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The Internationalist
  November 2016

Class Struggle Education Workers:

Vote No on Question 2
in Massachusetts!

Class Struggle Education Workers at 10 April 2014 Save NYC Public Education demonstration: “Drive Out Charters! Democrats Spearhead Privatization of Public Education.”  (CSEW)

By Class Struggle Education Workers

Class Struggle Education Workers urges Massachusetts voters to vote “No” on Question 2 on the November 8 ballot which proposes to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. If passed, the measure would open the floodgates to a proliferation of these privately managed schools, thereby draining billions of dollars from public schools and widening the economic disparities in education. Schools with black, Latino and other minority populations, as well as students with special needs, will be hit the hardest. Vote No on 2!

Both the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have mobilized their memberships to get out the vote against the ballot initiative. Reportedly much of the public agrees with them, with one poll showing 52% against expanding charters vs. 39% in favor. This is in the face of a flood of big bucks pouring into the coffers of the pro-charter campaign, which has far out-spent (by $19.5 million to 13.4 million) the Save Our Public Schools effort, largely funded by teachers unions.

According to a report by WBUR Radio Boston (27 October), more than four-fifths of the funding for the “Yes on 2” came from out of state, including from Walmart heirs ($1.8 million), the Koch brothers and ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Three-quarters was “dark money” from 501(c)(3) lobbying outfits that are not required to list their donors. The largest contributor ($13.5 million) is Families for Excellent Schools, a front for Wall Street hedge fund moguls who are behind the Success Academies and the drive for charter schools in New York.1

The MTA last spring issued a detailed (108-page) analysis of this well-financed privatizing onslaught, Threat to Public Education Now Centers on Massachusetts (May 2016). But in addition to the usual suspects of right-wing business lobbies, the forces supporting Question 2 include the liberal Boston Globe and its owner, the New York Times, which have been aggressively pushing the anti-labor agenda of corporate “education reform” and calling to greatly expand the overwhelmingly non-union charter schools.

The editors of the Globe (October 30) claim that “Studies have shown that charters in Massachusetts are producing verifiably better academic results than district schools.” The Times (6 November) chimed in with a puff piece by columnist David Leonhardt, “Schools That Work,” also purporting to have scientific data that charters outperform public schools. The “proof” is a paper funded by the U.S. Education Department, which backs charters, and the New Schools Venture Fund, which was set up to push charter schools.

The study is nothing but sponsored academic propaganda, using cherry-picked data of the six top charter high schools in Boston, while excluding lower-performing or closed charters as “unsuitable” for analysis. Using fancy statistical formulas, it shows that this handful of “high-performing” schools perform highly on SAT and other high-stakes standardized tests. It leaves out how those schools push out lower-scoring students, sending them back to the public schools; the impact of having free labor of Harvard and MIT interns helping students, etc.

In fact, studies nationwide show charter schools overall have no better and often lower scores than public schools, and in some cases (like Ohio and Nevada) have become notorious for fraud. They siphon off funds from public schools ($450 million a year in Massachusetts, billions nationally). And charters increase racial segregation, as an October 15 statement by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People noted in “calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.”

For all the pretense of being a “grass roots” initiative, a main purpose of this Wall Street-sponsored “astroturf" movement for charter schools is plain and simple union-busting. The state teachers unions (MTA and AFTMA) naturally are opposing Question 2, saying it would be bad for both teachers and students. But the national AFT has been equivocal. In response to the NAACP resolution, AFT president Randi Weingarten did not endorse the call to oppose charter expansion, saying only that she “look[s] forward to continuing to work with the NAACP….”  

The reason for this equivocation is simple: long-time AFT leader Al Shanker first proposed charter schools and the sellout union tops have continued to back them ever since. Weingarten pretends that the AFT founder intended charters to be “teacher-led laboratories … to improve instruction,” but from the outset they aimed at breaking up public schools. Shanker, a right-wing social-democratic Cold Warrior, supported Reagan’s education “reforms,” complaining that the school system “more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.”

Moreover, among the biggest supporters of charter schools are Democratic president Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was the lawyer for and board member of Walmart. Obama’s secretary of education, John King, co-founded a charter school in Boston and has emphatically said he would vote for Question 2. And the union-hating Democrats for Education Reform (a Wall Street operation) launched an ad blitz for a “yes” vote under the slogan “Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools” (Boston Globe, 5 November).

Yet the Fall issue of MTA Today urges its members to “Vote AGAINST Question 2 – and for Hillary Clinton.” The NEA and AFT are bulwarks of the Democratic Party, staffing its phone banks and doling out millions of dollars to elect candidates of this capitalist party, who then turn around and attack teacher unions. From the battle over Boston busing in the 1970s to today, the fight for high-quality, integrated public education for all must be a fight against the partner parties of American capitalism.

As we noted in our analysis earlier this year of the disastrous experience of the charterized New Orleans schools (“New Orleans Schools: Test Lab for War on Public Education” and “‘Slave Market-Based Education Reform’ in NOLA”):

“A strategy to fight the enemies of public education begins with naming the enemy: capitalism. Every day teachers confront the all-sided oppression of this capitalist society. More than anything else, low academic achievement correlates with poverty….
“To win, we need fighting unions. But the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association refuse to take the corporate ed ‘reformers’ head-on….
“We say forthrightly that it’s necessary to break the Democratic and Republican parties of capital, and we need to build a workers party to fight for a workers government, to lay the basis for the badly needed revolution in education.”

Class Struggle Education Workers urges Massachusetts teachers others to “Vote No on 2” and join the struggle to build a class-struggle workers party! ■

For more information about Class Struggle Education Workers, visit the CSEW website at: