylvania, as well as the governor of that state and many others, have been striving to restrict the charter school money grab that has been allowed to run amok in that state for years.

Cyber charter schools in particular, notorious for consistently abysmal academic results and for being even more corrupt than brick-and-mortar charter schools, have come under fire because they receive large sums of public funds that are vastly disproportionate to their needs, functions, and claims. Overhead costs in cyber charter schools, it should be noted, are much lower than overhead costs in brick-and-mortar public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools, but the flawed funding system essentially treats cyber charter schools like brick-and-mortar schools. Virtual charter schools also provide fewer services and resources than brick-and-mortar public schools, which can be especially problematic for students with special needs. All of this is beside the fact that charter schools have no legitimate claim to public money in the first place because they are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. Charter schools are privatized deregulated schools run by unelected private persons. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not agencies of the state and differ from public schools in profound ways. Charter school promoters, moreover, openly espouse “free market” ideology.

At a recent press conference addressing the siphoning of large sums of public funds from public schools to privately-operated charter schools, Christopher Dormer, superintendent of the Norristown school district, said that, “today is an attack on a law that is broken, with skewed formulas that have resulted in drastic overpayments to charters, with little or no oversight on how those tax dollars are being spent” (emphasis added). Dormer added:

I’ll tell you, it does not cost $14,000 per year to educate a child in a fully virtual environment’, referring to what Norristown pays per student attending cyber charters. In contrast, he said, it costs the district $5,500 to educate a student fully online.

In the Perkiomen Valley school district:

costs for sending students to charters have grown by more than 55% since 2015, said Superintendent Barbara Russell. ‘That takes money away from the students attending in our school district’, Russell said. While the district has its own virtual learning programs, the money it must pay for students to attend cyber charter schools where the accountability looks very different … raises lots of questions’. (emphasis added)

Virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania also exploit the public by self-servingly reclassifying many students as “special education” students just to seize more public funds from public schools that are chronically under-funded. For example:

Bill Harner, the Quakertown Community School District superintendent, said one-third of students in his district who enroll in cyber charters are classified by their new schools as having a disability. “Why are they being reclassified? Because it’s a cash cow,” Harner said. “It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Larry Feinberg, a veteran school board member and director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change, points out that the existing charter school funding system means “fewer resources to pay for things like math coaches, reading coaches, nurses, counselors” in public schools. “The impact is palpable, and it’s real.”

Charter school funding arrangements (in Pennsylvania and elsewhere) are so dysfunctional that they also often force higher property taxes on communities where they exist. Equally worrisome, charter schools also impose huge “stranded costs” on public schools, which are “expenses that school districts can’t recoup when students leave for a charter, because they can’t evenly reduce teachers or building expenses, for instance.”

It thus comes as no surprise that:

More than 430 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have passed a resolution calling for charter funding changes, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Many other examples of antisocial funding arrangements can be given. The issue though is not to determine a “more fair” way to funnel public money to privately-operated charter schools, but rather to discuss and analyze in a serious manner why these outsourced deregulated schools exist in the first place and how to untether them from public funds, assets, facilities, and resources that legitimately belong only to public schools.

Within this, what also needs to be discussed is the neoliberal “starve it—test it—punish it—privatize it” (STPP) formula, whereby thousands of public schools in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been deliberately set up by neoliberals to fail and close in an unconscionable manner so as to make way for thousands of poor-performing charter schools constantly mired in scandal and controversy.

Two other key points are worth considering. First, like private businesses, cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania collectively spend millions of public dollars every year on marketing and advertising instead of spending this public money directly in the classroom. Secondly, why do charter schools need to advertise at all if so many parents supposedly want to enroll their kids in them and there are said to be long waiting lists to get into them? The neoliberal narrative about school-choice has never computed.

Not surprisingly, while superintendents and public interest advocates in Pennsylvania are seeking broad reforms to the current defective school funding set-up, advocates of privately-operated charter schools are fighting tooth and nail for every single public cent they can seize. They have little sympathy for public schools and their students.

To be sure, major problems caused by funneling public funds to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is a national problem and not unique to Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years, public schools in America have been undermined by these crisis-prone contract schools run by unelected private persons.

“Free market” schools do not advance people, society, or the economy; they mainly enrich a handful of individuals and groups. The commodification of education in a modern society based on mass industrial production is profoundly counterproductive.

See here for a detailed article on the unbreakable connection between government and charter school millionaires and lobbyists. Preventing charter schools from privately expropriating public property is doable and necessary. No one has to settle for such theft of public wealth by narrow private interests.

There are 179 charter schools in Pennsylvania. Cyber charter schools serve the entire state.

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Chicago: Charter Schools Suspend and Expel Minority Students at Extremely High Rates

Privatization transfers public funds, assets, and authority from the public sector to the private sector. This typically erodes the voice of workers, increases corruption, lowers accountability, raises costs, fragments services, undermines flexibility, diminishes transparency, reduces efficiency, decreases the quality of services, and intensifies inequality.

By removing socially-produced value from the economy and further concentrating it in the hands of private competing interests, privatization ultimately harms the economy, undermines the national interest, and enriches a handful of people at the expense of the public. The public would benefit vastly more if the wealth produced by workers stayed in the hands of workers and in the public purse. Socially-produced wealth could then be used to serve the common good. For its part, the United Nations reminds us that privatization violates human rights and devalues the public interest.

While practically every sector is being rapidly privatized at home and abroad, privately-operated charter schools are the main expression of privatization in the sphere of education in the U.S. These outsourced privatized schools siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools and seize many public school assets and facilities for next to nothing. In this connection, every week the news is filled with stories about corruption, fraud, and arrests in the crisis-prone charter school sector. Thousands of such stories can be found at the Network for Public Education.

Even though they are called “public schools of choice open to all,” privately-operated charter schools are notorious for routinely cherry-picking students through a variety of mechanisms, including suspending and expelling poor and low-income black and brown students at extremely high rates, including kindergarteners. It is well-documented that privately-operated charter schools intensify segregation and few are truly diverse (see here, here, and here). The charter school sector is more segregated than the public school sector. New York City, for example, is home to some of the most intensely segregated charter schools in the nation (see here and here). It is also worth noting that all charter schools in the U.S. are run by unelected individuals, generally employ fewer experienced teachers than public schools, and regularly perform poorly. In addition, charter schools tend to pay teachers less than their public school counterparts and hire fewer nurses than public schools.

Chicago is home to more than 100 privately-operated charter schools but it is not the only city in America full of charter schools that suspend and expel poor and low-income black and brown students at much higher rates than public schools. 1 For example, Legal Prep Charter Academy, “which is about 99% Black, issued 190 out-of-school suspensions during the 2019-2020 school year. Community organizers and students say the harsh discipline tactics make students less engaged with school and feel unwanted.” This means that Legal Prep Charter Academy, “suspended students at a higher rate than any other school in Chicago.” The school also “issued 13 expulsions during the 2019-2020 school year, meaning almost one out of every 20 students was expelled.” Not surprisingly, Legal Prep Charter Academy is in legal trouble on other fronts as well. In the U.S., “no-excuses” charter schools have come under heavy criticism over the years for their harsh consequences, antisocial policies, and authoritarian practices.

Even during the height of the covid pandemic:

the [Chicago] district’s charters issued an average of 130 suspensions per 1,000 students. (Students can be suspended multiple times). That rate is nearly five times that of non-charter schools in Chicago, according to new analysis of disciplinary data obtained online from the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools. (emphasis added)

According to the same source, expulsions have been going on for years:

Of the schools in Chicago issuing the highest number of expulsions in 2019-2020, eight of the top 10 schools were charter schools, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2018-2019, all 10 were charters. Legal Prep was on both of those lists.

