by Brian Washington
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An Arizona teacher and a Pennsylvania education support professional (ESP) recently outlined to an audience of bloggers from across the country the threats posed to students and public education by privatization. They also discussed how communities can band together to beat back the bad ideas and mythology connected to it.
The two educators were featured panelists last week at Netroots Nation 2015, a national gathering of hundreds of progressive bloggers. This year the conference was held at the Phoenix Convention Center located in the city’s downtown. The name of the panel:“Corporate Takeover Goes Local: Communities Fight Back.”
The discussion touched on all forms of privatization, including voucher and tax credit schemes, which use taxpayer dollars to pay the tuition costs for small segments of the student population transferring from public to private schools.
According to Arizona educator Jonathan Parker, who teaches history at Glendale Union High School, demand for corporate-based, free-market programs, like vouchers and tuition tax credit schemes, would not exist if it were not for misguided politicians draining public schools of valuable funding.
Politicians starving public schools create a self-fulfilling prophecy—programs are cut, class sizes swell, quality teachers leave, thereby concocting an artificial demand for privatization,” said Parker. “Whatever remedies privatization offers is nothing that a properly funded public school would not also provide to ALL students.
Marla Lipkin works with special needs students as an education support professional in the Pennsbury School District in Pennsylvania. Lipkin and other educators in her district recently rallied with parents and community leaders to successfully block attempts by local school board leaders to outsource to private companies about 300 jobs belonging to bus drivers and other school personnel who help students learn.
Lipkin told the crowd a key part of the successful strategy used in her district involved engaging the community—getting parents on their side. She said parents had a natural stake in the fight because it was their children who would be impacted by the proposed changes.
“We continued our efforts by trying to get our friends and neighbors talking to their friends and neighbors about what a disaster this would be,” said Lipkin. “We created a power point for all the schools PTO’s (parent teacher organizations) and asked if we could come to a meeting to let them hear our story.”
Audience members who attended the panel discussion—which also featured Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a nationally-recognized blogger and education activist who’s also a professor at California State Sacramento, and moderator Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the publisher of ALECexposed.org—walked away with a better understanding of how they, too, can defeat privatization proposals in their communities. They also now know the serious threat behind these flawed, profit-based reforms.
“Profit results in winners and losers,” said Parker. “To embrace a system where the goal becomes profit rather than a quality public education for all is to destroy a democratic foundation for all in favor of an economic principle that favors a few.”