Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Politics of disaster in Destroit

Teachers have to donate $10K/year to district

The new contract in Motown, engineered by district takeover chief, Robert Bobb, balances the school budget entirely on the backs of city teachers and school staff. Under the deal, teachers, school counselors and other staff had little choice but to defer $10,000 each in pay over the next two years to help the district pay its bills. (WSJ)

Without a major relief plan--better and bigger than the one in New Orleans--Detroit schools are headed the way of the auto industry. The city's unemployment rate is now up over 50%. The tax base for public education has withered. Administrators, politicians and the press feign shock at falling student test scores. This has made the city ripe for privately managed charters, school closings, union-busting and selling off public assets for quick cash.

Disaster Capitalism
"Most New orleans schools are in ruins as are the homes of the children who attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system."--Milton Friedman, "The Promise of Vouchers" Wall Street Journal, 12/5/2005.
Naomi Klein, in her book, Shock Doctrine, documents the imposition of top-down "reforms" including the erosion of public space and decision making, in times of crisis. The post 9/11 "war on terror" and New Orleans, post-Katrina school privatization were prime examples. The reorganization of post-industrial Detroit is another. Klein quotes the late free-market economist Milton Friedman who saw Katrina, not as a horrible disaster, but as an "opportunity."

Back in 1982, Friedman wrote: "Ideas are alternatives waiting on a crisis to serve as the catalyst for change." His model for eliminating public space and decision-making, according to Klein, was "to legitimize ideas, to make them bearable, and worth trying when the opportunity comes."

Now Edweek quotes Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan:
"When times are tough, you often have the kind of fundamental breakthroughs you need...You’ve seen some folks do some unbelievably creative things and really using the crisis as an opportunity."

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