Powerhouse letter to the editor coming from a Lafayette superintendent....even my 10th graders back in World Civ learned how to "follow the money"
The perfect storm is upon us.
The Indiana Legislature has created an environment that, in time, will result in teacher shortages, drive teachers and administrators to flee schools with high poverty and possibly the state, and leave schools struggling to fund programs that provide educational opportunities to public students while the state uses tax dollars to subsidize children in private schools.
This has been the result of a well-funded corporate and political assault on public education. It is instructive to follow the advice of Deep Throat in "All the President's Men" and follow the money!
In July, Don Whittinghill wrote an article for the Louisiana School Boards Association detailing some of the involvement of hedge fund managers and other corporate investors in the charter school and privatization movement. The article titled "Follow the Charter Dollars" can be found at www.lsba.com and is illuminating and disturbing.
A May 9, 2010, New York Times article reported that "a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds (has become) charter schools." The article goes on to provide the following example of their involvement in New York: Hedge fund managers "have been contributing generously to lawmakers in hopes of creating a friendlier climate for charter schools.
"More immediately, they have raised a multimillion-dollar war chest to lobby this month for a bill to raise the maximum number of charter schools statewide ... ." A Google search of hedge fund and charter schools yields 1,530,000 hits. Why would billionaires and hedge fund managers be interested in charter schools and privatization?
In a May 7 New York Daily News column, Juan Gonzalez explained how the new markets tax credit program established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects in economically depressed communities is being used by banks and private equity firms to make large sums of money by creating charter schools.
The new markets tax credit provides a 39 percent tax credit over a seven-year period, which Gonzalez contends results in investors nearly being able to double their investment during that period.
Hedge fund managers have spent millions of dollars on promoting charter schools. The intent of these managers is to make money, not improve the plight of children. It has been reported that some private companies establish a nonprofit school then use a for-profit affiliate to buy school buildings and charge the school rent, which is a substantial portion of the school's overall budget.
Profit is made at the expense of students and teachers.
This is at best a distortion of the intent of the new markets tax credit program. If Congress was looking for a tax loophole to close, using the new market tax credit for charter schools would be an excellent candidate. I do not believe greed is a good replacement for the commitment, competence and compassion of a teacher. If you care about children, you have a duty to become informed and involved.
If you are a member of the fourth estate, you have a duty to be an independent watchdog that serves the public interest by investigating and reporting, not merely passing along corporate positions.
If you are a teacher, hold on to the belief that there are millions of people thankful for the role you have played in their life and support you.
The perfect storm is upon us. I'm afraid our children might become lost in the storm. They deserve better. For the sake of our children, I can only hope public education survives the storm and continues to serve as a beacon of promise and opportunity.
Eiler is superintendent of Lafayette schools.