In this season of resistance, there's no issue more imperative to your community than the fight for public education.
While Congress is in recess, until April 23, you've got the opportunity – and a brand new advocacy tool from the Network for Public Education – to inform your local Congressional representatives about the assault on public education and persuade progressives in your community to join in your cause.
Why should you care?
Whether you have school-age children or not, you have a lot at stake in the struggle to ensure public schools continue to benefit the public.
Public education is America's most collaborative endeavor by far. We all pay taxes to support public schools. Schools are community anchors like main streets, town halls, public parks, churches, and community centers. And we depend on public schools to prepare our future workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens. Public schools are the foundation of our democracy where students learn to respect and appreciate others who are different from them and schools model civic values to students and the community.
But public schools are imperiled, which means our democracy, and our future, is too.
If you doubt that at all, just review prominent news stories from the past few days. They present ample evidence of the widespread effort to turn public education into opportunities for private gain.
Take reporter Emma Brown's story in the Washington Post. Brown looks at scheme in Florida that uses tax credits to channel billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to private schools that are mostly religion based.
There is no evidence the children do any better academically because they transfer to these private schools. The private schools can cherry pick only those students they prefer to accept to avoid students who may have learning disabilities or behavior issues. Most of the private schools get "consistently poor results" on standardized tests, according to Brown, but are never held accountable.
Brown covers this story because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a big fan of the Florida scheme and has pledged, along with President Trump, to roll out something like it nationwide.
If that isn't disturbing enough, consider a recent news story from the other side of the continent. As the Los Angeles Times reports, a new study by pro-public advocacy group In the Public Interest finds that in California, charter schools are getting billions of dollars in state funding to open in places where they're not needed and compete with public schools for students and precious education resources.
The report reveals that that three-quarters of these charters do worse on standardized tests than comparable public schools, and hundreds of them have been caught red-handed by the American Civil Liberties Union for maintaining discriminatory enrollment policies. Much of the money taxpayers provide goes to charter schools that are part of large chains that operate statewide and across the country. And charter organizations use public funds to purchase vast tracts of real estate and buildings they profit from and can retain even if the school operation shuts down.
Although the study is confined to California, the findings are likely similar to what occurs in the charter industry in other states, says report author Gordon Laffer, during a media call. What's also worrisome, says ITPI Executive Director Donald Cohen during the call, is that Secretary DeVos and President Trump are strong supporters of charter schools, pledging to provide federal funds to incentivize the spread of these schools.
Perhaps even more concerning than the spread of voucher programs and charter schools is the expansion of the virtual school industry that relegates students to education programs provided exclusively or mostly over the internet.
A new report from the National Education Policy Center in Boulder, CO provides a comprehensive study of these schools that shows virtual schools generally underperform public schools while offering for-profit companies expanded opportunities to harvest tax dollars. Graduation rates are appallingly low – 43.4 percent in full-time virtual schools and 43.1 percent in "blended" programs. This mostly unregulated industry is expanding with little understanding of how public funds are being used.
You can count on this virtual school industry to continue to expand because it's being fueled by "school choice" policies advocated by the Trump administration and by market incentives that lawmakers in nearly every state have been put in place.
As vouchers, charters, virtual schools, and other forms of school privatization continue to grow, millions in public tax dollars meant for public education are being redirected into private pockets while local schools that our communities depend on continue to have fewer resources to serve all children and families.
Resistance Recess is an opportunity for you to sound the alarm about what is happening to public education, inform your community, and call on political leaders to take action.
This new communications tool from the Network for Public Education has all the talking points and in-depth research you need to bolster your advocacy.
School Privatization Explained provides you with a series of briefs to challenge the myths of "school choice" and counter the propaganda machine pushing for charter schools, voucher programs, and online learning scams.
An overview of the NPE toolkit by Alan Singer at the Huffington Post calls this resource "a thirteen-point question/answer toolkit to expose the lies and distortions of charter school, voucher, and tax credit advocates."
Check out the NPE toolkit today, download just the briefs you need to inform your community, and make support for public schools part of the progressive agenda where you live.