State Sponsored Discrimination

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Some parents don’t know best. There. I said it. Let’s face it, some parents aren’t present, some are abusive, and some are drug addicts. Then there are those who are trying their damnedest to provide for their children but their minimum wage jobs (without benefits) just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Bottom line is, not all parents know how, or care enough to provide, the best they can for their children. Where that is the case, or, when hard working parents need a little help, it is up to all of us in a civil society, to ensure all children are safe and that their basic needs are met. As education reformer John Dewey said over a century ago, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos evidently doesn’t agree. In recent testimony to Congress, no matter what question she was asked about how far states would be allowed to go in discriminating against certain types of students, she kept deflecting to “states rights” and “parental rights,” failing to say at any point in the testimony that she would ensure states receiving federal dollars would not discriminate. From watching her testimony, if she had been the Secretary of Education with Donald Trump as President back in the early 1960s, the Alabama National Guard would undoubtedly never have been called up to integrate the schools.

This should surprise no one. After all, the entire school reform agenda is really about promoting survival of the fittest. Those who “have” and already do well, will be set up for even more success while those dealing with the challenges poverty presents, will continue to suffer. As far as Betsy DeVos is concerned, the U.S. Department of Education has no responsibility to protect students from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender identity. The hell with Brown vs. Board of Education, she will not step in to ensure states do the right thing for their students. As Jack Covey wrote recently to Diane Ravitch, to Betsy, “choice” is everything and parents should be able to send their children to a black-free, LGBT-free, or Muslim-free school on the taxpayer’s dime if they want to.

Does that EVEN sound remotely like America to you? How can it be okay for our tax dollars to promote blatant discrimination? This is essentially state-sponsored discrimination. Yes, discrimination has always occurred via self-funded choice. The wealthy have always been able to keep their children away from the rest of us but, it was on their own dime. As it has always been with parents who stretched budgets to live in neighborhoods with the “best” school district as a way to ensure their child had the best chance.

And despite some attempts to even out the inequity inherent in the system, it persists. Texas superintendent and public school advocate John Kuhn recently wrote about “a phenomenon called ‘inequitable equilibrium’ wherein states are forced by judges to adjust school spending to make it more fair but then, over time, without fail, the state legislatures pass new laws and find workarounds to return to socially acceptable maximum level of school funding inequity.” John goes on to write that, “Voters in centers of power and influence are able to ignore something as esoteric as inequity so long as it only affects relatively voiceless populations in inner cities, border towns, and fading farm towns.”

Now though, we are saying that taxpayers must pay for the right for parents to segregate their children from those they consider less desirable. Today’s narrative is “the hell with ensuring all kids have equal opportunity, you only have to care about your kid and the taxpayer will help you.” Kuhn writes about “voting majorities in Texas primaries [who] nominate candidates who are religious but not moral, who play-act as righteous representatives of the people’s hearts and values but who, in the crucible of leadership, more and more of the time reveal themselves to be really pretty bad people who are effectively incapable of moral leadership.” John may be talking about Texan candidates and lawmakers, but I’ve seen plenty of the same at the Arizona Capitol. And when he writes that Texan voters “keep electing carnival show barkers who are better at sound bites than sane decisions,” you have to admit you can recognize how that applies to Arizona voters as well. I also find myself identifying with his statement that “Governance has devolved into something like pro wrestling, but it’s school children in underfunded schools who are getting hit with folding chairs.” Of course here in Arizona, I would add that “teachers are getting hit with those folded chairs too.”

Then, as Kuhn points out, legislators require schools be graded with “uniform criteria while refusing to fund schools uniformly.” This system then ensure schools in poorer communities are branded as bad schools, driving down property values, making it harder to raise local funds for schools or attract new businesses or jobs. “Test-based school accountability combined with inequitable school funding” John says, “is state-sponsored sabotage of cities.”

It is a sign of the times I am afraid, that it is acceptable to “pick on the little guy” and to “kick a guy when he is down.” It is acceptable for those in power to decide who “wins” and who “loses” and for our nation therefore to be moving toward a caste system where many will never ever have a shot at the American Dream no matter how hard they study and work.

I’ve been streaming “The Handmaid’s Tale” and find it very disturbing. If you haven’t watched it, you should. It is a clear commentary on how accepting the previously unacceptable, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, can eventually result in horrific consequences no one would have ever believed could come to pass. Prior to the past year, it would never have crossed my mind that something like “The Handmaid’s Tale” could happen in America. Now, I’m not so sure.

12 Responses to State Sponsored Discrimination

  1. John Huppenthal

    We’ve had two race riots in Arizona schools in the last 50 years and both of them took place in highly “integrated” district schools. You make a whole series of logical errors in this post. You assume that the greater degree of numerically integrated schools will produce better race relations and racial attitudes.

    Go out and look at the survey research – smaller schools produce better racial attitudes. Nationally, these big high schools, at least the way they are currently organized, are a toxic stew – in every way. New York city has its 1.1 million students stuffed into 1500 schools. Arizona has its 1.1 million students in 2300 schools and more schools are opening by the week. Our average school size will keep falling for years to come – contrary to what you are saying that is a healthy phenomena, a very healthy phenomena.

