Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The right-wing school privatization movement tries to change its image

In June 1995, the economist Milton Friedman wrote an article for the Washington Post promoting the use of public education funds for private schools as a way to transfer the nation’s public school systems to the private sector. "Vouchers," he wrote, "are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system." 
Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher and writer on issues pertaining to the Religious Right, has put together a comprehensive analysis of the current school privatization movement, "The Right's "School Choice" Scheme" on  It begins with Milton Friedman's 1995 treatise, "Public Schools: Make Them Private," and continues with the right's attempt to re-frame it's attack on public education as a civil-rights reform.

According to Tabachnick, voucher supporters recognized the need to reinvent the movement by obscuring its white, conservative support base and cultivating the support of Latino and African-American leaders as the face of the movement.
These leaders have valid complaints about inequality in public education and the failure of public schools to provide quality education to low income Black and Latino children. Having their parents support vouchers--and charters--in the name of improving education is a potent political force.
The most prominent among these leaders is Howard Fuller, the former Black Nationalist who brought vouchers to the Milwaukee school system when he led it in the early 1990s. In August 2000, he launched the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).  Its major funders included John Walton and the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, which also funded Fuller’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, founded in 1995.
These funders, as People for the American Way commented in an extensive report on the group, are "better known for supporting education privatization and affirmative action rollbacks than empowerment of the African-American community or low-income families."   
The conservatives had found their standard bearer.

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