Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
by Nancy MacLean
The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time
by Gordon Lafer
Two recent books—Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America and Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time—seek to explain several puzzling aspects of American politics today. Why do people of modest means who depend on government-funded health care and Social Security or other supplements to their income continue to vote for candidates who promise to privatize or get rid of those very programs? Why do people who are poor vote for politicians who promise to cut corporate taxes?
At present, proponents of school choice have the upper hand because they are backed by some of the nation’s richest people, whose campaign donations give them an outsize voice in shaping public policy. The issue that the American public must resolve in local and state as well as national elections is whether voters will preserve and protect the public school system, or allow it to be raided and controlled by the one percent and financial elites.
Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph
by Kristina Rizga
In recent years, American public education has been swamped by bad ideas and policies. Our national leaders, most of whom were educated at elite universities and should know better, have turned our most important domestic duty into a quest for higher scores on standardized tests.
One of the most difficult issues of the pandemic is when and how schools should reopen. Among the ironies of the situation is that parents who are sick of distance learning are now willing to bear it as long as necessary to keep their children safe. Second, Betsy DeVos—an evangelist for distance learning who praised it at her confirmation hearings in 2017—is now demanding a return to brick-and-mortar schools. Third, the Trump administration, which scorned public schools, now sees them as essential for the lives of children, as well as the economy. And the situation is made even more challenging because the Trump administration has politicized decision-making and even the CDC itself.
Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget for the US Department of Education is a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students. They want to cut federal spending on education by 13.6 percent. Some programs would be eliminated completely; others would face deep reductions. They want to cut $10.6 billion from existing programs and divert $1.4 billion to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools. This budget reflects Trump and DeVos’s deep hostility to public education and their desire to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely.
Fifty years ago, Congress passed a federal education law to help poor children get a good public education. As the House and the Senate now debate a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, it is crucial to understand the law’s origins and how it has evolved over time.
Last week’s court ruling against job protections for California school teachers has distracted us from the genuine inequalities that harm minority children. It does not address the dire overcrowding of classes or the lack of resources for basic needs, including libraries, counselors, after-school programs, and nurses. Nor does it address segregation or poverty— root causes of poor academic performance.