Public education in American is characterized by

Causes and the way forward » pa

teacherscropThe winning of universal publicly funded education is one of our nation's great achievements. Public education has provided a road out of poverty for millions of workers and their children. It has also created a literate working class with the tools to organize to end exploitation and build a system that puts people before profits.

Now public education is under attack. Severe budget cuts resulting in cuts in programs, teaching and other personnel and material resources have become the norm in recent years. The attack is disguised with progressive sounding phrases such as "improving failing schools" and overcoming the "achievement gap." But this current wave of "reform" threatens to dismantle our schools for the greater profit of finance capital and to the detriment of our children and our nation. This is the Hidden agenda of the so-called reform movement.

The crisis of education is taking place within the larger crisis of capitalism. This larger crisis is characterized by global economic stagnation, the increasing power of finance capital, and the growing monopolization, or centralization of capital, here and abroad. Capitalism's inherent drive to constantly increase its profits and ramp up the rate of exploitation has led to an assault on public institutions as monopoly finance capital tries to bend the public sector to its profit generating goals, undermining our democracy and our quality of life in the process.

We in the US spend $500 billion a year on education at the federal, state and local levels. While teachers, parents and students look at our schools and too often see under funded, understaffed and struggling institutions, finance capital sees profits to be made. This privatization and corruption of our public institutions has a sharp racist edge with the most severe blows aimed at working class communities, especially communities of color.

Education: Historic Arena of Struggle:

Universal education was not easily won in our country. The first free compulsory education was won by unions as part of labor's fight to end child labor. Newly freed African Americans struggled to win the first public schools in the South during Reconstruction. Education continues to have a special place in the American narrative and continues to be a cornerstone of democratic thought. Our proud achievement is now in danger because capitalists no longer see a need to educate millions through a free public education system.

In fact, the benefits of public education have never been equitably distributed in our country. Reliance on local funding sources, primarily property taxes, has meant that wealthier, more affluent communities provide better equipped and staffed schools. Having said this, we should hasten to add that many schools in working class or poor communities, now branded as "failing", have historically provided a stable and essential institution in those communities.

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