    We can already see it in our test scores: 8th grade African Americans ranking number one in the nation in math, Hispanics ranking 11th and whites ranking 6th.

    Contrary to intuition, Arizona is one of the most urbanized states in the nation with a very large percentage of its population in two urban centers – Tucson and Phoenix. This makes us more vulnerable to the ills of modern education culture than most states – but we are defying that destiny with a plunging juvenile crime and incarceration rates.

    As a school board member or a principal, if you give into these cultural pressures for bigger and bigger schools, your school and school district will get eviscerated by the competition. Just look at Tucson Unified School district – all kinds of money but has lost 14 thousand students over the last decade and a half. That’s a good thing, not the bad thing you are espousing.

    TUSD is living proof that extra money does not produce extra results.

    • herr huppenthal many latinos school children fear deportation so try to be cautious. I remember the race riot in south phoenix in 1966 that the media tried to ignore even though people could see smoke billowing up from south phoenix. herr huppenthal not all of your enemies are good government liberal elitists like the ones who post here. who want to be reasonable with the unreasonable. us (non ignorant) white trash democrats, lefties and militant latinos want our revenge and will come for sun city, fountain hills and paranoia valley soon. every day another 100 latinos turn 18 voting age in arizona. revenge is a dish best eaten cold. the establishment democrats may try and foist some rich old white fred duval clone on us again to protect themselves but we are taking over the arizona democratic party slowly but surely.

  2. I’m just curious, Linda:

    Would you support a state constitutional amendment prohibiting the funding of schools through local property taxes?

    On the one hand, bond projects and local overrides give the people living in the district some direct control and oversight on the level of funding for their district. But on the other hand, it exacerbates inequality where school districts’ budgets are tied to local property tax values and takes political pressure off of legislators to make sure that funding is at acceptable levels in those districts, To the extent that wealthier districts are able and willing to ‘go it alone’ through local taxation, that makes it harder for less wealthy district to get the political pressure necessary to force state-level change.

    Both sides certainly have their merits, at least on the face; I am curious if you’ve given this topic thought.

  3. in arizona the voters have been unimpressed with the democratic alternative since janet neopolitano pissed the voters off with her photo-radar revenue scheme. the voters think democrats will pull any scheme to get money for their agenda’s. 2018 will be no different ;but you think it will by yelling putin collusion russia. the voters of arizona are not impressed. despite all they have hope in trump and none in you. the democratic party in a lawsuit in florida filed by bernie supporters said they are a private corporation and can decide who the nominee is not the primary voters. in bye elections clinton candidate for congress have been supported with money by the party, sanders candidates have not. clean house before you ask for votes. sanders was given minor position in senate not because they wanted too ;but because they had too. this is to explain why liberal elitist whinning falls on the voters death ears. they trust you less then they trust trump. in latest poll if 2016 election were held today trump 43% clinton 40%. you have lost support since the election by continually yelling collusion.

    • Oh my gosh censored, what alternate universe are you in?

      • linda I live in the universe that controls arizona. I listen to what they have to say. mostly white but even half the blacks and latino’s I talk to can’t stand liberal elitists like clinton. the alternative universe is the one you live in as is proved every election in arizona. this may shock you but even many minorities I talked to some on food stamps disliked clinton and were willing to give trump a chance. remember many find older clintonistas insufferable. sorry donna. as a (non ignorant) southern white trash democrat though I am part native american. I want to win and take over arizona to stop the carnage here that I see. that is the universe I live in!

        • Hi censored. Understand. But, just so you know, those who control Arizona, or even those who vote for them, aren’t the majority of Arizonans.

          • if the so called majority you talk about are not inspired to vote democrat what does it matter linda? I complain here all the time we must give the latino voters in arizona something to vote for and yelling putin, collusion and russia isn’t it!

        • For Sure Not Tom

          Hey Captain, you’re not wrong, but some of that Clinton hate was caused by the Trump/Russia thing that you complain we all giving too much time.

          The Russian’s mainly targeted conservatives, but they flooded social media with fake stories about Clinton to liberals and independents, too.

          A Russian sock puppet posts fake news, a thousand other sock puppets “Like” it, sending it to the top of the social media sites. Then people start thinking it must be true because it’s “popular” and share it with a million friends.

          The Russian’s went after everyone, using tactics created by Google and Facebook.

          I don’t think that’s widely reported yet, everyone is so focused on Trump.

          Clinton did the same thing to Bernie, her campaign spent a million at the end of the primary on social media trolls to knock Sanders, but not on the same scale as Russia.

          She’s still Hillary Wall Street Kissinger to me, but I don’t think she murders her enemies or rapes children in pizza parlor basements or has Satanic Lesbian Cannibal Sex Parties.

          You complain that we spend too much time on Trump and Russia, but we’re going to keep getting Clinton’s and Trump’s because those folks you talked to are not getting real news, and the Russian’s/GOP/DNC are learning what worked.

  4. This has been the agenda of the Religious Right since the advent of the ‘Religious Right’ in the early 70’s; it was all about fighting integration and maintaining white supremacy.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133