To be sure, charter school suspensions and expulsions is a long-standing national problem. Charter schools do not accept or retain all students. Many students pushed out of charter schools return to their home public school.2 Chalkbeat noted in 2015 that New York City charter schools also suspended students at a much higher rate than the city’s public schools. On a national scale, a 2016 study by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that charter schools suspended a range of students at higher rates than public schools. The report, which examined more than 5,000 charter schools across the country, also stressed the intensely segregated nature of charter schools. It is well-known that students who are suspended and expelled at high rates are more likely to become part of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Unlike privately-operated charter schools, public schools accept all students at all times and have far fewer suspensions and expulsions; they are not as heavy-handed as charter schools. Charter schools are deregulated schools, which means that they are exempt from many public standards, laws, and rules. Deregulation is a key feature of the privatization agenda of neoliberals. This “autonomy” and “freedom” allows charter schools to engage in punitive practices in the name of “innovation” and “high expectations.” In practice, privatization incentivizes both nonprofit and for-profit charter schools to cherry-pick students, cut corners, and underinvest. Privatization does the same in other sectors as well, resulting in a lowering of the level of society and the economy.

Despite efforts to reduce extremely high suspension and expulsion rates, charter schools in Chicago and elsewhere are not known for vigorously embracing sustained pro-social improvements, let alone on a broad and rapid scale. They cannot do so because they operate mainly as profit-maximizing private enterprises, regardless of whether they are classified as nonprofit or for-profit schools. Profit maximization and human social responsibilities like education do not go together; they negate each other. The notion that the broad aim of the public can be reconciled and harmonized with the narrow aim of owners of capital is straightforward disinformation; they are contradictory aims.

Many have publicly stated that cashing in on kids is immoral and self-serving. In theory and practice, justice cannot be upheld or restored in entities set up to operate on the basis of individualism, consumerism, competition, the “free market,” and exclusionary practices. Privatization is designed for profit, not equity or justice. Privatization fosters exclusion and a hierarchy of rights, not the opposite. In legal, philosophical, operational, and other ways, charter schools are set up very differently from public schools. It is problematic to even compare them or to call charter schools public schools. Charter schools and public schools are apples and oranges.

A modern public education system in a society based on mass industrial production can and must be world-class, fully-funded, inclusive, universal, non-punitive, publicly controlled, and never allowed to fall into the hands of private interests. Owners of capital have no legitimate claim to public funds, assets, or enterprises because these all belong to the public and are meant to serve the common good, not the narrow aim of profit maximization.

There are roughly 100,000 public schools and approximately 7,500 privately-operated charter schools in the United States. Around 3.4 million students attend charter schools and about 50 million youth—90% of students—attend public schools. Roughly 150-250 charter schools close every year due to financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or poor academic performance, leaving many poor and low-income minority families out in the cold. Despite the oft-repeated promise of better results for students and schools, about 5,000 charter schools have closed in the U.S. over the course of nearly 31 years.

  1. It is critical to appreciate (1) that charter schools in Chicago came about by closing dozens of public schools in the city and that (2) the closure of public schools in mainly Black communities has caused harm on many levels (see here).
  2. It is important to appreciate that charter schools choose parents and students, not the other way around.
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Governor Of New York Promotes School Privatization

Public and private refer to two different things. Public and private are antonyms. Public refers to everyone, the common good, non-rivalry, inclusion, broad accessibility, transparency, and more. Private means that something is not for everyone, it is not for the common good, it is exclusive. Private can also mean confidential, secret, off the record, or privileged. Neoliberals regularly blur the critical distinction between public and private for self-serving reasons.

One of the key features of privatization is that it shifts money and authority away from the public sector and into the hands of narrow private interests. In this way, privatization restricts and weakens the public while enriching and empowering narrow private interests. This is often done under the veneer of high ideals to fool the gullible. It is presented as a good thing, as a “win-win” for everyone. This disinformation is best captured in the notion of public-private “partnerships.”

In two major pro-privatization moves, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York State recently announced that more public funds will be funneled to privately-operated charter schools in New York City. She also empowered the Mayor of New York City to continue to exercise mayoral control of New York City schools for four more years. Eric Adams, a retired police officer, became the mayor of New York City on January 1, 2022.

Hochul nonchalantly repeated worn-out pretexts for sending more public money to privately-operated charter schools. This included throwing around words like “innovate” and “educational options,” which are straight out of the school privatization neoliberal playbook. Hochul seems to be unaware of the extensive research on the many problems in the crisis-prone charter school sector, as well as all the serious problems associated with government takeovers of public school systems.

Thousands of students, teachers, parents, and education advocates in New York City and across New York State more broadly have been opposing charter schools and mayoral control of public schools for years. Their efforts and determination are relentless. The public does not support more anti-democratic arrangements and the gutting of public schools to enrich narrow private interests.

Research and experience show that government takeovers of public school districts generally make everything worse. Their main benefit is for the rich who use mayoral control to restrict democracy and engage in neoliberal restructuring of public schools in the name of “improving schools,” which usually means creating more charter schools. For their part, charter schools, which are intensely segregated in New York City, have wreaked havoc on public schools while enriching major owners of capital. No amount of disinformation about increasing charter schools “to give parents choices” can cover up these harsh realities.

Even more disturbing is the prospect of Governor Hochul raising the cap (limit) on the number of privately-operated charter schools than can operate in New York City. This will further degrade everything while funneling more public money into private hands. It will not serve public schools and the public interest in any way.

Currently, there are about 270 privately-operated charter schools in New York City. The cap on charter schools in the City has been frozen for several years. Statewide, the charter school cap is set at 460. New York State passed its charter school law in 1998.

For extensive data on poor academic performance in charter schools across the country, see Thousands of Charter Schools Perform Poorly (2019) and Widespread Poor Performance Persists in Charter Schools (2019). It should also be noted that many charter schools have inflated student waiting lists, which makes it look like charter schools are in greater demand than they actually are.

School privatization in its many forms is a top-down neoliberal strategy, not a grass-roots pro-social phenomenon. The main way to improve education in New York City is to stop the flow of all public funds to charter schools and return control of public schools to the public. Private interests have no valid or legitimate claim to public funds, facilities, or authority.

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Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain

These are snooping, snitching, massive canceling, censorious times.

I just talked with a friend who is in San Francisco who has been working hard as a science teacher. He has opened up the curriculum, has worked to be in his school’s union and he has just gotten married. That’s 55, now, and he has to step down from teaching since the school teacher mandates for California are going into effect January 4 or thereabouts.

He might be against mandates because a mandate is oppressive, a dead-end to critical thinking, critical engagement. The mandates, the masking, the social distancing, the forced PCR tests, the constant fear-fear-fear. He sees what this has done to teaching, teachers, students and staff.

But the cat is out of the bag, because the National Union and his state union all are on the same sheet of Moderna-Pfizer-Fauci music. For a science nerd, someone who ended up in physics at Harvard, who has undertaken teaching high school students science, including physics, well having a one size fits all formula,  without a scientific robust challenge to any theory, sticks in his craw.

Criminalizing thought, that’s what this Planned Pandemic is about: no pushback. We have talked, and I have been the liberal arts dude, with some notion that critical thinking can only be gained from liberal arts within the system of education. STEM is fine, but not in a vacuum. How we got here, today, how we are products of the history of everything.

Here, Hedges and Lowkey, and I am not sure of Hedges’ position on the vaccination mandates, and Lowkey, well, who knows. But the interview is powerful in that both talk about the prison industrial complex, and about education, and about deep thinking, truly. Literacy beyond being a serf of the ruling class and the warehouse employment class system.

