Occupy The Department of Education

JESSICA DESVARIEUX: “Rest in peace imagination.”
“Here lies art, PE, and music.” That’s what’s written on the makeshift memorials outside
of the U.S. Department of Education, a message that Detroit native Tawanna Simpson says she
knows all too well as a school board member. She was one of the protestors, a part of the
Occupy the Department of Education action. The group gathered from April 4 to April 7
to protest what they say is the destructive influences of corporate and for-profit education
reforms, particularly when it comes to the teachers that are in the classrooms. TAWANNA SIMPSON: In a lot of your charter
schools, as well as some of your public schools, but not as many, because of unions, they have
Teach for America teachers. And those teachers come in without union contracts. They’re straight
out of college. And they’re there to do some community service to forgive student loans.
So, therefore, when–and the requirements is that they come into urban areas, and then
their loans are forgiven. So, therefore, charter schools tend to hire Teach for America students,
where communities that can finance professional teachers have professional teachers. So that’s
why I believe that it’s a separate and unequal way that we’re going into in education here
in terms of our teachers. DESVARIEUX: Tawanna brought her nine-year-old
neice Ijazz along to be a part of the event. Ijazz currently attends a charter school that’s
outside of their neighborhood. And Tawanna says the push to close public schools nationwide
threatens to break down the community ties in neighborhoods that are already seen as
vulnerable. SIMPSON: Closing schools as well as charter
schools break down a sense of community, because charter schools do not foster community. They
cherrypick students. They only allow students who don’t have issues to attend. But when
you close public schools and communities, or any school in any community, you break
down the sense of community. DESVARIEUX: The closing of public schools
have made headline in recent months with major shutdowns in cities like Chicago; Washington,
D.C.; and New York City. Elementary school teacher Brian Jones says in order for public
schools to succeed, the model of competition does more harm than good, since the quality
of all schools needs to be raised. BRIAN JONES: –setting up competition between
the schools that in no way sets us up to that. Let me just give you a for-instance. I used
to teach in East Harlem, and my public school became invaded by a corporate chain of charter
schools that was trying to spread and occupy more and more spaces in public school buildings,
where they could get space for free. And so one of the things they did was they started
advertising. They literally paid more than $1 million to a Madison Avenue advertising
firm to create billboards, bus stop ads. Parents came to me having received ten or 12 glossy,
high-color, foldable brochures in the mail. And so what’s my public school to do? This
is competition. Should we create a glossy brochure? Should we spend $1 million to retain
a firm? In other words, should we spend more and more of the public school dollar on the
competition between the providers? And so, you know, in that advertising process,
in the process of competition, inevitably there’s overheated claims. And then the public
has to try to discern the–you know, well, what’s the truth here and which is more–.
I mean, it becomes a ridiculous thing. And so they’re trying to really do to education
what has already been accomplished in health care, where we already have an overwhelmingly
privatized system and more and more of each health-care dollar goes to the bureaucracy
of paying the bills, goes to the profiteering, goes to the CEO salaries. And we’ve seen now
the same thing in education. You have people who operate a chain of charter schools pay
themselves north of half a million dollars for just, you know, serving a few hundred
children, whereas the chancellor of a million children, the chancellor of New York City,
does not make that much money. DESVARIEUX: However, there is still a large
number of parents dissatisfied with the results of the public education system, a point Jones
says he can understand. But, he argues, instead of abandoning public schools and creating
this model of competition, the state should adopt effective practices of charter schools,
like smaller classroom sizes, into public education systems. JONES: What could we do to improve the pubic
schools? Just to start, let’s start with what are people who are in charge of education
doing for their own children. What are people like Mayor Bloomberg in New York City or Rahm
Emanuel in Chicago or Obama or Arne Duncan, where are these people sending their children?
And overwhelmingly we see them sending them to private institutions which have a few features
that are very interesting. They have small class sizes, they have incredibly rich resources,
and they have experienced teachers. They do not grind through–the Sidwell Friends
academy does not grind through Teach for America kids who just showed up out of Denver and
just have a lot of energy. No. They have teachers who are experienced, who have degrees, who’ve
studied childhood development and have experience as educators. And they give those people professional
autonomy and resources so that they can grow and be the best that they can be. They set
them up to succeed. So that’s the model that they choose for their children. I say let’s take those elements–experienced
teachers, small class sizes, rich resources and curriculum–let’s take that model and
put that in the public schools, and I think we’ll have much better success. We’ll have
much better equity. We’ll have much better racial justice. And I think parents will be
thrilled to send their kids to public schools that look like that. Organizers of the Occupy the Department of
Education like Peggy Robertson say parents, educators, and students need to get informed
and demand their government stand up for equality in education. PEGGY ROBERTSON: There’s a way to take our
schools back, and not only take them back, to improve them. And to improve them, we need
the autonomy, a teacher such as myself, to really get our voices heard so that we can
share ways to improve schools. But the way to do that is we can begin to refuse the high-stakes
test. We need to refuse that, we need to refuse the common course standards, and recognize
that these are tools of the corporations to privatize our public education using our public
tax dollars and, quite honestly, using our children. DESVARIEUX: Organizers of Occupy the Department
of Education say they are beyond trying to get a seat at the table of the Department
of Education. Instead, they are creating their own table, and they will be holding grassroots
events like this one in the near future. For the Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux,

