Money is driving the education reform train
Have you ever wondered who is “driving the train” that is running the school reform movement across our nation and in Oklahoma?
To find the answer to that question, you need to follow the money! It has become common in our nation for rich people to form tax-exempt foundations and invest their riches in changing laws and policies that conform with their beliefs. Bill Gates, the Walton Foundation, Broad, the Koch Brothers and other billionaires are among those pushing education reforms down the track.
Oklahoma is being “taken for a ride” on this train that is barreling through America. Three Oklahoma foundations (In As Much, Kaiser, Schusterman) have paid to bring a group called Stand for Children to our state. Stand for Children is working tirelessly to get an expanded charter school bill passed in the Legislature. The Gates Foundation promotes online schools, and they also had a huge impact on the Teacher Leader Evaluation (TLE) law changes here in Oklahoma.
The Arnold Foundation is the most recent group to enter the picture in Oklahoma. The Arnold family has committed $2 million to our state leaders to change our public employee pension systems into either defined contribution or cash balance pension plans for new employees. Both of these plans will lower the cost to the state and, therefore, lower the benefit to the employees. Both alternatives will jeopardize the funding of the plan for current employees.
In addition to rich families driving the train, corporations also want a piece of the education reform track. Their agenda is to make money for their companies through changes in education laws. One avenue they use to influence legislation is through a group called ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Through their extensive network and relationships with elected officials, ALEC provides more than 1,000 pieces of “model legislation” for a variety of policy areas, including education. Their aim is clear and their formula simple: defund, deregulate, privatize, profit.
Sound familiar? Many Oklahoma legislators are members of ALEC and several bills that have been introduced in our Legislature are ALEC model bills – charters, vouchers, education tax credits, virtual schools and privatization of schools, just to name a few. Their anti-public education agenda clearly puts kids last and corporations first.
Instead of working with educators and parents, ALEC works with politicians, CEOs and special interest groups who think they know how to ‘fix’ schools. Another of ALEC’s priorities is to weaken or eliminate unions by eliminating collective bargaining and the ability of members to have their dues and voluntary political action contributions payroll deducted.
This not only would weaken our voice and our ability to promote great public schools, but would weaken our ability to hold our politicians accountable on public education issues. If we are silenced who will be the voice for our students and our schools? Sadly, the answer is that those with the most money will be in control. As teachers and support professionals, we have to be the ones to say loudly and clearly that our children’s education is not for sale.
Unlike all of these groups, we believe that our children deserve education policies that put them first and not last. Instead of trying to fuel the money train, we should be investing in our children’s future, not using our children’s future as an investment for profit. We should be making decisions based on research about what is best for our students, not on how much profit can be made. And lastly, instead of reducing retirement benefits we should be looking at ways to ensure retirement benefits don’t decrease for hard-working school employees.
As always, thanks for all you do!
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