Education as a key component of resistence.  Resistence and pushing back on the corporate, elite paradigms. And some of those elites and oppressive paradigms are in academe/academia.

The discussion of topics in science is also something we talked about, how there are off-limits discussion, and we talked about how teachers in the old days, if they were valuable and valiant and honorable and truly mentors, that they were honored. That students and parents looked at teachers as guides, as facilitators of inquiry, learning. Showing the stepping stones to life-long learning. As elements in the pathway from youth to participatory democracy. Giving an open hand to youth as a place of dissident thinking.

But the pressure from this gentleman’s school district, the union, the honchos, is to vax up, mask up, and booster up. Schools, where the least vulnerable are being forced to take not one, not two, but many shots in this grand experiment of the SARS-MERS-CoV2-DARPA kind.

As if refusing to get a vaccination, when he is healthy, and capable of doing his own health screens at home. Imagine, how much the landscape of the Delta, Omicron and now Omega-crons have changed. How it is now a cold, or where oh where do the variants go? The seesaw, yo-yo, 180-degree turnaround of the science. Follow the science.

And he is not going to be forced to vax. And, his 20 years teaching in public school is now ended. i am not sure how much he gets from the 20 year “pension/retirement,” but he states it’s like collecting his unemployment. He has just taken a job at a very very small school.

Charter school, a tuition free charter school covering 7th and 8th grades. Two hundred students. Mostly African-American and Latinx youth. And, my friend says, right now, there is a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to Corona Madness.

You know, no mask mandates, but option. No tracking of health records. No mandates for jabs.

Yet. This is December 30, 2021. The courts have ruled against workers, and the mandates for businesses in places like WA, OR and CA are about to go wide and far. So, he is now ending his public education career.

Newly married, my friend is thinking that he is only biding his time. That the charter school, private, with parents and youth, BIPOC, and in liberal (sic) San Fran-Oakland area will be subject to the mandates.

He thought he’d be retiring at 62 with a semi-decent pension. He doesn’t want to leave the Bay area because he has to. He knows the clock is ticking. He talks of creating a pod of other like-minded teachers to open up a free school. Tutoring.

He knows that I look at things asymetrically. That the reality is this is a universal vaccination, testing, digital dashboard (health, banking, jobs, education, purchases, etc)  future. You can’t get a job without being a member of the test-shot-record-big data frame. No subsidized housing without test-shot-record-big data. Proof of life, test-shot-record-big data frame, for your college course. This proof of compliance, test-shot-record-big data frame, for getting health insurance. Move this test-shot-record-big data frame to car insurance, even getting a driver’s license. Social seruit? Proof of this test-shot-record-big data cohersion compliance.

And, what if these smart students ask my smart friend, their teacher, about virus research, about big tech, about the politics of climate change, and, well, about other things that might go contrary to the test-shot-record-big data frame of things? Questioning any number of paradigms and theories and cultural expectations and prejudices and blind spots? And, these youth, many want to know what they should do after high school. How many will go from a charter school to a public school? How will they navigate mandates? And, what about what to major in if they go to college? Would all those years of school, from age 6 to 22, or to 24 or 28, be worth it? What is the value of things now and what about the future?

We talked about how young people this age want answers, want leaders, want direction, demand options and want to work with alternative solutions to today’s problems, and we know today’s supposed solutions will be problems of tomorrow.

Even questions about climate change, globalization, and where this CoV2 came from. Lab experiment gone bad? Intentional outbreak? These youth are smart.

Elaine DeWar

These kids want answers, and they want to rumble in the jungle, truly, with smart teachers willing to take risks, willing to lead.  Yet, we are in sniping times. We are in superficial thinking times. Black v. White times.

So where oh where do we go with teaching, and now, Charter Schools, and that is one messed up economic and education and investment model in most cases — Dissident Voice, Shawgi Tell!

He talked about getting farther away from urban centers, into red counties, red states, as a way to insulate himself from the inevitable. He is a Marxist, and that has been his huge disappointment — how the left has abandoned questioning authority, science, elites, agendas, mass media, propaganda, prevailing commercial interests, and more!

Of course, we could be dealing with Ayotzinapa, and the Mexican oligarchs and narcos and others hating these rural normal colleges where young people go to learn how to teach in order to teach youth and communities  how to stand up to the powers. Resistance. Worker rights. Land rights!

Mexico: Documentary looks at lives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students — A documentary will premier this week at Mexico City’s Cineteca Nacional on the lives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students. Filmmaker Rafael Rangel says that the full-length documentary, “A Day in Ayotzinapa 43”, featuring first hand accounts of the events and interviews with classmates and family members of the disappeared students, aims to boost awareness of another reality of Mexico that often remains hidden from the broader public.

The petition, which already has more than 1,650 signatures, aims to ensure that the "truth prevails" and that respect is shown to the "memory of the fallen, the injured ... the parents, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and for all those who were directly or indirectly affected by that tragic night." EFE/File

So it goes — we can always find other people’s realities much more dramatically harsh than our own. And, teachers get these shots for other things, and, well, there is so much swirling around about how the bat virus got to this highly infectious state, who had the blood and feces of people who got infected almost a decade ago, who was funding the gain of function research. So so much, here, rightly set straight into a world of skepticism.

But, all of them in on it — the vaccination paranoia is real, and the stories, well, we are in a time of shut down, zero critical thinking, echo chambers, and this is a military propaganda campaign.

How many more shots are we to take now that we are in this Virus World?

Here, Sonia Shah, who I interviewed several times in person in Spokane on the stage and in my radio studio. We are talking January 2020. This is a time capsule moment, since so much has changed in two years:

The number of coronavirus cases has overtaken that of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Officials and scientists are racing to track the path of the virus and develop a vaccine. Twenty-two countries have reported finding people sickened with the virus. The WHO has announced a “public health emergency of international concern.”

We’re in a relatively new era of infectious disease outbreak, said prominent science journalist Sonia Shah. Diseases are sequenced faster and tracked more accurately than ever before – but they also arise more frequently, as humankind and nature collide often and with greater intensity.

Shah knows her way around infectious disease outbreaks – along with the public health, epidemiology, and social consequences surrounding them. She’s the author of the 2010 book The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, along with 2016’s Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.

She sat down with Direct Relief this week to talk about the likely scope of the coronavirus outbreak, the public health response – and the potential impacts.

Direct Relief: Your book, Pandemic, is a look at the major contagious disease outbreaks of modern history, including Ebola, MERS, and SARS. Considering what you’ve seen so far, how does the new coronavirus outbreak compare to other infectious disease outbreaks – in transmission, scope, or public perception?

Shah: It’s obviously one that’s causing a lot of alarm, and there’s been a very vigorous public health response, so in some ways that makes it unusual. There are a lot of outbreaks of a disease where you don’t see a big public health response, so I think that’s actually a positive.

China is doing a lot to contain it. And I think you can debate whether all those measures are worthwhile or not, but there’s no lack of attention to this outbreak.

Direct Relief: How are the epidemics of modern history different from those of, say, the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic? Why are there more frequent disease outbreaks, and what are the challenges of fighting them in the modern world?

Shah: About 60% of these new pathogens that we’re seeing, that have come out in the last 50 years or so, they derive from the bodies of animals. About 70% of those derive from the bodies of wild animals.

And that’s because people and wild animals are coming into novel, intimate contact. That allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into our bodies.

Ebola, Zika virus, SARS, West Nile virus – there are any number of novel pathogens that have emerged in the past few decades that come from the bodies of animals.

Animals and people are coming into new kinds of contact because of a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that we are essentially destroying so much wildlife habitat.

What that means is a lot of animals are going extinct, but the ones that remain have to crowd into ever-tightening little patches of habitat that we leave for them. That’s more frequently not in some distant, intact forest. Instead, it’s our farms and gardens and our towns and cities.

