Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Politicians fail our schools

   No part of society remains healthy when the other parts are sick. Violence and drug abuse in one part of the community endanger us all. Even in the suburbs, runaway and suicide rates of teens have reached epidemic proportions. The conservative strategy of withdrawing into the suburbs and funding more prisons  worked only until gangs, violence, and drug abuse appeared there, too.

In the bottom tier of our society—the semipermanent poverty areas—the decline in good-paying jobs has substantially damaged family life. Families are divided and some are destroyed by crime, drugs, health crises, divorce, abandonment, and permanent underemployment.

  But political leaders and writers can pretend that we have a classless society. They are able to sell this ideological position because we are constantly taught in school that we live in a classless society and benefit from a classless school system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Children bring their crises to school each day (Kozol, 2005). Poor and middle-class children mix in some schools. The deterioration of life opportunities among the poor adds to a deterioration of schools. Some students bring to school the same disorder, crime, and gang violence they see in their neighborhoods. Dealing with these problems inevitably takes away from safety and  instructional time. Tax cuts and the demand to spend extra funds on school security, plus the need for remediation of basic skills, stress many urban school budgets.

Only major increases in public spending will improve the schools and promote the common good. But the rich and most corporations paid a higher percentage of taxes in the 1960s than they do today. As a result of the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy over the last twenty years the corporate tax rates have been lowered, transferring the tax burden from corporations to the middle class and thus producing a middle class tax revolt (Domhoff, 2002). The rich, the middle class, and the elderly are defensive voters and as a group have fewer children in public schools than do the poor and working class.
The crisis for working people also produced a crisis in our democracy.  As Robert Reich describes it,
            “Meanwhile the democratic aspects of capitalism have declined.  The institutions that undertook formal and informal negotiations to spread the wealth, stabilize jobs and communities, and establish equitable rules of the game-giant oligopolies, large labor unions, regulatory agencies, and legislatures responsive to local Main Streets and communities- have been eclipsed.  Corporate statesmen have vanished.  In this way the triumph of capitalism and the decline of democracy have been connected.  Democratic Capitalism has been replaced by supercapitalism.” ( Reich, 2007)

The economically privileged tend to vote to limit taxes and to limit school spending. Taxation wars and tax rebellions over school funding have rocked state after  state, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Michigan  and Ohio. Elected officials have responded to the demands of mobilized voters. The poor too  seldom vote and the children cannot vote. Consequently, the needs of poor children have had less  priority among many elected officials  who have placed little value on arguments for promoting the public good when voters are demanding tax relief.
From; Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. 4th. edition. 2010/

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