WASHINGTON, D.C.––The cities within the U.S. experienced an explosion during the early 1990s. That explosion was the privatization of education.
Twenty years ago, there was rapid maneuvering of capitalist interests to destabilize and dismantle public education, specifically in low-income African communities across the country.
A very sophisticated strategy was developed: the takeover of entire school districts.
At the same time there was a large scale push to “rejuvenate” low-income, predominately African and “Latino” communities by pushing out the current residents in order to build new properties for young white consumers.
Increased funding was given to police agencies in major cities during these pushout initiatives.
This was done in order to facilitate a policy of police containment in public schools and low-income African communities.
In New York City, for example, between 1993 and 1997, Rudy Giuliani’s zero-tolerance “quality of life” policing mostly targeted the poor and working class.
School closures, displacement and policing worked together to facilitate the mass pushout of African families, headed mostly by African women.
Understanding all of this helps us realize that the privatization of public education cannot be separated from the overall attack on African people in this country.
Ten years post-Katrina tactic
Ten years ago federal, state and local governments conspired to remove the African population in New Orleans.
In addition to limiting the return of residents, three months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 35, allowing the State-run Recovery School District (RSD) to take over 107 New Orleans public schools. What resulted was a man-made catastrophe:
• Over 7,500 school employees, including 4,000 teachers, were fired
• Massive waves of school closures (only half of the 107 schools were re-opened)
• Students shuffled from struggling school to struggling school, across community lines, from one end of the city to the other
• Students attending schools in deteriorating trailers
• Intensified inequity and instability in New Orleans schools
• Exacerbated student pushout through harsh discipline
The vast majority of schools that were closed were located in poor and working class black neighborhoods––the same communities that were hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina.
Ten years after Katrina, the RSD is the first all-charter school district in the country, with very little improvement in the quality of education provided to New Orleans’ students.
Other cities and states have since then deployed this same strategy, attacking primarily African schools and school districts with the false promise of improving educational outcomes. Instead the schools are destabilized and private agencies make millions of dollars.
New developments in Ohio
The wave of privatization and school closures have made it to Ohio. The African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) has vowed to fight these attacks that are destined to continue in the destructive path of privatization in Newark, Detroit and New Orleans, to name a few.
In June of 2015, the Ohio general assembly passed House Bill 70. This was done at the last minute during the legislative process of its current session and with no opportunity for community input.
Similar to other bills passed in Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas, HB70 would allow for:
• The removal of teachers’ union,
• Local voters losing the right to control their own school districts, and
• Districts to turn operations over to for-profit management entities.
On July 16, 2015, Ohio governor Kasich signed HB70 into law. This is a dangerous track for us to be on. We’ve seen over and over again that these takeovers––the massive privatization of school districts––do not equal school improvement.
In fact they have created instability, charter fraud, mismanagement and the loss of thousands of students in school systems that push them out.
It has been 18 years since the Ohio supreme court ruled by a 4-3 decision in ‘DeRolph v State’ that, “The time has come to fix the system. Let there be no misunderstanding. Ohio’s public school-financing scheme must undergo a complete systematic overhaul.”
Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, ANWO member and Director of Racial Justice Now, knows African communities across the state will be devastated by these takeovers.
Sankara-Jabar states that “The root causes for why certain districts are deemed ‘failing’ are not being addressed. Our schools need adequate funding, culturally relevant curriculum and positive school discipline policies that keep our children in the classroom.”
We need real investment in education across community lines. We need equity. We need local control and parents need to have a voice in education.
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