Direct Relief: Are we better at fighting infectious disease over the past couple of decades?

Shah: I think there are some ways in which we’re getting better. The fact that we had a diagnostic for this new coronavirus so fast, that’s amazing, and that means that you can track it.

I think in terms of scientific collaboration, discovery of how these pathogens work, diagnostics, and genotyping, those are happening a lot faster now as the technology gets better. We just have so much more knowledge.

But then I think there are valid questions to be asked about whether we’re using that knowledge effectively. Just because we can know that this novel coronavirus is causing this pneumonia – not some other pathogen – is that actually helping us to contain it, or not?

I don’t think we know the answer to that question yet, and we won’t for some years, until after this whole thing blows over and we have time to analyze how it went down.

We saw this in Haiti with the cholera outbreak after the [2010] earthquake. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and it was possible for people to map how cholera was spreading just based on cell phone data.

They could see, “OK, it’s coming down this road, it’s going to be going down this trucking route, it’s probably going to lead to this village in the next week or two.”

All of that…was amazing, scientifically, but it didn’t actually help anyone prevent cholera from breaking out. We knew it was coming, but it happened anyway.

Direct Relief: Why do you think this virus has inspired such a media frenzy and such widespread fear?

Shah: I think there are some good reasons. One is that it’s similar to SARS – it’s a coronavirus, like SARS – and we know that SARS was very virulent and it spread pretty well and it got pretty far. It got to dozens of countries really rapidly and killed 800 people, and this virus is in the same family.

That said, it’s a pretty big family. There are some coronaviruses that are very mild and some that are very virulent, so just the fact that it’s in that family of viruses doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to kill a lot of people.

And I think the other good reason is that it’s respiratory. There isn’t a lot of evidence that we know how to control the spread of respiratory illnesses. Seasonal flus every year take out hundreds of thousands of people.

We try. We have vaccines, we tell people to wash their hands, we tell people to stay home when they’re sick. Do they make any headway at all? It’s hard to know. With the huge scale of flu every year, it would be hard to argue that those measures actually work.

Direct Relief: If coronavirus continues to spread into a pandemic on the level of SARS, what are the likely long-term economic and social impacts?

Shah: There’s going to be huge economic fallout from this. It’s only just starting. SARS had a huge economic impact, and that wasn’t nearly as widespread as this thing will probably be. China is clamping down on its trade routes and travel routes. How do you function in a global economy without China? We don’t know.

All of these outbreaks, when they go global, just show us again and again how interconnected we are, and how much we really rely on each other for all of our essential services.

Direct Relief: Why do you say it’s going to be bigger than SARS?

Shah: Well, because it’s only just starting. New outbreaks are being seeded right now. We know 5 million people left Wuhan before the travel restrictions were put into place, and that’s a lot of people.

Each of those people could seed new outbreaks if they are carrying the virus, and I think we’re seeing the first signs of that.

It appears to be carried by people who are non-symptomatic. That means it’s going to be really hard to contain it. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the peak or end of this thing. If it goes on on the current trajectory it’s going to be bigger than SARS.

[The virus is] not necessarily more deadly. It always seems more virulent at the beginning, because all you see are the worst cases. So as we get more information, it will probably become clear to us that it’s less virulent than we originally thought, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a huge toll.

Because if something’s really catchy, even if it’s only slightly more deadly than a regular flu or respiratory illness that we’re used to, a lot of people can get sick and can die.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Science, and science journalists. Interesting — “The Coronavirus in Context: A Q&A with Sonia Shah, Author of Pandemic


Sonia Shah delivering a TEDMED talk. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Shah)

How does my friend field questions from youth who are on the Internet, who are on social media and the dark web and so on? How does the world shape up with all these curriculum controls, when at times, our times seem chaotic, and fearful? Youth are directionless. Attacked by Democrats and Republicans.

Biggest issues with youth is “the GAD” — generalized anxiety disorder. Big problems with the dirty water, dirty air, polluted food, contaminated oceans and repulsive airwaves and entertainment rackets.

My friend is on his journey, and he is fighting for his small family’s survival. This is not what many of us thought would play out in our lives in our 50s and 60s, but in reality Western Lives/Western Culture/Western Privilege has come at a price — all those billions of people we have stolen futures from. Capitalism. Rapacious consumerism. Rapacious tourism. Wars, war machines, subjugation by proxy.

From 10 years ago — Haeder and Real Change News, Seattle!

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Alas, privatizing schools, for investment and control, especially children, BIPOC, to militarize and technotize their minds, is the goal. Check out this site: Network for Public Education!

And, here, again, Alison McDowell, on monetizing poverty, struggle, students, for not just social control, but Internet of Bodies control.

The post Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Charter Schools Improve Education in France?

Charter by definition means contract, a legally binding agreement between two or more parties to do or not do something within a specified period of time. Typically, contracts also enshrine a set of rewards and punishments.

Contracts are the quintessential market category. They govern how relations work in the marketplace and ensure exchange relations occupy center-stage in contemporary capitalist societies. Contracts are a key mechanism used often to outsource and privatize public services, programs, and enterprises. Contracting, especially in the neoliberal period, is a way to expand the claims of private interests on public funds, assets, and authority while restricting the claims of the public to public funds, assets, and authority.

Charter schools are contract schools. They are outsourced privatized schools that use public money that belongs to public schools.1  Charter schools are not public schools in the proper sense of the word. In the U.S., for example, charter schools differ dramatically from public schools. Among other things, charter schools are run by unelected individuals, cannot levy taxes, are not state agencies, oppose unions, frequently hire many uncertified teachers, spend a lot on advertising, are exempt from numerous public laws, and are often run openly as for-profit entities. They also have a very high failure rate: five thousand charter schools have closed since their inception in 1991.2 Financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance are the three most common reasons nonprofit and for-profit charter schools close regularly in the U.S., leaving many minority families out in the cold.

The relentless pressure of the law of the falling rate of profit is forcing major owners of capital in more countries to use the state to establish and expand privately-operated charter schools as a way to counteract the inescapable decline in the rate and mass of profit. Owners of capital see the public education budget as a large pool of money they can seize in the context of a continually failing economy.

Presently, the U.S. is home to the largest number of charter schools in the world, with about 7,400 privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools strewn across the country. Only about half a dozen other countries have privately-operated charter schools and none have close to the number of charter schools found in the U.S.

France, a major European country, is now considering establishing privately-operated charter schools. Unlike the U.S., France has long enshrined the claim to public education in its constitution. Unlike many constitutions, the U.S. constitution does not even contain the word education in it. For 60 years, however, France has also funneled enormous sums of public money to private Catholic schools so long as these schools hire state-certified teachers and use the national curriculum. “About 15 percent of France’s primary and secondary schools fall into this category,” says the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.

Valérie Pécresse is presently the candidate of the Republicans for France’s presidential election in April 2022. She is described as the first woman nominated by the Republicans as a presidential candidate. The New York Times reports that Pécresse, 54, is “the current leader of the Paris region and a former national minister of the budget and then higher education, has risen to second place behind Mr. Macron in the polls among likely voters in the election”

Among other things, Pécresse is described as a right-winger who proudly and publicly declares that she is inspired by Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Britain who vigorously promoted a neoliberal outlook and agenda at home and abroad.

