In a January 12 article by Matthew Broulliette, CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, he describes a school where only two out of 10 students are proficient in reading and math. This may be real. We do not know. Yet, we do know that he expresses no concern as to why. He simply identifies the children as criminals and suggests only some of them are worthy to attend schools where all children are safe and have the resources needed to receive a quality education. His solution, take public tax dollars and pay private school tuition for "the worthy."
In Broulliette’s hyperbolic description of "17 minutes in a public school," the article stirs up racial and social class fears. It paints a frightful picture of schools where children’s test scores on the PSSA [Pennsylvania System System of School Assessment] are low. However, Broulliette ignores the reality that these schools are known to be under-resourced and that low student scores relate to limited income and limited opportunity. Instead, he refers to them as "centers of crime."
It is not enough that Mr. Broulliette’s language is cruel. His words also construct scary racial allusions – veiled in coded language. He paints schools where children struggle academically as places where there are "physical and sexual assaults, robberies, instances of weapons possessions and terroristic threats." In addition, he cites, more pedestrian criminal incidents such as vandalism and trespassing, "happening every 17 minutes." He refers to children "looking over their shoulders for fear of assault." His coded language does not fool us. We all know who attends these schools. Indeed, Pennsylvania newspapers have publicized our children in these demeaning ways for as long as big money has seeded the privatization PACs and given campaign funds to influence Pennsylvania legislators to grant corporate access to these children.
Reprehensively, the article is race baiting at its most disdainful. The obvious intent is to create racial fear and mistrust in an effort to convince people they need private schools so as to protect their children from wild, raging hoards of kids with dark skin. It is an egregious form of manipulation. It is the most highly destructive political tool possible. And, it is dangerous to our society.
Let us be both honest and clear. The purpose of this article is to create a climate that supports the free market exchange of our children as business commodities. It is indicative of a harsh determination to use children to make money for private investors.
Clearly, the Commonwealth Foundation did not hire Mr. Broulliette to help what he calls "underperforming schools" or to advocate for educating all children. The tone and tenor of bias in this article is not intended to defend children. It has not opposed Governor Corbett’s deep education funding cuts to the children of Pennsylvania who need resources. It does not call for equitable state funding to provide programs proven to successfully transform chaotic environments and known to increase academic achievement. There is no attempt to create a "life line" – no interest in “saving children’s lives and their futures”.
For further evidence that the Commonwealth Foundation is not organized to advocate for children, examine its website where you find its "free market" agenda. The foundation advocates for privatized liquor stores, low impact fees for the natural gas industry, and a limit to transportation funding accompanied by an increase in passenger fees, as well as expansion of charter schools, and a vouchers system. The current call is to privatize the Chester Upland School District under the guise of "choice." Is anyone surprised?
Know this. The purpose of the January 12 article is to convince Pennsylvanians to put children on the open market as commodities to be traded by companies that sell schooling as a business. The ultimate goal is to privatize all education and to remove government from the process.
There is no truth to the myth that it is best to remove government from education. There is no proof that free enterprise (private) schools provide better education or safer schools than the public system does. This has been demonstrated in study after study and all of Pennsylvania’s legislators know it.
Mr. Broulliette’s references to children are disdainful, harsh and cruel. His current tactic which amounts to racial stereotyping i.e., violent youth of color who rape and pillage – is meant to frighten and convince the public that tax payers should fund private schools. Would anyone want a group capable of spewing such bile to be in charge of children?
Mr. Broulliette, we do not believe the Commonwealth Foundation is concerned about children. We believe it is on a campaign to support, for-profit schools. Mr. Brouliette we resent your call to racial fear. The Commonwealth Foundation must stop this, for the good of children. We call on you to stop it now.
Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn is the chair of the Education Committee for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches.