Plutocratic messianism and public education

Janet Reitman’s Rolling Stone essay on Betsy DeVos explains how Christians and billionaires have created a racket that operates under the fiction of public education. One of those consortium, the Council for National Policy, hides Christian policy behind its bloodless moniker. Some of the material uncovered:

As a candidate, Trump suggested diverting $20 billion in federal money toward private-school vouchers. School choice, he said, was the “civil rights issue of our time.” But mass privatization is about more than improving test scores, as was made clear in a report the Council for National Policy submitted to the Trump administration. Though CNP’s membership is closely held, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently obtained a copy of its 2014 roster. Betsy DeVos’ name didn’t appear on it, but her mother was on CNP’s board of governors and listed among its “Gold Circle Members.” The CNP’s view on education, as outlined in the report, is based on the definition in the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary: “To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, it is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable.”

The rest of the five-page document outlines a radical vision for the Department of Education, the first step of which would be to eliminate it, transferring responsibility for public-school education to the states. In its place, the CNP suggests creating a “President’s Advisory Council on Public Education Reform,” a sub-Cabinet-level department that would serve as a “consulting service” to state education departments. Among the other recommendations: Restore Ten Commandments posters at all public schools, encourage schools to “recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage,” and implement Bible classes. The authors advocate a “gradual, voluntary” approach to promoting “free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice.” But, they add elsewhere, “It is not unreasonable to believe that many state officials will be emboldened for change along those lines when the Trump administration is fully in place.”

I refer my readers to my home state, where former governor and former Donald Trump punching bag Jeb Bush evangelized about them in the late nineties. A bill in the Florida Senate would require school districts to “share” tax dollars with charter schools. Well. “Of state capital aid this year to K-12 public schools,” The Miami Herald reports, “$75 million went to the state’s 650 charter schools and the other $75 million was divided among about 3,600 traditional public schools.” Public money goes to institutions like Academica, among the most profitable of charter school companies, that are under investigation for enrolling in one school year five black and four Asian  out of 475 students at one of their Miami schools (full disclosure: I’ve got relatives who attend this school). Public money in the form of tax credits and grants allows an entity like Academica to charge us usurious amounts in leases, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that charter schools exist as real estate schemes subsidies by taxpayers and whose educational promises aren’t much better than the local public school.

Add a dash of religious lunacy and the result is a nexus unlike anything seen in the civilized world: plutocratic messianism, with Christ as revered dead CEO.

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