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Look who's trying to steal your tax dollars

Robert Niles
Published: June 6, 2013 at 9:31 AM (MST)
For more than two years, I've been making the point that poverty -- more than any other factor -- explains the disparities we see in student performance from class to class, school to school, and district to district across our communities. So I am thrilled whenever I see other writers look at the data and come to the same conclusion, despite all the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that wealthy so-called "reformers" are spreading in an attempt to destroy public confidence in our public schools.

By far, the best example of clear reporting and analysis I've yet see on public education comes from David Sirota at Salon, who this week eviscerated the "reform" movement, tying together multiple research reports that expose how charter schools and other "reform" efforts not only don't help improve the quality of education -- they often make it worse.

Sirota illuminates the motive behind the so-called "reform" movement, which is to distract attention from the growing problem of poverty in America. By pretending that teachers and school administrators are the problem, instead of the growing number of children growing up in families where their parents aren't making a living wage, reformers hope that voters and taxpayers will turn their attention to gutting public schools, instead reforming an economy that's making the rich richer at the expense of the people who actually do all the work.

ThiefGiven that public education is typically the largest expenditure for state and local governments, cutting money to public schools frees up a lot of cash for corporate-controlled charters and more tax cuts for the rich, including the millionaires and billionaires backing these "reforms." How convenient, isn't it?

It's time to face an obvious, if uncomfortable, fact: Education "reform" is simply a heist -- an attempt to steal your tax dollars while leaving you with less say and control over your local schools. Think charter schools give parents more control? Think again. You control your public schools when you vote for the school boards that run them and the state legislators who set the rules that govern local education. Charters answer to no one -- not to parents, who don't pay tuition (as they do in private schools), and not to publicly-elected school boards, who are often powerless under state law to do anything to ensure that charter school operators (who often are for-profit companies) aren't wasting your tax dollars.

The whole point of charters was to free them from rules and regulations so that they could develop models for better performing schools. But the majority of data suggests that, when you compare students from similar backgrounds, charters actually do worse for our children. So why on Earth are we keeping charters around?

Unhappy with your local school board? Run for a seat. Want to start a new school that's under the control of a group of parents, instead of the community? Start a private school. No one's stopping you from doing either. But charters are, collectively, a scam -- a front for a Wall Street takeover of public education, a heist to steal our education tax dollars for more corporate welfare.

It's past time to stop the expansion of charter schools. It's time, instead, for parents who are about public education to demand that lawmakers start repealing laws that enable charter schools. Let's close the charters, return our tax dollars to community-controlled schools and tell the Wall Street "reformers" that they've done enough damage to our country already. Let's not let them wreck our schools, too.

Robert Niles also can be found at

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