|Clean Up Your Act Teachers or You're Out! (Image from Flickr, by emilydickensonridesabmx)|
The Great Recession has been officially over for more than three years, but the plunder of the public sector and middle class wealth continues. According to the Department of Labor, more than 13,000 public sector workers were laid off in December, more than 11,000 of whom were teachers or other school employees (see WSWS).
This is unusual. Typically, teacher layoff notices go out in February or March in anticipation of coming budget shortfalls, giving teachers the summer to look for work (or to be rehired, as often occurs when revenue picks up). Mid-year layoffs are an indication just how desperate many school districts are, with states continuing to have large deficits and the feds continuing to do nothing about it.
Indeed, by ignoring the problem, state and federal governments facilitate the deterioration of public education, making it easier to argue that it is broken beyond repair, or that it can only be repaired through privatization. Since 2008, the private sector has hired about 725,000 new workers, while the public sector has lost almost the same number of jobs (again, see WSWS)—a statistic that is largely due to the divestment of tax dollars from the public sector. Obama, despite receiving early endorsements and massive support from the NEA and AFT, has made no indication that he intends to help struggling school districts.
Many cities are shuttering their schools and selling off their facilities or the operation of their schools to private for-profit education management organizations (EMOs). According to the WSWS, Philadelphia plans to close 36 schools. Detroit has closed dozens of schools over the past few years, with former financial manager Robert Bobb attempting to close half the city’s schools in 2011. Many of the closed schools were sold or rented to private charter school operators. Recently, secret leaked documents revealed that Chicago has been planning to close or consolidate as many as 95 schools, with many of them going to private charter operators. New Orleans already has 70% of its students attending charter schools.
As schools close and teachers are let go, the teachers unions lose members and strength, something they seem unwilling or unable to fight. In fact, the social contract union leaders have made with the bosses to keep their members on the job at all costs (not to mention the no-strike clauses in many of their contracts and state prohibitions against public sector strikes) has effectively stymied the unions and is leading to their own downfall. The laid off teachers, however, are free to sell their labor to the highest bidder—Increasingly nonunionized private charter school operators that pay less and require far more work than the traditional public schools.