Recently, Pécresse proposed establishing charter schools in France. According to a November 30, 2021, article in the French newspaper LeMonde:

In outlining the educational platform for her presidential candidacy in a speech in Venoy (Yonne) on October 12, Valérie Pécresse proposed transforming 10 percent of the nation’s public schools into “a new kind of public school under contract, inspired by ‘charter schools’ found in England and Sweden.” These schools, which would be primarily located in marginalized neighborhoods, would benefit, Pécresse declared, from the managerial autonomy currently exercised in France by private schools under contract, which account for 15 percent of the nation’s 60,000 primary and secondary schools. In these charter schools, “enrollment will depend on parents and students abiding by a charter of commitment.

To add insult to injury, Pécresse seems to favor the infamous and heavily-criticized “no-excuses” charter school model found in the U.S. These schools are so authoritarian that they have had to rebrand themselves to project a “softer” and more humane public image.

While Pécresse is often described as a right-winger, this may make very little difference in the scheme of things because the ruling elite are comfortable using politicians of all stripes to advance the neoliberal antisocial offensive. In the U.S., for example, both Democrats and Republicans have been long-time supporters of privately-operated charter schools that siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools. The main point is that the idea of privately-operated charter schools is now out there and the door has been opened to introducing them in the future.

France would do well to learn from the negative experience of other countries with “autonomous” charter schools, especially the U.S. and New Zealand. Privately-operated charter schools not only possess the non-public features listed above, they also intensify segregation, reduce accountability, and increase corruption. In addition, they leave public schools and the public sector with less money to function and excel. They also reinforce the ideologies of consumerism, competition, and individualism. Charter school advocates and operators treat parents and students as consumers, not humans or citizens. They promote the illusion that education is a business, not a social responsibility that society must guarantee for all for free. Treating a social responsibility like education as a business opportunity has been a disaster for people nationally and internationally.

The new year should be a time for all forces in all countries to renew and step up their demands for an end to the commodification of education. Governments around the world must take up their social responsibility to provide people’s rights, including the right to an education, with a guarantee in practice. No one should have to fend for themselves when it comes to securing a high quality education in the 21st century.

  1. Workers (along with nature) are the only source of wealth. All funds used to run public enterprises and the entire society come from the labor-time of workers. Wealth is not produced by owners of capital.
  2. See “5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years” (2021) here.
The post Will Charter Schools Improve Education in France? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Collusion: The End of Nature, Brought to us by Zoom

The only way to break through a totalitarian (lite) thinking is to continue using blunt force, or airy force, to expose this massive experiment in turning Americans into screen dwellers. The new ghetto is the screen.

The lockdown might be lifted, physically, for the Covdians, but in the minds of these people, the world is now shifting to the high tech, fiber optic, 5G/6G satellite-directed world.

Imagine this event, on the ecosystems of my area, now, a virtual event. It is embarrassing that science-minded people want public and community participation over zoom. No depth to why it has to be “virtual,” and no apologies for being so dense.

Or, are they dense? Are they loving this hybrid, virtual, remote work mentality? You know, I was just interviewed by the State of Oregon for a state job. The thing was on Zoom, and there were three there and me here. One question was around “how would you make virtual meetings and intakes more engaging . . . . ?” This is the new normal, alas, and this huge shift of bricks and mortar life, into the AI void, and with these huge (massive) transfers of trillions to a very few felons of the elite class, these scientists who have grants and faculty positions and tenure, they will not lead the way anywhere.

And their world is all fancy web-based crap, like cool photos, imaginary graphics, all compressed and collected to make people say, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful how wonderful the scientists working in the wonderful natural world are!!’


In this Greta-and-Company-Can-Fly-to-GLasgow-to-Protest-Their-Governments’-Fossil-Fuel-Lunacy, many people I know are so happy now that Zoom is a fixture in their lives, and that they do not have to brave the Highway 101, or the weather, or the climate warnings. These people who might be interested in ecology and marine preserves and environmental policy are usually on the left trough of the manure pile of politics called Democrats. They are, of course, the new Brown Shirts, but call them Green Shirts, or Zoom Shirts. Their world, and the one they are ushering in since youth, have no say in how things SHOULD be run. It is not a real world, but one that is full of maps and podcasts and TED Talks and faux interactive chats and Zooms:

We are talking about 14 square miles designated as a marine reserve. Then some overflow for seabird protection area. This is, again, embarrassing. There is an interpretive center at Cape Perpetua, one that I have been at for in-person events. There are parking spaces. There are so many ways these great thinkers and planners could have organized an in-person event, even with their defective masks and asinine social distancing. That, my friends, will not happen. More and more youth are getting more and more skills with the mouse, the CAD programs, with Publisher and Photoshop. Their world is a world where billionaires own everything, and living in a van with full bed, TV, running water, hell, that is what youth are going to be having to accept as more and more dictatorial thinkers run the world, run events, run programs and educational frameworks.

Between Florence and Yachats lies the Cape Perpetua area, a biodiverse recreation mecca home to lush coastal rainforests and deep cultural history. But past the coastline also lies the largest Oregon marine reserve. The Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is dedicated to the research and conservation of ocean ecosystem, where take of wildlife and human development is restricted. Cape Perpetua area also contains two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and a seabird protection area. Unlike the reserve, these protected areas allow limited take in their boundaries.

Within the reserve, creatures large and small live in various habitats from sand, gravel, to some of the most biologically diverse rocky intertidal habitats anywhere on the Pacific Northwest. These creatures live in a unique ecosystem shaped by the ever-changing weather and tides. Some days, strong winds will pull cold, oxygen-rich water and plankton up to the surface in a process called upwelling, while on other, more stagnant days, the water loses its oxygen and becomes hypoxic.

Because of its dynamic environment, the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is home to a plethora of wildlife such as whales, sea lions, seals, pelicans, cormorants, rockfish, and intertidal invertebrates that fuel a complex food web between the land and sea. (source)

It’s a fear pogrom that is both sophisticated beyond Big Brother, and yet, right to the primary brain center of reptilian stupidity and violence.

Here, Edward Curtain over at Dissident Voice, covers this fear, this divide, etc. Source.

Edward Curtin returns to discuss deep politics and what links the assassination of JFK, 9/11, and Covid-19. No president since Kennedy has dared to buck the Military-Industrial-Complex, including Trump, who is part of the same system that produced both Obama and Biden. He discusses the 1967 CIA memo which told mainstream media to use the disparaging term “conspiracy theory” to quell all deviation from the official narrative, and how this propaganda technique has continued to function from JFK to 9/11 to Covid-19. Many of the same actors involved in the MIC and 9/11 continue to be involved with the drug companies, CDC, WEF, WHO, Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. It’s very obvious, but the story is so frightening people don’t want to do any homework. Too many people think there is this war going on between the right and the left, in the larger frame of reference there is no difference, it’s the warfare state against the regular people, the rich versus the poor. The 4IR is an effort for total political and economic control of peoples all over the world. He believes the purpose of the vaccine mandate is for political control. Ultimately, we are in a spiritual war. The Geopolitics & Empire Podcast conducts interviews with high-profile guests on geopolitics and international affairs seeking to gain insight from experts on both the left and the right as to the true nature of current events. Read other articles by Geopolitics & Empire, or visit Geopolitics & Empire’s website.

The tricksters are at it and have been for decades. The worker — that is teachers and faculty, too, especially — is the enemy. The students are the enemy. So many billions pumped into studying the brain, psychology, neurosciences, behavioral psychiatry, etc. I saw this in 1983 when I was a graduate student, teaching college English. Some of these long in the tooth folk, who want their Vermont or Hawaii lives, but still be the teacher of record for our campus, UT-El Paso. That’s Texas, and already in the 1980s these folk wanted hybrid classes, on-line. Imagine that, critical thinking and debating writing classes, on line! Before ZOOM.

Oh, big companies would “give” laptops to workers — Ford, IBM, HP — not as gifts, but to extract MORE work out of the 40 hour week, and that is now 50 or 60 hours. That is, well, the beginning of technology destroying every aspect of our real selves.

