In this insightful and harrowing article, we can see clearly the contours of a devilish plan, hatched in the corridors of ALEC and other corporate-controlled entities. The centerpiece of the plan is the destruction and privatization of public education, which all of us own and paid for with our taxes.
Read it and get involved. Join the Networkfor Public Education. Join your local advocacy group. Never despair. Don’t stop fighting.
It begins like this:
It was the strike heard ‘round the country.
West Virginia’s public school teachers had endured years of low pay, inadequate insurance, giant class sizes, and increasingly unlivable conditions—including attempts to force them to record private details of their health daily on a wellness app. Their governor, billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, pledged to allow them no more than an annual 1% raise—effectively a pay cut considering inflation—in a state where teacher salaries ranked 48th lowest out of 50 states. In February 2018, they finally revolted: In a tense, nine-day work stoppage, they managed to wrest a 5% pay increase from the state. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have now revolted in similar protests.
It’s the latest battle in a contest between two countervailing forces: one bent on reengineering America for the benefit of the wealthy, the other struggling to preserve dignity and security for ordinary people.
If the story turns out the way the Jim Justices desire, the children of a first-world country will henceforth be groomed for a third-world life.
Gordon Lafer, Associate Professor at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, and Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, help illuminate why this is happening, who is behind it, and what’s at stake as the educational system that once united Americans and prepared them for a life of social and economic mobility is wiped out of existence.
The Plan: Lower People’s Expectations
When Lafer began to study the tsunami of corporate-backed legislation that swept the country in early 2011 in the wake of Citizens United—the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence the political system—he wasn’t yet clear what was happening. In state after state, a pattern was emerging of highly coordinated campaigns to smash unions, shrink taxes for the wealthy, and cut public services. Headlines blamed globalization and technology for the squeeze on the majority of the population, but Lafer began to see something far more deliberate working behind the scenes: a hidden force that was well-funded, laser-focused, and astonishingly effective.
Lafer pored over the activities of business lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – funded by giant corporations including Walmart, Amazon.com, and Bank of America—that produces “model legislation” in areas its conservative members use to promote privatization. He studied the Koch network, a constellation of groups affiliated with billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. (Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest private company with business including crude oil supply and refining and chemical production). Again and again, he found that corporate-backed lobbyists were able to subvert the clear preferences of the public and their elected representatives in both parties. Of all the areas these lobbyists were able to influence, the policy campaign that netted the most laws passed, featured the most big players, and boasted the most effective organizations was public education. For these U.S. corporations, undermining the public school system was the Holy Grail.
After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.
The grand plan was even more ambitious. These titans of business wished to completely change the way Americans and their children viewed their life potential. Transforming education was the key.