I was delighted with Paul Krugman’s column on “libertarianism.” That is, the Koch Bros Final Solution to Democracy. That is, what Nancy MacLean’s terrific historical perspective, “Democracy in Chains,” digs into.
The Big Lie.
Krugman’s column came just as I was about to quote another passage from MacLean, this time on the “libertarian” view of public school education. (It’s important to realize that, in MacLean’s analysis, the primary provocation for contemporary “libertarianism” was Brown v. Board of Education. That is, white Southerners with money were outraged by the idea they should, via taxes, be paying for the education of black kids.)
Read this. It should sound familiar, if you’ve been keeping up with the antics of Betsy DeVos, et al. I’ve bolded some of the most scream-inducing sentences:
A different kind of catastrophe is under way in the nation’s public school system, a target of the Mont Pelerin Society cause since the 1950s — well before the rise of powerful teachers’ unions, it bears noting. Rather than admit their ideological commitment to ending public education, they have convinced a sizable segment of the American population that the problems in schools today are the result of those teachers’ unions having too much power. In the states where they have won control, like my own state of North Carolina, the cadre’s allied elected officials, pushed by affiliates of the State Policy Network, have rushed to pass laws to debilitate teachers’ unions, one bill being hurried through passage after midnight. The Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly then also cut seven thousand teacher assistants, allotted $100 million less than the state budget office said was needed merely to maintain the schools, and budgeted $500 million less to public schools than it had in 2008. Even the school supplies budget was cut by more than half; students can no longer take home textbooks in some poor communities, for fear they may be lost.
Where is this money going? Into corporate America, to a new “education industry” of private schools, many of which are held to no standards or even disclosure requirements. One shocked superior court judge found that the North Carolina General Assembly had violated the state constitution in sending children with tax subsidies to “private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.” (His verdict was overruled by the state supreme court, which the Koch cadre had spent handsomely to control for just such eventualities.) The new for-profit virtual charter schools, whose CEO personally earned $4 million in 2014, were found, by one Stanford University research study, to have left their enrolled students falling far behind their public school counterparts, equivalent to missing “72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math” in a 180-day school year. In other words, the online schools in this study taught nothing in math, and little in reading. As a result of all this, North Carolina, which during the twentieth century, through wise investments in public education, had climbed from the poorest of southern states to one of the best-off, now ranks beneath Mississippi in per-pupil spending.