The movement by parents to opt their children out of high-stakes testing is growing by leaps and bounds, but remains largely White and suburban, despite the fact that Black folks are the primary targets of the destructive testing regime.
Almost two decades ago, the corporate world began pouring millions of dollars into a massive campaign to split the two pillars of the Democratic Party: teachers unions and Black voters. It began as a mainly Republican strategy to divert public funding to private school vouchers – an idea that was never very popular among Black parents.
But corporate Democrats discovered that public education could be privatized even more effectively – and much more profitably – through chartering the schools.
Charter schools are a capitalist’s dream, in which the public provides all the money, private companies get rich contracting services, teachers are deprofessionalized and deunionized, and Black parents lose all democratic rights concerning their children’s education.
In one of the great ironies of recent U.S. history, the Democratic Party took the lead in what had begun as a Republican project to vilify teachers and privatize schools in Black neighborhoods.
High-stakes testing became a weapon guaranteed to fail the students, fail the teachers, fail the neighborhood schools, and fail entire school districts in largely Black cities. Everybody loses except the hedge funds and other billionaire investors in the charter school marketplace.
These are the people whose interests President Obama has served for the past six and a half years. Obama became the biggest public school privatizer of all time, wielding executive power to force the states to establish more charter schools or lose federal education funds.
Studies show that charter schools are not better than public schools, but they are great sources of wealth for big investors, while the public – mostly the Black inner city public – takes all the risk.
But because Obama is Black, and Democrats are the party pushing hardest for charters, the established civil rights organizations are urging Black people to opt in to the high-stakes testing madness. Twelve of these misleadership groups signed a letter in support of high-stakes testing, including the national offices of the NAACP and the Urban League.
At root, this is a battle for democracy in public education. The White parents that make up the bulk of the anti-testing movement are accustomed to democracy in their school districts, through active and empowered local school boards. They know their rights, and they exercise them.
However, the whole charter school scam is based on destroying any semblance of democracy in inner city schools, many of which are already under the control of the states or strong-mayor forms of government.
The testing regime is crafted to make local control of schools an impossibility – forever – and to reduce the teaching staffs of inner city schools to temporary drones, not educators.
Black people desperately need to opt out of this nightmare.
Contact BAR executive editor Glen Ford at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.