There’s No Democracy without Public Education

Have You Heard talks with legal scholar Derek Black about his new book Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. Despite the title (not to mention the charred pencil imagery) this is a deeply optimistic book. That’s because as Black immersed himself in a people’s history of the post-civil war years, he encountered a commitment to public education that astonished and inspired him. Public education, argues Black, is as central to American democracy as the right to vote.

Complete transcript of the episode is here. The financial support of listeners like you keeps this podcast going. Subscribe on Patreon or donate on PayPal.

Jennifer and Jack’s forthcoming book, A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, will be out on November 17 and is now available for pre-order.

Don’t Mess with Texas’ Schools

Have You Heard heads to fast-growing north Texas for a first-hand look at how support for public education is upending the state’s politics. Spoiler: GOP candidates are scrambling to paint themselves as lovers of public schools and their teachers. But does their new-found love translate into actual policy? And will former GOP voters who prize public education end up changing the way they vote?  Part of our series on education and politics in 2020, this episode captures a trend with major implications for Texas and beyond. Transcript available here.

And if you like what you hear, consider supporting Have You Heard on Patreon. The financial support of listeners like you keeps this podcast going and enables us to hit the road to do original reporting.

How Closing Schools Undermines Democracy

In  2013, a PhD student named Sally Nuamah attended a community meeting in the Chicago neighborhood where she’d grown up and where a public school was slated for closure. Residents talked about the issue in “life or death” terms, recalls Nuamah, who has been studying the long-term impact of the school closures. In this episode, Have You Heard talks to Nuamah about one such impact: a decline in voter participation and support for Democrats. Why would shuttering schools cause a drop in political engagement? And why would local residents fight so hard to keep open schools that, according to many metrics, were failing?Well, you’ll just have to listen and find out! To learn more about Nuamah’s work, visit her website. A full transcript of the episode is now available.

You’re Fired!

The idea that schools can be fixed by firing teachers has become a fixation. In this episode of Have You Heard, Jack Schneider and I discuss the origins of the idea, which he has helpfully distilled here in this amazing graphic. We hear from three Boston teachers whose schools are about to be turned upside down, the lives of their immigrant students made even more chaotic in these unsettled times. As scholar Tina Trujillo explains, the turn-and-churn model of school reform reflects a larger erosion of the idea that public education is public good. Be sure to listen to the very end of the episode (or skip down to the bottom of the transcript below), where we announce our guest for episode #3. Fine, I’ll give you a hint. She was in the running to be Secretary of Education… If you have a question you want us to ask her, flag us on Twitter at @BisforBerkshire or @edu_historian, or leave a comment here. And if you missed episode #1 of this season, Vouchers: a Love Story, you can catch it on Soundcloud, or iTunes.

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The Plutocrat’s Lament

Writer Joanne Barkan argues that for plutocrats like Bill Gates, democracy is a nuisance…

gates-billionaire.jpg (400×266)Jennifer Berkshire: You’re the author of a recent case study on what you call Bill Gates’ *charitable plutocracy,* his years’ long, and many millions-ed campaign to bring charter schools to Washington State. In the interest of the data to which Gates himself is so committed, can you reduce your argument down to a series of numbers? Oh, and please speak in bullet points.

Joanne Barkan:

  • Number of years required to pass a charter school enabling law in Washington State: 17 (1995-2012).
  • Number of statewide ballot initiatives required: 4 (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012).
  • Total dollars spent by charter school supporters in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $18.7 million. (Practically no money was spent by either side in 1996.)
  • Total dollars spent by charter school opponents in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $2.04 million.
  • Money spent by the Gates Foundation *to give public charter schools in Washington State a strong start* in 2013-2015: $31 million.

And a few other data points your readers might be interested in:

  • Net worth of Bill Gates in 2015: $76 billion
  • Assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016: $44.3 billion.
  • Total receipts of the National Education Association in 2015: $388.8 million.
  • Total receipts of the American Federation of Teachers in 2015: $327.6 million.
  • Average salary of an elementary public school teacher in Washington state (except in special education) in 2015: $60,140.

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