Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Think it costs too much to reduce class size and provide other services to kids and parents in urban school systems? Create a phony one way accountability and standards movement to ignore and disparage small class size while putting the burden of accountability on teachers, schools, students and parents.

Susan Ohanian points to this article by William Greider in The Nation, Aug. 18, 2008:

Read this important article in the context of what the corporate politicos--Republicans and Democrats--have done to attack, demean, and deprofessionalize teachers--in the name of accountability.

Greider writes:

Talk about warped priorities! The government puts up $29 billion as a "sweetener" for JP Morgan but can only come up with $4 billion for Cleveland, Detroit and other urban ruins. Even the mortgage-relief bill is a tepid gesture. It basically asks, but does not compel, the bankers to act kindlier toward millions of defaulting families.

A generation of conservative propaganda, arguing that markets make wiser decisions than government, has been destroyed by these events. The interventions amount to socialism, American style, in which the government decides which private enterprises are "too big to fail." Trouble is, it was the government itself that created most of these mastodons--including the all-purpose banking conglomerates. The mega-banks arose in the 1990s, when a Democratic President and Republican Congress repealed the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prevented commercial banks from blending their business with investment banking. That combination was the source of incestuous self-dealing and fraudulent stock valuations that led directly to the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

The central bank tipped its monetary policy hard in one direction--favoring capital over labor, creditors over debtors, finance over the real economy--and held it there for roughly twenty-five years. On one side, it targeted wages and restrained economic growth to make sure workers could not bargain for higher compensation in slack labor markets. On the other side, it stripped away or refused to enforce prudential regulations that restrained the excesses of banking and finance.

The only force capable of making a stand were the unions. Yet we have seen in our own UFT and AFT that they are part and parcel of this process. Have you heard one word from Randi Weingarten pointing to the disparity of the money spent for wars and bailouts compared to a true package of urban education reform? Thus, her calls for community schools without making the money connections, are just words.

But there is a long-time precedent in predecessor Al Shanker, who in 1975 used teacher pension funds to bail out the city as 15,000 teachers were laid off in a devastated the school system for over a decade with schools being left in disrepair with some closed and sold on the cheap (think they would be useful in today's overcrowded situation.) And the Tier 3 and 4 pension systems too.

Shanker followed up with Act II in the 80's when he allied with a very anti-labor business community to create the very phony accountability and standards movement that has led to today's devastation of urban public schools.

I expect capitalists in the business community to function the way they do. Just as I expect Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg to go after teachers and the union. But the "cooperative" and "collaborative" role unions, in particular the AFT/UFT tough liberals, have played when they should have been the last line of resistance, is what has helped make all their dreams come true.

Shameless Plug:
Read Vera Pavone's and my New Politics review of Albert Shanker: Tough Liberal

Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon - Review by Vera Pavone and Norman Scott in New Politics

New Politics web site
The review has not been posted at the NP site yet but you can get it at the Indepent Community of Educators web site.
Get the pdf

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