Next U.S. Secretary of Education Will Continue to Promote Charter Schools

There is a 100% chance that the next U.S. Secretary of Education will, like many previous secretaries of education, continue to promote privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools and keep undermining the right to education. ((Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr., both former U.S. secretaries of education and both staunch supporters of privately-operated charter schools, have praised Biden’s victory. Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also congratulated Biden. See Education Week, Novmber 7, 2020.))  Both Democrats and Republicans have long supported segregated charter schools—in Congress and at the state and local levels. The rich and their entourage are not going to take any actions that undercut their own narrow private interests to use the state to funnel more public funds into their pockets. Charter schools have been effective pay-the-rich schemes for decades and they are not about to be abandoned by the rich and their representatives. This is especially true in the context of a continually failing economy—an economy that cannot meet the needs of the people and is in need of a new aim and direction.

No doubt many will once again experience amnesia and harbor illusions about “change for the better” and “picking a ‘good’ secretary of education this time.” “Just maybe this time we can get the ‘right’ person in there, maybe even a teacher,” is what many are wishing. While bidding farewell to billionaire Betsy DeVos may bring much-needed relief to many, it won’t fundamentally change anything. Some of this is partially reminiscent of “Obama-mania,” which disappeared as fast as it came. Reality always eventually sets in and people realize sooner or later that they still remain disempowered and no major problems have been solved. The rude awakening eventually arrives. Within this, focusing on individual personalities in the most decontextualized and ahistorical way has long been part of the illusions, amnesia, and false hope accompanying significant events like presidential elections.

The stubborn and tragic tendency to ignore experience and reject theory and analysis has always been strong in the U.S. This is not unusual given the anti-consciousness, disinformation, and cultural aggression confronting people daily, which is why making a complete break with the old conscience is so critical. Carrying on in the old way will not open the path of progress to society, it will not bring relief. Things will actually continue to worsen.

To avoid deeper retrogression, a new politics, thinking, aim, outlook, and direction are needed. A much different political culture must be cultivated, one where the people are not disgracefully reduced to constantly begging politicians who are part of an outdated electoral system that effectively marginalizes people. Carrying on as if the existing set-up offers a way out of the crisis will only result in more violence against the polity; it won’t affirm people’s rights or solve any problems. The old liberal institutions of governance have been defunct for years and cannot offer a way forward.

Instead of lapsing back into the same old ineffective and exhausting pattern of “pressuring politicians” people can strengthen the emerging trend of boldly speaking up in their own name and demanding a new future through the creation of new social and cultural forms of struggle that do not abandon action with analysis. Immunity to analysis and fidelity to an outdated political system must be overcome.

With more charter schools on the horizon, teacher unions, public-interest advocates, public school advocates, and others will have to rethink strategies, forms, analyses, and actions so as to more effectively oppose school privatization, which has lowered the level of education and harmed society, the economy, and the national interest. In the coming days there will be much noise, grandstanding, platitudes, and diversion about who will fill cabinet positions. Many will get ensnared in this circus. Working people should reject all of this and set their own agenda based on a vision that favors their interests. They should reject the pressure to get embroiled in the political pyrotechnics of the rich. There is an alternative to the socially irresponsible and unsustainable path being laid by the rich and their political and media representatives.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.