K-12 public education, one of the most fundamental cornerstones of a democratic society, is under direct attack. Privatization forces are seeking to profit from public education by setting up charter schools that generate profits. At the same time, state legislators are starving public education of adequate funding, driving down the quality of schooling and creating a false perception that public schools provide subpar education.
For-profit testing companies have pushed governments to impose mandatory testing that provides them with significant revenue. High stakes testing pressures teachers and administrators to “teach to the test” or risk financial ruin and puts emotional and psychological pressure on students who are forced to endure tests rather than receiving a comprehensive education. Standardized testing does not measure educational quality.
Communities of color who have long been underserved by the public education system have become pawns in the privatization debate. An outcome of charters has been to roll back the gains of the civil rights movement and impose racially and economically-based segregation. Data consistently shows that neighborhood schools outperform charter schools.
The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title I funding would redistribute funds from poor schools to schools of choice, charters and private. The plan also drastically reduces the funding from Title II which is designed for teacher development and class size reduction. The Republican plan to cut Medicaid risks the availability of screenings and therapies currently provided to low-income and special education students.
Higher education is also under a privatization attack. Neoliberal reformers are conducting sweeping corporate audits of universities and imposing profit-based models onto higher education. Professors are under tremendous pressure to bring funding into the university, rather than focusing on doing good academic work that will benefit the greater society. The labor protections that professors fought hard to achieve through the tenure system are under threat of being dismantled.
Graduate and undergraduate education is also under threat. State legislators are starving public universities of funding which is pushing the cost of higher education onto the backs of individual students and their families, while university costs have continued to rise due to top-heavy, corporate-style administration. 44.2 million Americans are crippled by student loan debt. Overall student debt is now over $1.3 trillion. Direct Subsidized Loan rates are increasing from 3.76 percent in 2016-17 to 4.45 percent in 2017-18. Inflation adjusted costs of a 4-year undergraduate education have increased 151 percent for a public school education since 1978. For recent college graduates, the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent (as compared to 4.3 percent in 2000) and underemployment is close to 12 percent. It’s no surprise that 11.2 percent of student loans are delinquent or in default. Graduate student loan debt makes up 40 percent of the $1 trillion total debt, with the average of Masters in Education, Science, and Arts being over $50,000 while more and more PhDs are increasingly finding themselves pushed into low wage and contingent adjunct positions. The Trump administration is now proposing an end to subsidizing the interest on student loans, which would raise the cost of college and most negatively affect low-income students.
Public education is facing a crisis perpetuated by testing entities and charter schools that seek to profit off our children's futures. Public schools should be adequately funded with full-time unionized and tenure-protected educators.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION:
- Demands Congress:
- Put a moratorium on all student loan defaults, introduce default forgiveness and implement measures so that loans can be repaid at no more than 10 percent of annual income;
- Keep funding for Title II intended for professional development, mentoring programs, and class size reduction;
- Reduce student loan interest rates to the same rate available for banking entities and mandate that interest will not be accrued until after graduation;
- Amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in order to ensure access to information that enables all graduate students to organize;
- Demands the U.S. Department of Education:
- Immediately allow borrowers who attended institutions that misled students or committed fraud to seek loan forgiveness;
- Eliminate all high stakes testing;
- Bar the use of taxpayer funded voucher programs that siphon public funds from public schools and funnel them to private and charter schools;
- Expand the number of lower-income occupations that are eligible for student loan forgiveness;
- Encourages regions and locals to actively lobby state legislatures to:
- Fully fund public education;
- Preserve tenure systems, and ensure that adjunct receive compensation proportional to full-time faculty;
- Disconnect educational funding from property taxation to address economic and racial segregation;
- Supports all campaigns that advocate universal access to free higher education.