29 thoughts on “Occupy The Department of Education”

  1. All of those schools that were shut down were failing schools. Money will not solve the issue with our schools, we spend too much on education. Lets raise the salaries of teacher to 100k BUT to get 100k teachers would have to give up tenure and all the bad teacher would be immediately fired. If you are a good teacher, you are not afraid of that BUT. The unions won't support it cause they have to look out for the bad teachers as well.

  2. Schools are starting to resemble prison/jail . Principals use there status to co-hearse kids to lie about incidents. Then whistle blowing parents who speak up against there nazi'ism get targeted for harsher rules. Its time for parents to put aside there difference and come together on common grounds. Our Kids

  3. So private sector schools solutions are so horrible that the proponents of public school want to model the public schools off the successes of the private schools? Doesn't make sense. Also what's wrong with separating students who do want to learn from students who don't want to learn and disrupt classes? Put the trouble students in a special school.

  4. They want to break up the family. Break down society so that your sons and daughters will be good little Germans or Comrades!

  5. How about let the students/children be free to decide what they want to learn? If education is forced on someone how can you say it's free. To find a new perspective look up "Democratic Education".

  6. Instead of arguing how we should force children to learn, maybe we should let children decide what they want to learn and take control of their own education. If we do that we might find we have more empowered and self directed learners.

  7. The best schools my daughter (intelligent but dyslexic hands on learner) ever attended were not-for-profit charter schools set up by educators/teachers who had become disgusted w/local politically/religiously fundamentally shackled public schools. These & religious schools were the original charter schools in America. Then the corporations saw dollar signs & politicians saw voters. Take the politics, religion & profit out of schools. Let's get back to educating.

  8. Amen.

    I dont see the point of voting for Obama when youre just going to oppose him anyway.

    Mind you that doesnt mean they should have voted Romney, but still, its fucking ridiculous, just vote 3rd party.

    Theres no reason to 'throw away your vote' when votes are fucking useless.

  9. People who own corporations who are filthy rich as a result of their laborers should be paying for public education.

    More preferable, there shouldn't be corporate owners. Workers should own their labor. Workers should be the ones owning the industries they work at and cooperatively deciding what to do with the profits THEY make. Nobody should be a rented slave. Unfortunately, most people who live in the US are.

  10. Unless 100% of the people who voted for Obama voted for Jill Stein or some other promising third party candidate, the worse alternative would have been elected. Obama sucks, but judging by rhetoric (which is all we have to go by since it's impossible to determine the stances of the "popular" candidates anyway) it's safe to assume that Romney would have been worse.

  11. Don't reinstate them every year. It's going to cost Americans over $1 trillion in the next decade. Just let them expire.

  12. [Just let them expire.]
    If it were only that simple. Guess what these protesters will be asking for next year?
    Tax cuts don't "cost Americans" anything. Tax cuts are simply RETURNING to taxpayers the money that was originally theirs before the government confiscated it through taxation. See the difference?
    How 'bout we get rid of the Dept. of Education. That will free up ~$70B.

  13. Get rid of the department of education? Why aren't you saying that we should get rid of the most expensive wars the US has ever unconstitutionally waged?

  14. Uh, because the topic is education and education dollars? It's really not a good idea to co-mingle defense dollars with education dollars.

    As an unrelated aside, yes the US would do well to disengage in all these wars. But that's really another topic.

  15. [ALL of us together.]
    You'd have to be more specific than that. Right now, a good chunk of public education is funded by local real estate taxes. As the federal government puts more hooks into public education, parents lose control.
    The ones who end up with clout in Washington are the teacher's union. Guess what? They are more interested in themselves and their jobs than they are in the education of your children.
    Just listen to these interviews, you think they really care about your kids?

  16. Most of the TFA teachers that I know find their colleagues (the tenured professional teachers in failing schools) lazy and uninterested in anything besides getting paid and keeping their salaries. Unfortunately, I'm speaking about Kansas City; I may be in the lower minority.

  17. I don't understand what is wrong with corporations in education. All of this was compelling but it relies on that fact. IS there something wrong with private institutions paying an absurd amount of money to provide a better education for your children, or else it is shut down after 5 years? Or do we really believe that they are trying to brainwash us?

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