Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Majority Of US Public School Students Live In Poverty

According to a recently released report by the Southern Education Foundation, a majority of public school students live in poverty.

I just want you to let that sink in for a minute. 

In just 60 years, the span of a lifetime, our nation has gone from one that had created the largest, most prosperous middle class in the history of the world to one in which one of every two children has to worry about food, clothing, and shelter. It's not schools that are failing: it's the economy.

We've unleashed an economic doomsday machine upon the middle class in the form of neoliberal economic policies; policies that have re-distributed wealth from the middle class to the wealthy, and those that have profited the most from its demise, billionaires like Bill Gates, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers, men and women who fancy themselves education "reformers," are blaming our schools for the destruction their economy has wrought. They cravenly claim they're champions for the poor, even calling their cynical venture philanthropy a "civil rights movement" and accusing those of us calling them out on their chicanery "racists."

This past weekend, many of us celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day by listening to all or parts of his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, an inspirational highlight of a genuine civil rights movement, one that lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What many of us don't know about King, and what billionaires don't want us to know, is that in the years leading up to his assassination in 1968, he had turned his attention to what he considered to be even greater social causes: peace and poverty.

King saw this neoliberal doomsday machine for what it was, probably because they started by testing it out on people of color, people who were already poor. Now, for the first time in history, most of the children in our public schools are poor, and the billionaires are telling us to look the other way. They are telling us that our economy is failing us because our schools are failing us, blaming teachers, blaming unions, blaming the poor themselves. Meanwhile their machine continues to devour the middle class, and indeed, the entire planet. As Bill Clinton might say, it's the poverty, stupid.

It's happened in the span of a lifetime. It happened in the span of my lifetime and I feel ashamed, which is why I'm using the years I have left to do what I can.

I'll leave you with two minutes from the television program Frontline featuring rare footage of Dr. King talking about economic justice. This is the King the billionaires don't want you to see.

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