Separate and Unequal

What the Candidates Have in Mind for the Schools

March 9, 2016

Education “reform” has developed into a major part of the anti-social offensive of the Democrats and Republicans. Just what kind of “reform” are these political representatives of big capital carrying out? The two parties are tearing apart and dismantling our system of public education.

For several years now, politicians, education officials and the monopoly-controlled media have kept up a barrage of propaganda cursing the public schools and blaming them for just about every problem – from drugs and violence to the economic difficulties facing the capitalist class. The U.S. Department of Education and the state and local capitalist politicians cynically curse the teachers, the students, the parents and the very concept of public education in order to prepare conditions for further undermining the schools.

But let's take a moment to go back to the basics.

Our nationwide system of public schools from kindergarten through high school is one of the great achievements of our country and people. Beginning in the days of British colonial rule, American people came out against the feudal system which reserved education as an exclusive privilege for the rich. The colonists insisted that education was a public responsibility and struggled to create the “common school” system to guarantee equality in education for everyone. Every generation of Americans have continued and extended this struggle for the right to education.

Today, the government is refusing to fulfill its most elementary responsibility when it undermines the education of the youth. The government's own studies admit that smaller classes are a key to quality education, yet school officials – especially in working class and minority areas – are laying off teachers left and right. Schools often crowd twice the recommended number of students into classes. So too, under Arnie Duncan, the U.S. Department of Education has formally denied all responsibility for the federal government to be more than an “emergency response system” for school funding. The Obama administration admits to spending more than 8 times as much on the Department of Defense budget as it spends on the Department of Education budget. The result has been that the burden falls more than ever on local communities to fund public schools. 

Were there problems and shortcomings in the public schools before aggressive funding for privatization began during the Obama administration? Yes. For example, even while the government itself admitted that 2/3 of our public school buildings were in serious disrepair, the government refused to make the investments needed to bring these schools up to the minimum level of safety and repair. Thus, then as now, it was the very government officials who were attacking the public schools who were responsible for all of their problems.

Privatization uses public funds to create a few elite institutions which are free of government oversight and public accountability and which can serve to train managers, technicians and professionals. The “public” and for-profit charter systems directly drain vital funds from the public schools treasury, further eroding schools for the majority. The voucher system also authorizes public funds to be handed over to privately run institutions. Genuinely public schools are funded without a private middle-man. 

The immediate result of this entire bipartisan program is to intensify the system of dual schools. The capitalists want the government to spend even larger sums in the future on a few schools chartered to train technicians, professionals and managers for the capitalist class. They want this even while condemning the majority of working class and minority youth to overcrowded and run-down schools which serve only to “discipline” the youth in prison-like “holding centers.” Just as Obama's so-called “overhaul” of the No Child Left Behind Act has been a program for replacing our country's system of public schools with a system of charter and voucher schools, Sanders, Clinton, Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich all promise to do the same. 

In opposition to the government's program of slashing investments in the public schools and intensifying the dual system of separate and unequal schools we must step up our struggle to demand: 

– No More School Closings!

– No More Teacher and Staff Layoffs!

– No More Privatization and Charter Schools!

– No More Curriculum Cuts!

The workers and people must wage many struggles to force the government to protect and expand investments in the public schools. Rights, such as the right to a modern education, necessarily include the responsibility of society to set aside at least a portion of the total social product and devote it to guarantying the economic rights of the people in practice. 

To guide the on-going popular struggles in defense of the public schools and against the entire capitalist program of slashing social investments and privatizing public services, we must merge these struggles into a common front. To make our movement pro-active and find permanent solutions to the problems confronting us, requires that, in the course of fighting for change, we continually politicize ourselves and our movement. This means creating an atmosphere in which people can get information and zero in on the root problems. It means getting actively involved in creating new space in which people can put forward their own aims and agenda. It means building up the mass workers' press and using it as a tool to mobilize public opinion against the reactionary program of the capitalists. It means uniting people around a the program of economic rights, democratic renewal, a democratic foreign policy and socialism and carrying out the theoretical and ideological work needed to rally ever-wider sections of the people.

To win, the people must organize themselves independent of and in opposition to the parties of the rich. We must popularize the program of the Workers Party in order to build up the organized strength and active struggles of the people capable of staying the hand of the capitalist exploiters and their twin political parties. The consciousness of the workers and people can only develop in the course of sharp and irreconcilable struggle against the ideology and politics of the capitalist class.