Jennifer Berkshire: The Prophets of Privatization

Jennifer Berkshire (the writer formerly known as EduShyster) is one of the best education writers on the national scene.

In this article, she describes the evangelical roots of the present school-choice movement, as personified by Betsy DeVos.

You will meet some very peculiar people who loathe “government schooling” and prefer to home school their children. Some will be familiar to you, like the far-right billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who bankrolled Steve Bannon and Breitbart News. Daughter Rebekah homeschools her children to keep them free from the contamination of both public and private schools.

Berkshire notes that the Mercers funded an odd Oregon politician named Arthur Robinson.

She writes about Robinson:

In Oregon, Robinson is known as a kooky Tea Party-ish chemist who has been stockpiling urine as part of his mission to improve health, happiness, prosperity — and boost student test scores. He’s also a perennial GOP congressional candidate whose long-shot bids have been mostly underwritten by the Mercers.

In Christian homeschooling circles, Arthur Robinson is a household name. The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum, developed by Robinson and his six home-schooled children, teaches children to “teach themselves and to acquire superior knowledge as did many of America’s most outstanding citizens in the days before socialism in education.”

Robinson fleshed out his views on education during his 2016 run for Congress, releasing an education platform called “Art’s Education Plan!” He called for a nationwide voucher program, providing every student in the United States with the “freedom and resources to apply to any school in our nation, public or private.”

There was also a bold plan for Congress to shut down the schools of Washington, DC, for three months, long enough to fire the “unionized deadwood” and create a model in which students and parents are customers rather than “vassals of school administrators.”

She describes the ultra-conservative financiers and their faithful political vassals who have turned Florida into a mecca for publicly funded religious education, even though the Florida Constitution explicitly forbids it, and even though the state’s voters turned down a Jeb Bush effort to strip the state Constitution of its anti-voucher language in 2012.

Yes, there are some far-right extremists in the school choice movement. But, notes Berkshire, it was not DeVos that put school choice into the mainstream. It was Democrats who called themselves “reformers.”


DeVos and her allies are aided in the efforts to dismantle public education by Democratic education reformers who’ve spent the past two decades doing essentially the same thing. It is “progressive” reformers, after all, who’ve led the charge to convince parents and taxpayers that there is no meaningful difference between a public school and one that’s privately managed. That parents don’t care who runs their schools as long as they’re good is a standard reform talking point, along with the reminder that “charter schools are public schools….”

School choice has been legitimized, not by DeVos et al, but by the likes of Corey Booker, Rahm Emanuel and other reform-minded Democrats. If saving public education is to be a key plank of the #resistance, Democrats will have to join the fight or be swept aside.

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2pXqZxY

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