Joe Angland: What’s Behind the Attacks on our Public Schools?
Joe Angland wrote a letter to the editor of the Connecticut Examiner asks who was behind an earlier protest against “indoctrination” of students.
Attacks on public schools are not new. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education provided the perfect opportunity to turn some white Americans against their public schools. Rather than be forced to integrate, Virginia led eleven southern states in a policy of “massive resistance” organized by their U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. They passed laws requiring public schools to shut down to avoid integration, and offered tax-funded tuition grants to allow white parents to send their children to private schools instead. For example, in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the Board of Supervisors padlocked every public school. While the white students were sent to new private schools, the 1,800 Black children remained without schools from 1959-1964, when a federal court finally intervened. As explained in Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, the key to the strategy was undermining the public’s trust in the existing system.
Fast forward to 2022 and the same strategy is in play. Conservative commentator Christopher Rufo outlined the plan: “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.” And what better way to subvert trust in a system that benefits all than by defunding public schools, and then attacking them as “failing”?
Our legislators Kimberly Fiorello and Ryan Fazio, both of whom sit on the Education Committee (yet have no children in the public school system), have repeatedly used their position to defund public schools in favor of school choice voucher programs. Their votes against the public school system earned Fiorello the lowest scores of the entire House and Fazio the second lowest score in the Senate from the Connecticut Education Association. Meanwhile, their attacks on our public schools are causing real damage.