Whose Agenda for Education?

October 21, 2012

The elections are being used by the Democratic and Republican parties to promote their version of school "reform."  

The Democratic party platform openly embraces turning over education to the "free market."  The Democratic party boasts that as a result of Obama's education policies 46 states have made changes which would pave the way for school 'turn around' (aka charterization.)  In the platform, the Democratic party outlines plans which would 1) dramatically increase the number of "charter schools" – schools funded by public monies but free from public supervision and 2) require mandatory, "high-stakes" standardized tests for students and close schools whose students perform poorly on these tests.

Obama's program is a direct attack on our public schools and the right of the working people to equality in education.

Charter schools take vitally needed funds out of the public treasury in order to create a few elite schools. These schools are often operated by private educational "entrepreneurs" and large corporations. Thus, charter schools are a step in the direction of privatizing the public schools and a means of intensifying the system of separate and unequal schools. While charter schools help the corporations train needed managers and technicians, the vast majority of students in working class and poor neighborhoods are condemned to underfunded and outdated schools.

Mandatory, standardized tests are another means for depriving the daughters and sons of the workers of their right to education. Repeated studies have proven that such tests not only fail to measure a students' achievement but that they discriminate against the workers and oppressed minorities. By using such tests to deny promotion and graduation, the government is denying students the right to pursue their education and putting a blight on their future. By slashing funds or closing down schools which perform poorly on such tests, the government is again undermining the schools in working class and poor neighborhoods.

In short, Obama's program will only intensify our country's dual school system – a system under which the rich receive the best possible education while the vast majority of working class children are denied their right to a modern education. 

Just like Obama, Romney supports mandatory tests and charter schools. The Republican party platform calls for more "school choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits."  In others words, the Republican party candidate also aims to privatize the public schools and undermine the rights of the workers.

In sum, both Obama and Romney are using the election campaign to push the preset educational agenda of the monopoly capitalist class. They are playing the usual con game on the public.  While Romney and Obama argue over whose plan will be more effective, both advertise programs which aim to further dismantle and privatize our country's system of public education.

We cannot allow ourselves to fall into this trap. We cannot let Obama and Romney – these twin representatives of monopoly capital – set the agenda for our public schools.

Universal, public education is one of the great accomplishments of our country. Every generation of Americans have come forward in struggles to demand and extend the right to education.

Today, rather than dismantling and privatizing this vital national resource, we need to go forward and modernize it. This means genuinely fulfilling the promise of equality in education for everyone. It means guarantying that every school district receives equal funding. It means reducing class sizes and modernizing the curriculum. It means extending the system of free public education to include child care, university education and continuing education.

Education is a right which must be provided on an equal basis for everyone. This right can only be guaranteed by keeping it in the public domain and insuring that the government makes all the needed investments.