Friday, July 29, 2016

In Philadelphia, Progressive Education Organizers Fight ‘Disaster Capitalism’ - Working In These Times

In Philadelphia, Progressive Education Organizers Fight ‘Disaster Capitalism’ - Working In These Times:

In Philadelphia, Progressive Education Organizers Fight ‘Disaster Capitalism’


This week, Democrats descended upon the city of Philadelphia, attempting to present themselves as simultaneously progressive enough to be the party of racial, gender, and economic justice, but conservative enough to be welcoming to Republicans turned off by Donald Trump.
In a succinct illustration of some of the contradictions at play during the Democratic National Convention, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, the former governor of a Right-to-Work state, spoke proudly of his dad running a union shop. While K-12 public education hasn’t played a prominent role in the primetime speeches this week, it’s another thorny issue for a Democratic party struggling to appeal to unions while also advancing a neoliberal education reform agenda.
The battle over public education is, in large part, a battle over labor, and there’s no better illustration of that than Philadelphia. In 2013, the city’s School Reform Commission (which is appointed, not elected) closed roughly 10 percent of the city's schools, laid off almost 4,000 teachers and other school staff and, in 2014, terminated the teachers' contract to save on health insurance costs. They remain without a contract to this day.
“The union has been under very sharp assault,” says Ron Whitehorne, a retired teacher and organizer with the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).
In the years since the closures, Philadelphia teachers, parents and other public school advocates have been organizing.
“Organizing will help us provide a counter-narrative to shift the paradigm in the nation of how people view public education in our daily lives,” says Ismael Jimenez, a history teacher and member of Working Educators, the progressive caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. To him, what’s happening in Philadelphia is illustrative of the attacks on education going on all over the country, including within the Democratic Party.
“I believe organizing is the only real political tool we have today to combat this two-party system that is beholden to neoliberal interests,” he said.
Jimenez was disappointed that the DNC held up Cory Booker, an advocate of the so-called education reform movement, which promotes public school closures and cheers charter schools, which are often non-union.
“This is a designed, planned strategy against labor,” said Antoine Little Sr., a public school parent and union member of the In Philadelphia, Progressive Education Organizers Fight ‘Disaster Capitalism’ - Working In These Times:


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