Now, community colleges are up shit creek, pre-planned-demic, but now, too. Imagine, more and more pieces of the state budget pie reduced for Podunk community colleges — vital places of not just learning, but community events, incubators of thinking, and connections to much more than just academia. So, more and more raised tuitions, more and more part-time faculty hired, more and more hybrid classes, and now, the Zoom Doom. Imagine, one teacher on Zoom running a class of 80, 90? This is the new normal — kill the person.

The online option seems to work for all kinds of students. When the financial-aid team returned to campus in August, Bohanon opened up her schedule for in-person appointments. For the first week, no one registered to see her. She told her supervisor she wanted to add online appointments again, and reserved 8 a.m. to noon for online and the rest of the day for in-person walk-ins. “In the morning when I come in — full,” she says. Afternoon? Nothing.” Now her schedule is full every day, but all her appointments are virtual.

The push-and-pull between in-person and online courses continues for students at Southwest, but it may be starting to shift toward the latter. One of the pieces of conventional wisdom about community colleges during the pandemic is that students often dislike or fear online learning — a refrain repeated often at Southwest. But more than a year and a half after colleges transitioned to large-scale distance learning, many of the students at Southwest who persisted have begun to favor online sections over the nearly 40 percent of courses being taught in person.

Rebuild? Time for a revolution inside K12 and higher education. Regroup? Revolt neoliberalism and illiberalism and the constant attack on education. Or, attack on schooling. Constant attack on learning! These so-called leaders have collapsed, and they have crawled under their retirement accounts, and they are seeing-hearing-speaking no evil. This is the Chronicle of Higher Education, a very retrograde, conservative, cover-their-asses-rag!

The new normal is being accepted by the masses, but the mealy mouthed academics and those on the peripheral of academia are coming out like flies on shit:

Southwest and other community colleges may just have to wait out Covid. Even if the virus doesn’t completely go away, the risks may get lower and people may become more accustomed to living with it. “I really think that’s going to be the biggest thing, is time,” Brown says, “and people feeling it’s safe to completely return to, we won’t call it normal, but like the new normal.”

If there’s one thing community colleges should not do, says Eddy, of William & Mary, it’s go back to normal. “It would be a mistake to think, I just need to wait this out to come to a time where we’re going to have more openness,” she says. After a decade of gradually declining enrollments, the pandemic has brought community colleges to an inflection point where they have a chance to — may even be impelled to — make some changes, many perhaps overdue.

Read the article, and look between the lines. These people are stating that the planned pandemic made virtual learning more onerous because students didn’t have laptops and Wi-Fi, and didn’t know what a JPEG or PDF were. Oh, you get it, don’t you? Get those students free (US taxpayer paid for) computers and free (US taxpayer paid for) Wi-Fi. Bootcamps for Microsoft Office 10.0 Adobe workshops. Get those students to be on-line warriors. Take it, and you can’t leave it or you will be cancelled from society.

And this all goes back to the Zoom event, about Cape Perpetua, about 12 miles from where I live, via Highway 101. You think there will be regard for people who want trails for hiking, trails for biking, rivers for kayaking? You think that the overlords want to have us out in nature, out along highways and by-ways? These overlords want to own the world, the land, the forests, the farms, all of it, and they want security, and they want no trespassing, and they want no by-standers and witnesses.

The scientists just take it, because that’s what mechanistic folk do — strip away the A from STEAM — Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math.

This is the motherfucker, the mentality, the demented thought process, and the messed up media, all the brainwashed fuckers of the world, in a nutshell:

“I Don’t Think We Should Ever Shake Hands Again.” Dr. Fauci Says Coronavirus Should Change Some Behaviors for Good

These are madmen:

Madman and madwoman —

Joe Biden CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Takes Over Institution in Crisis - Bloomberg

Terrorists and war criminals —

World Economic Forum: a history and analysis | Transnational Institute

Billionaires ‘R Us —

Davos 2020: What is the World Economic Forum and is it elitist? - BBC News

This is it, man, the last frontier — education! Covid car, online programs, internet-access solutions. If you read this site, The Chronicle of Higher Education, there is not pushback, no discussion of the 4IR, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Oh, the senseless stupidity of it all, the Covid Van.

The post Collusion: The End of Nature, Brought to us by Zoom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Canadian Forces promote militarism in the classroom

A friend in Montreal, whose partner is a teacher, recently messaged me:

My wife, who sat through the Grade 4 virtual Remembrance Day activity organized by the school board described what it was like: The students watched two soldiers walk around a military base giving a tour. This included tanks. … A student asked if they use the tanks. The soldiers stumbled a bit and the spiritual animator intervened and said ‘we don’t ask soldiers about whether they use weapons or shoot people’. The soldier intervened and got upset. He said something to the effect of ‘no soldier joins the army to shoot people. We join to help people. Some people shoot people, but they have mental health problems that they need help with’. Then a captain cut in, seeming upset. He said ‘soldiers are trained and given an education. And it’s an education, not brainwashing!’ …

The Canadian military has been offering events and speakers — usually Afghanistan war vets, big banners and displays, etc. But I’ve never heard of this before. Touring a military base for 10 and 11 year-olds.

While there are likely many, I’m aware of at least one other instance where the army brought a tank to a schoolyard. In 2007 CBC reported that a Grade 4 “class at Holy Cross Elementary school [in St. John’s, Newfoundland] were given a first-hand show-and-tell session with a tank and related gear.”

None of this is new. The Canadian Forces (CF) has initiated innumerable recruitment and public relations initiatives targeting schoolchildren. Military recruiters often participate in career and education fairs at schools. In April 2019 the CF set up a virtual reality shooting range at a school in Kingston to recruit students from across the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.

The 38 Canadian Brigade Group’s Signal Regiment has visited hundreds of elementary school children each December over the past four decades as part of Operation RADIO SANTA. The soldiers set up a military command post where the children dictate their Christmas lists to the North Pole. Along with speaking directly to Santa, the students tour the mobile command post, view different military equipment and ask soldiers questions.

An army co-op program gives students four high school credits and pays them to join the reserves where they train to shoot machine guns and throw grenades. The RCN operated a similar high school co-op program. Students in the Victoria area can serve in the reserves after school, receive up to four high school credits and are paid to do basic training in the summer.

Veterans Affairs produces “learning resources” designed for different school grades. In 2012 an education officer with Veterans Affairs explained:

At the beginning of the school year, we send a promotional kit to all schools, containing an example of each of the learning resources available for that year.  … There is also a Veterans’ Week Speakers Program and DND co-ordinates visits by Canadian Forces members to schools.

Militarist organizations also run school initiatives. The Canadian War Museum lends schools free learning kits, which contain artefacts related to World War I and other materials to support in-class lessons. In the late 1980s, according to Professor Peter Langille, the DND backed Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies developed a “high school curriculum program to counterbalance the peace movement.”

Historica Canada’s Canadian Forces Memory Project has reached hundreds of thousands of students. The initiative brings veterans and CF members to schools and its digital archive offers educators more than 3,000 firsthand stories and 1,500 original artefacts chronicling Canadian military history. In Warrior Nation, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift describe the Memory Project message to students: “In essence, the story goes, warriors, made us what we are today. Warriors led us in the past and should govern in the future; and, if you are lucky, you too might grow up to be a warrior.” Since the early 2000s DND, Canadian Heritage and Veterans Affairs have ploughed millions of dollars into the Memory Project.

Operating in schools for more than a century, the cadets are a powerful tool for drawing teens into militarism. To familiarize young people with the CF the military spends more than $300 million a year on the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets and Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The largest and oldest government-funded youth program, over 50,000 kids were part of the free after-school initiative before the pandemic. Participants may receive school credits and the government offers up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in post-secondary scholarships to cadets.

