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By Todd Alan Price

Over the last several months, a soap opera has played out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Taking place in the Milwaukee Public School District, the storyline, includes dismantling the elected school district, appointing an unelected advisory board, and cutting costs (following the orders of an outside private firm, the notorious McKinsey Report on Education). Mayoral Takeover, as it is called, would save the city some revenue, the business community would prosper, and all’s well that ends well.
The lead cast, starring Mayor, State Superintendent, key state legislators, and featuring the Governor’s office, expected to win a quick victory. Yet this opening act concludes with their hostile, Mayoral Takeover plan being stalled.
Another supporting cast entered the story, and began to upstage them.
It seems almost as if the Mayor, Governor, and legislative supporters did not consider that their “well meaning” efforts would be questioned, let alone contested. These savvy and successful politicians apparently could not envision that a Takeover effort would first outrage and then unify much of the community at large, a community who crave real education reform and urban renewal. Despite putting on the best face, the Mayoral Takeover crew, Mayor and Governor, ignored the turn of events, and, running the show with orchestrated “press” events, played on with a poker face. A few legislators stepped up to do the Governor’s bidding, and The Mayoral Takeover Bill, S.B. 405 The TEACH Act, was launched with much fanfare from the city’s public school-hating newspaper.
Yet they were dealt a major setback, if not an outright defeat.
Enter stage right, the supporting cast.
The supporting cast includes a stand up Milwaukee School Board and its dedicated President, Michael Bonds.
Milwaukee’s parents, teachers, social workers, special educators, concerned citizens, and other public education advocates, including the students, have for years called out for real education reform and an end to the sustained attack on the public school system waged by privatization forces. Having weathered the pain of a dual educational system, one the traditional public schools, the other a voucher and charter school system draining the public school coffers of sorely needed revenue, the citizens had finally seen a glimmer of hope, electing a truly proactive school board.
This school board, composed of educators, social workers and community advocates, was unlikely to sit quietly in the face of a proposed coup.
Factor into the plot other key state legislators, who offered alternative legislation S.B. 462 The Race to Success Act (The Partnership Bill) to circumvent the more egregious S.B. 405 The TEACH Act (The Mayoral Takeover Bill).
The Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover led the charge, convening regular meetings, protesting the legislation sponsors, rallying at City Hall and generally keeping the heat on as the Mayor and Governor kept changing the storyline and rationale for the proposed takeover.
The School Board continued with their work and debated the Mayor and allies at public forums . . . and winning.
Despite the seemingly futile effort by Mayor and Governor, behind the scenes, lay the omnipresent corporate interests and their lobbyists.
Each of the members of this soap opera have played their part well; we have opportunistic politicians eyeing their own careers with ambition, intrigue, and finance . . . we have the corporate financiers, stealthily pulling the strings, aiming for the high stakes “business” of education. We have a courageous school board, and teachers and educators doing the best they can in one of the most economically challenged urban districts in the country.
And then we have the public who believe the stakes are high; they are the interests of public education itself.

Todd Alan Price is Associate Professor of Education, National-Louis University, Chicago. His writings include The Myth and Reality of No Child Left Behind: Public Education and High Stakes Assessment; Bailing out the Foes of Public Education; and Wiring the World. He was the Wisconsin Green Party candidate for State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction.

University of California protest in September
over student fee hikes and budget cuts.
PHOTO /Paula Craig Steele

By Steve Miller

Last fall, the Regents increased fees for California’s nine public universities by 32%. Fees were increased by about the same amount for all the states, 3.5 million students attending public higher education.
But the Regents had already spent the UC increases before they voted. How could this be?
The increases had been “securitized,” i.e. converted into financial loan guarantees. Harvard University responded to the financial crisis by halting all construction. UC continued to build. The increases were guarantees for new Wall Street loans at much higher rates than before the Meltdown. Higher-education students now pay billions more a year—a nice way for banks to generate their cash-flow.
Speculation now drives the economy. Wall Street couldn’t last a minute without credit. This allows investment banks and hedge funds of the Casino Economy to make huge profits on paper by making financial bets. Speculation, however, requires regular cash flow to cover at least a portion of the bets.
Some 49 states are facing financial crises resembling California’s. State and local governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars. Wall Street wants to turn this revenue into their own private ATM, not unlike America’s already privatized health care… but this revenue must be separated from public control. Today government, supposedly charged with guaranteeing the wellbeing of the public, is leading this charge.
The economy today, based in electronics, is so productive that most corporate profits are no longer invested in producing the means of life for people. Computer driven robotic production cannot produce profits. These come only from human labor. Consequently, profits on paper are turned into the parasitic speculative sector, driven by hedge funds and speculative bubbles, that feasts off the so-called “real economy.” The university fee increases mean that thousands cannot continue their education, but it’s good business for Wall Street. This is one side of the crisis.
Another side is that electronic production no longer needs much human labor, and corporations are not going to educate a workforce that they don’t need.
Gov. Schwarzenegger claims that the budget crisis is a result of low tax revenue, since business is suffering. But more that 50% of the profitable corporations in the state pay no taxes at all! California’s budget contains billions of dollars in hand-outs to corporations, such as the water subsidy for the giant agribusiness corporations.
The Gobernator’s solution? Eliminate all income taxes for corporations! Clearly, the “Budget Crisis” could be solved by increasing corporate responsibility to the public, ending the free ride and making them pay.
Couldn’t the $13 trillion used so far for the Wall Street bailout be used to bail out the people?
Obviously the government could finance anything if it chose. But governments everywhere are systematically dismantling their responsibility to help the public, and re-directing all public revenue to corporations! This is now open class warfare, from the top down. Governments are organizing the class warfare for the corporations.
These choices are codified in law by human beings; they flow from political power. Without revolutionary changes in which class of people exercises political power, there is no way to make changes.
America has never before faced the open destruction and elimination of the powers of the public. This will not be reversed with the Politics of Begging. Neither can we go back to the “good old days” before the Meltdown. The system is not reformable.
We are going to have to fight forward to something new. The process begun with the Declaration of Independence must be finished: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – ed], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The government is the block between the people and their rights, even as it organizes the corporate agenda. It must be forced to guarantee every human need.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
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