Monday, March 5, 2012

McCarty: War against public education funds campaigns

Veteran political operative and blogger Brian McCarty has recently made a monumental declaration at his blog, Voting Under the Influence. I'll let you read it there, but I made note of another post of his that begs more attention, and I'm glad to give it that attention here.

McCarty previously covered the topic of campaign financing, and the election cycle of 2012, and he tied the need for campaign funding to certain positions related to public education. "[I]t need to be made clear," he writes, "that here in South Carolina, there is a war against public education. It is well funded. Talented people are paid big amounts of money to espouse anti public education points of view. Big money is poured into to political campaigns to elect a General Assembly that goes after public education."

There are problems in public education. Some teachers do not belong in the classroom. Too much money is wasted on administrative costs. But, instead of doing the hard work of tackling those issues, more and more Republican members of the General Assembly and their pundit backers, seem bent on finding ways, both directly and indirectly, to use public money for private schools and private businesses related to schools. It is not a solution to whatever ails South Carolina public schools, instead it is a bought and paid for stand that will do more harm than good.

And, if you doubt that the stand is bought and paid for, just look at the money. Millions have flowed into the South Carolina politics. Candidates have been funded almost solely from out of state sources. Groups have been paid for. Bloggers have been bought. The video poker lobby pales in comparison to how the private education and related business lobby has bought South Carolina politics.

The General Assembly will take up two measures that will show just how bought South Carolina is. First, there is yet another effort at tuition tax credits and public scholarships for private school tuition. Second, there is an effort to make the public schools use private companies to operate school buses. Those private companies are dumping dollars in South Carolina. They all wrap themselves in looking out for the children and parents and use words like choice. But, the hard cold truth is it’s about business and making money. Money is made to espouse the issues. Money is contributed to politicians and money is on the line with things like school transportation contracts.

That's the truth. If you haven't taken a look at a bill to privatize the state's school buses, then you should pour yourself a cup of coffee and review it.

Somebody is in line to make a lot of money, aren't they?

Let’s be frank. Before there was widespread public education in this state, and public provided transportation to that education in this state, the literacy rate was horrible. The economy was agrarian, and most people lived tough lives, except for the plantation class. Public education changed that. Young people learned and got skills, and the lived what became known as the American Dream, not only in South Carolina but throughout the country.

Gospel truth. Even then, it was difficult to break the culture that had evolved around mill owners' expectations that children living in their villages would come to work in the mills by age nine or ten, so the availability of public education didn't permeate the state until after child labor laws were passed in the early twentieth century -- despite the opposition of our ruling elite.

And let's not mention the disparity between white and black schools.

In the widest view of things, it's true that South Carolina waited three hundred years to sponsor public education for every child -- from Charleston's settlement in 1670 to the adoption of the Education Finance Act in 1977 is 307 years -- and still, a battle is waged over satisfying state and federal law at the lowest possible price.

The numbers and the facts are there for anyone to find. Look at South Carolina in 1895 and South Carolina today. Is there any doubt that more people have meaningful jobs and lives, own property, and are happier? Public education created that world. It made America one of the strongest economies the world has ever known.

Indeed, one great irony is that the legislators and the pundits who do the bidding of the crazy billionaire and his buddies now are mostly products of public education. They got their learning, so to speak, from the help of the rest of us, but now they want to degrade that, and work to undermine that, all for the money.

There is also this to consider. On some school bus Monday morning, in some rural place in South Carolina, might be a little boy or girl, the son or daughter of a maid or manufacturing worker, who loves science. That little boy or girl gets a shot through public education to work hard at their studies and might someday find a cure for cancer or find the next great electronic device. He or she might perform the surgery that saves your life. We pay for public education as a people, not to fund so called educrats, but to make our society better, to give each and every young person the same shot at the American Dream we had.

Indeed public education is the one thing that is proven over decades to actually do that. The war on public education seems to be one manufactured by people who choose their own financial interests over the future and by a handful of rich folks who wish the plantation style economy was back.

It always has been, and while they've lost a few skirmishes along the way, they're winning the greater war thus far.

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