The program instills reverence for warfare. Cadets often attend Remembrance Day celebrations and other military commemorations. “Growing up as a Canadian cadet,” explains Kelly Jarman in The Cost of Canada’s Militarist Culture: Perspectives From a Former Cadet:

I was taught that the military is the most important aspect of society and that it deserves unquestioned respect. Trips to museums, Remembrance Day parades and even school assignments were all designed to instill in us the idea that soldiers are noble and that wars are fought for democracy and freedom. The very idea of citizenship is linked to military culture, something that became evident when we toured the HMCS Fredericton naval war ship during a so-called ‘Citizenship Trip.’

Should the military be spending tens of millions of tax dollars a year propagandizing in schools? Should schools promote military “culture” and the militarism that goes along with it? How many parents are even aware this sort of thing happens in school?

The post Canadian Forces promote militarism in the classroom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Persistent Desperation of Charter School Promoters

Promoters of privately-operated charter schools have continually sought to justify the existence and expansion of charter schools since their inception 30 years ago in Minnesota. In and of itself this is curious because if charter schools are supposedly so successful and so much better than public schools, as charter school promoters endlessly like to boast, then what need is there to constantly try to justify and defend the value and superiority of charter schools over public schools? Usually when something is excellent and has a great track record, it speaks for itself, stands on its own merit, and does not need to be defended every day.1

Recently, the news has been filled with charter school headlines like these:

State Sen. Melissa Melendez: Charter school moratorium limits options for parents, KUSI Newsroom, October 14, 2021.

A reason to support charter schools, The Dominion Post. October 13, 2021.

Stop denying hope to NYC kids, and lift the evil charter-school cap, New York Post, October 11, 2021.

An Unexpected Reason to Support Charter Schools, Bloomberg, October 9, 2021.

All charter schools are public schools, Bedford Gazette, October 1, 2021.

Charter schools boomed during the pandemic, Axios. September 22, 2021. 2

While such news items are always filled with extensive disinformation, bold-faced distortions, and easy-to-debunk statements, the biggest and most obvious reason for this stubborn desperation to defend and promote privately-operated charter schools is that a growing number of people, including certain factions and coalitions in the political arena, are either no longer supporting charter schools or they are actually coming out in opposition to them. It is also the case that more public school boards and superintendents are increasingly opposing charter schools with more vigor. This is a trend that is likely to keep growing as privately-operated charter schools, which often perform poorly and are plagued by corruption, siphon even more funds from public schools.

Another feature of current conditions is that more education advocacy groups are becoming more conscious of the political and economic motivations of charter school promoters and the many problems plaguing charter schools. As a result, they are taking stronger stands against charter schools and in defense of public schools and the public interest. To be sure, charter school promoters, despite billions of dollars at their disposal and powerful political connections, remain on the defensive; they recognize that there is no justification for the existence, let alone expansion, of charter schools.

From the perspective of workers, the economy, the national interest, and the public interest, things never go well when major enterprises, programs, sectors, and institutions are privatized and handed over to major owners of capital. Privatization solves no problems, it actually intensifies existing problems and introduces a whole host of new serious problems while enriching a handful of people. For the many profound problems associated with privatization, one can simply enter “stop privatization” into any popular internet search engine to view endless articles, reports, and analyses from a large range of organizations from around the world. Put simply, the parasitic extortion of the public purse by major owners of capital cannot be prettified as a “win-win” for everyone. The public never benefits from privatization. Privatization is retrogressive.

Those who have much to gain financially from privately-operated charter schools are not concerned about facts, truth, reason, or the public interest. They are self-serving to the extreme and committed to wrecking education and public opinion while enriching themselves. Charter school advocates will always repeat worn-out irrational claims and assertions in the hopes that people will dogmatically internalize such claims and assertions and avoid engaging in a conscious act of finding out what is really going on. Charter school promoters do not like to be challenged. Fortunately, charter school disinformation and incoherence have not conquered the consciousness of many out there, which is why opposition to charter schools, which are segregated and run by unelected individuals, will keep growing. The charter school movement has never not been vulnerable.

  1. Currently, there are roughly 7,400 charter schools in the U.S. Over the past 30 years, 5,000 charter schools have closed for financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and/or poor academic performance. See: “5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years”, September 18, 2021.
  2. More than 95% of the increase in charter school enrollment during the pandemic took place in cyber charter schools, which are notorious for extremely poor performance and endless scandals. Many brick-and-mortar charter schools actually lost students to poor-performing and corrupt cyber charter schools during the pandemic. See: “Enrollment jumps in charter schools — with big gains in worst-performing part of charter sector,” October 15, 2021.
The post Persistent Desperation of Charter School Promoters first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Dangers of Going Back to School After a Year of COVID-19 Lockdowns

Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning.

— investigative journalist Annette Fuentes

Once upon a time in America, parents breathed a sigh of relief when their kids went back to school after a summer’s hiatus, content in the knowledge that for a good portion of the day their kids would be gainfully occupied, out of harm’s way and out of trouble.

Those were the good old days, before the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a whole new level of Nanny State authoritarianism to our daily lives, locking down communities, forcing kids out of the schoolroom and into virtual classrooms, leaving vast swaths of the work force dependent on government welfare, while pushing other segments into a work-from-home model, and generally subjecting us to an increasingly obnoxious level of intrusion by the government into our private lives.

Now, after almost 18 months away from a physical classroom, students are heading back to school.

Here’s what they can expect.

From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment he or she graduates, they will be exposed to a steady diet of:

  • draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior,
  • overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech,
  • school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students,
  • standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking,
  • politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them,
  • and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement.

Young people in America are now first in line to be searched, surveilled, spied on, threatened, tied up, locked down, treated like criminals for non-criminal behavior, tasered and in some cases shot.

Nowadays, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but the punishments have become far more severe, shifting from detention and visits to the principal’s office into misdemeanor tickets, juvenile court, handcuffs, tasers and even prison terms.

Students have been suspended under school zero tolerance policies for bringing to school “look alike substances” such as oregano, breath mints, birth control pills and powdered sugar.

Look-alike weapons (toy guns—even Lego-sized ones, hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in hot water, in some cases getting them expelled from school or charged with a crime.

Not even good deeds go unpunished.

One 13-year-old was given detention for exposing the school to “liability” by sharing his lunch with a hungry friend. A third grader was suspended for shaving her head in sympathy for a friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. And then there was the high school senior who was suspended for saying “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed.

In South Carolina, where it’s against the law to “disturb” a school, more than a thousand students a year—some as young as 7 years old—“face criminal charges for not following directions, loitering, cursing, or the vague allegation of acting ‘obnoxiously.’ If charged as adults, they can be held in jail for up to 90 days.”

These outrageous incidents are exactly what you’ll see more of now that in-person school is back in session, especially once you add COVID-19 mandates to the mix.

Having police in the schools only adds to the danger.

Thanks to a combination of media hype, political pandering and financial incentives, the use of armed police officers (a.k.a. school resource officers) to patrol school hallways has risen dramatically in the years since the Columbine school shooting.

Indeed, the growing presence of police in the nation’s schools is resulting in greater police “involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers (SRO) have become de facto wardens in elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepper spray, batons and brute force.

In the absence of school-appropriate guidelines, police are more and more “stepping in to deal with minor rulebreaking: sagging pants, disrespectful comments, brief physical skirmishes. What previously might have resulted in a detention or a visit to the principal’s office was replaced with excruciating pain and temporary blindness, often followed by a trip to the courthouse.”

The horror stories are legion.

