The San Diego Unified School Board held a couple of meetings on Tuesday, discussing options in their search for a permanent School Superintendent and hoping to make some sense of the implications of deep funding cuts expected when Gov. Schwarzenegger announces his 2010 budget later this week.
Our local fish wrap (the Union-Tribune) blasted the Board in advance of the first meeting in an editorial:
Continuing its radical consolidation of power, the San Diego Unified school board majority has scheduled a special meeting today at which members are expected to take the first step toward eliminating the position of superintendent.
This would be a calamitous mistake, one that would make city schools a national laughingstock. Parents of students in San Diego Unified aren’t the only ones who should be up in arms. Everyone who cares about San Diego’s future should be alarmed.
Board members Shelia Jackson, Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans will pretend the decision to adopt an “alternative school district leadership model” is about efficiency or reform or even saving money, but no one should have any illusion about what’s going on. This is a power grab, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with improving schools and everything to do with Jackson’s, Barrera’s and Evans’ determination to destroy institutional obstacles to their micromanagement of every aspect of district operations.
There was only one small little problem with the editorial: the paper had its facts wrong. The idea for the “alternative school leadership model” under consideration was initiated by board member John de Beck, who, at last glance, was not a member in good standing of the “radical” faction that seeks to subjugate all that is good about American in collusion with the super evil teachers union.
Ooops. You can put away the pitchforks. And the Board decided, after due deliberation, that maintaining the position of Superintendent was the best option available for them.
But an untrue factoid or two won’t get in the way of the Daily Fishwrap’s campaign to save us from these bad guys. You can expect more of the same because it’s all part of their game plan.
And that leads us to our “word of the day”, boys & girls. And that word is “meme”.
The Urban Dictionary definition of meme appropriate for the U-T’s campaign against the School Board is:
a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable.
The meme that the Union-Trib’s editors would like to foist upon their readers is that public employee unions are evil and the root cause of all governmental budgetary difficulties. Amongst older types, uncomfortable with today’s internetistic lingo, this process could also be described as the “big lie” technique. Specifically, as far the local public schools are concerned, that means the San Diego Education Association, an outfit that represents about 8000 teachers locally, gets demonized at every opportunity.
Painting the SDEA with tar brush of radicalism enables the “libertarian-conservative” thinkers on the U-T’s editorial board (and their brethren nationwide) to hide their true agenda: Privatizing public education. Once you strip away all the blue smoke and mirrors, that’s what it boils down to.
The United States invests over $800 billion on education annually and, unsurprisingly, the private sector wants a piece of it. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the major market analysis by the Montgomery Securities group presented to corporations across the country, which claims that “the education industry represents the largest market opportunity” … “the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.”.
These folks are not really for charter schools, or vouchers or any of the other “education reforms” bandied about amongst the cocktail chatter at conservative confabs. It’s really about quashing the political power of teachers and their unions, who have an affinity for mobilizing voters in generally Democratic directions on issues. And a fast buck at the public’s expense.
Crush the unions, the thinking goes, and the flood gates will open for implementation of the conservative agenda. And the way to voter’s heart is through their wallet (taxes), so the SDEA and their cohorts get the blame for all the fiscal woes of the State. Never mind that many of these woes are the direct result of the unfettered greed unleashed through the deregulation of the financial sector and subsequent collapse of the economy spearheaded by these same “libertarian-conservatives”.
All of this is not meant to exempt or excuse the SDEA and its “subservient puppets” (actual descriptive words used by the U-T) on the School Board from scrutiny or criticism when it comes to the current state of affairs in our school district.
It’s in the nature of any institutional culture to defend their turf, and it’s a given that we’ll find plenty of instances where the educational needs of students are “short sheeted” as the workings of the San Diego Unified are closely examined in the next few months. But there’s a big difference between institutional inertia and the sort of institutional destruction envisioned by the right wing extremists pulling the strings in conservative circles these days.
For now, it’s best to approach potential solutions to the current crisis in education with the understanding that answers can only be found by bringing all parties to the table who believe that there is a future for public education. This means teachers, parents and the other stakeholders (like the companies that expect educated workers) need to work together. Dividing these groups by spreading disinformation, as the Union-Tribune is clearly seeking to do, only serves the purposes of those who would destroy public education.
Given that the State-wide political processes surrounding the creation of education budgets have failed in past years (We can now proudly point to California’s #47 ranking in terms of educational excellence), the best option for pushing back against this year’s likely cuts will be public actions that serve to remind our Governor and Legislature that further cuts in funding will have political consequences come election time in November.
“No mas!” is the slogan being bandied about amongst those concerned with the future of public education. No doubt the editors at our local daily will do everything in their power to intimidate or distract the public as part of their goal of turning education into a profit center as opposed to a public obligation. They need to be called out so the public understands their real agenda.
(We’ll have another story about the budget options for San Diego schools next week, after the State budget sees the light of day.)