Bruce Dixon, the managing editor of The Black Agenda Report, has been consistently insightful about the danger of the privatization of education. His reports for The Black Commentator were instrumental more than a decade ago in exposing the far-right agenda of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which funded the astro-turf Black Alliance for Education Options to promote vouchers beyond Cleveland and Milwaukee.
Dixon’s stunning new profile of Paul Vallas is no exception to his tradition of quality reporting. Dixon follows Vallas from 1995, when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Vallas, a non-educator who was then Daley’s chief of staff, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools to implement corporate school “reform.” Dixon tracks Vallas’s work to bring corporate-portfolio style school reform to Philadelphia, then to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, then to Haiti, and finally to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Vallas was ousted because he had never earned a school administrator’s credential, a state requirement for school superintendents in Connecticut. Now Vallas is Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn’s choice to run for Lieutenant Governor in the upcoming 2014 November election.
Dixon writes: “Democrat Paul Vallas has spent the last two decades dismembering and dismantling public schools, lying about deficits, unjustly blaming and firing public school teachers across the country… If neoliberalism is the economic and social doctrine that all human interactions ought to be disciplined and mediated by the market, then Paul Vallas is the neoliberal chainsaw man on public education.”
Corporate education “reform” replaces locally elected school boards with mayoral control, silences the voices of parents who have fought school closures, and quashes the voices of teachers who have protested such top-down, test-and-punish policies. Dixon reminds us that leadership to undermine the public in public education has become bipartisan: “We should never forget that the idea that all children in a society deserve quality education is historically a new and revolutionary idea. Even more revolutionary is the notion that students, parents, communities and teachers ought to design and control every aspect of those educational processes. There is a struggle of historic proportions going on over the question of education, and ultimately all of us will have to take a side. Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, Michelle Rhee, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and Chainsaw Paul Vallas are on one side. What side are we on?”