One SRO was accused of punching a 13-year-old student in the face for cutting the cafeteria line.

That same cop put another student in a chokehold a week later, allegedly knocking the student unconscious and causing a brain injury.

In Pennsylvania, a student was tasered after ignoring an order to put his cell phone away.

When 13-year-old Kevens Jean Baptiste failed to follow a school bus driver’s direction to keep the bus windows closed (Kevens, who suffers from asthma, opened the window after a fellow student sprayed perfume, causing him to cough and wheeze), he was handcuffed by police, removed from the bus, and while still handcuffed, had his legs swept out from under him by an officer, causing him to crash to the ground.

Young Alex Stone didn’t even make it past the first week of school before he became a victim of the police state. Directed by his teacher to do a creative writing assignment involving a series of fictional Facebook statuses, Stone wrote, “I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.” Despite the fact that dinosaurs are extinct, the status fabricated, and the South Carolina student was merely following orders, his teacher reported him to school administrators, who in turn called the police.

What followed is par for the course in schools today: students were locked down in their classrooms while armed police searched the 16-year-old’s locker and bookbag, handcuffed him, charged him with disorderly conduct disturbing the school, arrested him, detained him, and then he was suspended from school.

Not even the younger, elementary school-aged kids are being spared these “hardening” tactics.

On any given day when school is in session, kids who “act up” in class are pinned facedown on the floor, locked in dark closets, tied up with straps, bungee cords and duct tape, handcuffed, leg shackled, tasered or otherwise restrained, immobilized or placed in solitary confinement in order to bring them under “control.”

In almost every case, these undeniably harsh methods are used to punish kids—some as young as 4 and 5 years old—for simply failing to follow directions or throwing tantrums.

Very rarely do the kids pose any credible danger to themselves or others.

Unbelievably, these tactics are all legal, at least when employed by school officials or school resource officers in the nation’s public schools.

This is what happens when you introduce police and police tactics into the schools.

Paradoxically, by the time you add in the lockdowns and active shooter drills, instead of making the schools safer, school officials have succeeded in creating an environment in which children are so traumatized that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, mistrust of adults in authority, as well as feelings of anger, depression, humiliation, despair and delusion.

For example, a middle school in Washington State went on lockdown after a student brought a toy gun to class. A Boston high school went into lockdown for four hours after a bullet was discovered in a classroom. A North Carolina elementary school locked down and called in police after a fifth grader reported seeing an unfamiliar man in the school (it turned out to be a parent).

Police officers at a Florida middle school carried out an active shooter drill in an effort to educate students about how to respond in the event of an actual shooting crisis. Two armed officers, guns loaded and drawn, burst into classrooms, terrorizing the students and placing the school into lockdown mode.

These police state tactics have not made the schools any safer.

The fallout has been what you’d expect, with the nation’s young people treated like hardened criminals: handcuffed, arrested, tasered, tackled and taught the painful lesson that the Constitution (especially the Fourth Amendment) doesn’t mean much in the American police state.

Unfortunately, advocates for such harsh police tactics and weaponry like to trot out the line that school safety should be our first priority lest we find ourselves with another school shooting. What they will not tell you is that such shootings are rare.

As one congressional report found, the schools are, generally speaking, safe places for children.

There can be no avoiding the hands-on lessons being taught in the schools about the role of police in our lives, ranging from active shooter drills and school-wide lockdowns to incidents in which children engaging in typically childlike behavior are suspended (for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate), handcuffed (for being disruptive at school), arrested (for throwing water balloons as part of a school prank), and even tasered (for not obeying instructions).

Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters—which one would hope would be the objective of the schools—government officials seem determined to churn out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

So what’s the answer, not only for the here-and-now—the children growing up in these quasi-prisons—but for the future of this country?

How do you convince a child who has been routinely handcuffed, shackled, tied down, locked up, and immobilized by government officials—all before he reaches the age of adulthood—that he has any rights at all, let alone the right to challenge wrongdoing, resist oppression and defend himself against injustice?

Most of all, how do you persuade a fellow American that the government works for him when, for most of his young life, he has been incarcerated in an institution that teaches young people to be obedient and compliant citizens who don’t talk back, don’t question and don’t challenge authority?

As we’ve seen with other issues, any significant reforms will have to start locally and trickle upwards.

For starters, parents need to be vocal, visible and organized and demand that school officials 1) adopt a policy of positive reinforcement in dealing with behavior issues; 2) minimize the presence in the schools of police officers and cease involving them in student discipline; and 3) insist that all behavioral issues be addressed first and foremost with a child’s parents, before any other disciplinary tactics are attempted.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.

If you want young people who grow up seeing themselves as prisoners, run the schools like prisons.

If, on the other hand, you want to raise up a generation of freedom fighters, who will actually operate with justice, fairness, accountability and equality towards each other and their government, then run the schools like freedom forums.

Remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras, re-assign the cops elsewhere, and start treating our nation’s young people like citizens of a republic and not inmates in a police state penitentiary.

The post The Dangers of Going Back to School After a Year of COVID-19 Lockdowns first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charter Schools: Oversight and Accountability Versus Validity and Legitimacy

One view of change when it comes to charter schools is that charter schools are awful for various reasons, especially when it comes to funding arrangements, and that what is needed is better oversight, regulation, and accountability of privately-operated charter schools so that they stop “bilking the system” and stop harming public schools that educate the majority of students.

More accountability and oversight are certainly better than no accountability and oversight, but the charter school sector has operated with neither for 30 years.

The key question is: do charter schools have any valid or legitimate claim to public funds, resources, and facilities in the first place? With or without oversight, should charter schools be receiving a single public penny at all? What right do charter schools have to public wealth produced by workers?

The only way to settle these questions is to deeply appreciate the critical difference between public and private and then ascertain whether charter schools are public schools or not. It is well-known, for example, that simply declaring something is public 50 times a day does not automatically and spontaneously make it public.

The public/private question has been answered by a long list of charter school investigators: charter schools are not public schools, they are not even run by elected individuals and cannot levy taxes like public schools. Charter schools differ from public schools in many critical ways and function like privatized, marketized, corporatized entities. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not political subdivisions of the state; many operate openly as for-profit schools and many more are “managed” by for-profit corporations. Charter schools and public schools differ on organizational, legal, philosophical, and operational grounds. They are simply not the same. Thus, for example, charter schools are heavily driven by “free market” ideology. Charter school promoters see education as a commodity, not a social responsibility, and they treat parents and students as consumers and shoppers, not humans and citizens with rights that must be guaranteed in practice by government. A fend-for-yourself ethos pervades the crisis-prone charter school sector. It is no surprise that more than 3,000 charter schools have closed in just three decades. Chaos, anarchy, instability, and corruption are rampant in the highly segregated charter school sector.

If deregulated charter schools wish to exist, they can exist, but they must not have access to any public funds, resources, and facilities that legitimately belong to public schools. They have no valid claim to public wealth. At no time should a private entity be able to seize public resources that belong to the public sector. Such a setup distorts the economy and undermines education. Accountability and oversight will not fix that.

The millionaires and billionaires behind charter schools are not interested in accountability, transparency, or oversight; they are determined to engage in more neoliberal restructuring of the state so as to maximize profit as fast as possible in the context of a continually failing economy. Charter schools are pay-the-rich schemes that have nothing to do with improving schools or achievement. They are promoted under the veneer of high ideals but cannot be prettified. Charter schools are a form of state-organized corruption to pay the rich. If the tens of billions of public dollars and public facilities seized annually from public schools by charter schools were returned to public schools then students, teachers, and society would be much better off.

The post Charter Schools: Oversight and Accountability Versus Validity and Legitimacy first appeared on Dissident Voice.