The Red Tide in Education

ANSWERING THE KENNEDYS CALL

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The Guardian

Red tide algal blooms have been threatening coastal beaches for decades, killing sea life and sickening bathers; a sign of rising ocean temperatures due to global warming as well as human pollution.

But another red tide is benefitting Americans by threatening the wealth of oligarchs like the Koch Brothers and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who have diverted funds so desperately needed by America’s public schools where most of our children are educated to not only preserve their wealth, but increase it.

It is the red state Teacher’s movement for better salaries and benefits in public schools in the conservative red states that have either cut education spending in public schools, or diverted funds to Charter Schools and private school vouchers that have benefited the largely conservative wealth-holders of this world and their supporters who own and operate for-profit schools that can receive up to 90 percent of their revenues from federal taxpayers, typically in the form of student loans and Pell Grants.

The Teacher’s movement is another example of powerful ‘grass-roots’ movements generated in local communities to solve grievances that have worsened their citizens’ quality of life.

A 2016 report by the NYU Brennan Center for Justice entitled Secret Spending in the States stated in its introduction: “Six years after Citizens United enabled unfettered spending in our elections, the use of so-called dark money has become disturbingly common. Contrary to the Supreme Court’s assumption that this unlimited spending would be transparent to voters, at the federal level powerful groups have since 2010 poured hundreds of millions of dollars into influencing elections while obscuring the sources of their funding.”

In the six states the Brennan Center report detailed—Alaska, California, Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and Maine—1) At these levels, dark money sources often harbor a narrow, direct economic interest in the contest’s outcome;  money sources often harbor a narrow, direct economic interest in the contest’s outcome; (2) relatedly, contentious ballot measures that carry major economic consequences frequently attract dark money; and (3) in the relatively low-cost elections at these levels, it is easy for dark money to dominate with unaccountable messages that voters cannot meaningfully evaluate.

Who were the recipients of this largesse in PAC money that ballooned after Citizens United? It has to be no secret that the supporters of vouchers and/or Charter schools that favored higher-income constituencies won out in the funding struggle.

This is what started the “Red for Ed” teachers’ movement fighting for better school funding who had suffered for years, in underpaid and underfunded public schools. “Red shirts and blouses had emerged as the official uniform of teacher uprisings against low pay that were spreading from West Virginia to Oklahoma and Kentucky under the rallying cry “Red for Ed,” said an excellent NYTimes Magazine article, about the Arizona teachers’ uprising.

Public education is a $650 billion national enterprise,” said the NYTimes, “comparable to the U.S. defense budget, except that the federal government pays only 8.5 percent of the cost. States and local school districts split the rest in varying proportions, but each state finances it differently. Texas and Louisiana tap plentiful oil and gas revenues; Northeastern states like Massachusetts and New Jersey rely on high income and property taxes.”

Arizona hasn’t raised income taxes in more than 25 years, and counts more on sales taxes and other revenues generated by a growing economy. However they pay for it, K-12 schooling is the biggest single expenditure for all states, accounting for 36 percent of general-fund budgets on average.

“A half-dozen Arizona teachers — and more than 25 others, current and retired, with education backgrounds — declared their candidacy for the State House and Senate with a promise to increase funding for public schools, said the NYTimes. “They’re part of a sudden wave of educators on ballots as first-time candidates in every walkout state.”

The ultimate solution has to be political action, especially political action by women who make up 80 percent of the teaching profession. In fact, the red wave is turning into a blue wave, as this has energized even the less liberal voter base. Data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University shows that more women have filed to run for Congress than at any point since at least 1992 — and by a wide margin. That year, 298 women ran for the House of Representatives. This year, 476 have — most of them Democrats.

Harlan Green © 2018

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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