On the Eve of a Teachers Agreement

According to news reports, the Springboro Education Association is currently holding a vote between the 300-some teachers they represent to adopt the changes to the contract, as recommended by their negotiation team. Given their approval, the Board of Education will vote on adopting the proposed changes in a special meeting scheduled for tomorrow evening. While many parents and local residents will no doubt consider this a win compared to a strike and the loss of additional staff, I can’t help but feel like this is one small step for Springboro schools, and one giant leap for the privatization of public education.

To understand this giant leap, one needs only to start at the top. According to the ERIN Project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given over $37 billion to organizations that support school choice, followed by the William H. Kellogg Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, each of which has given over $7B, $6B, and $5B respectively. Michelle Rhee, the controversial ex-chancellor of D.C. public schools and the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.org, reportedly earned generous contributions from those same organizations to support school choice in small towns across the nation.

The policies of Michelle Rhee’s Students First agenda has already impacted Ohio legislation. We are one of two states with controversial Parent Trigger laws which enable residents to recommend that an under-performing school be converted to a charter school. Governor John Kasich’s education plan has been reported to drastically overhaul school funding, lowering the amount of support for many of our school districts while increasing funding to private charter schools. Each of these changes that are outlined in the agenda should be quite familiar with Springboro parents, as the changes proposed by the School Board follow its policies to the letter.

If by the grace of their negotiators our teachers reach an agreement with the board, the victory of Springboro United for Responsible Education along with the support of local parents and residents will be short lived; for as true as it is that money drives our political system, school choice is coming to our community. We can either accept the concessions given to our teachers as a small victory in a much larger war, or we take this opportunity to build on our unity and create a 21st Century Citizen Action Committee (as per the recent request of our student alumni as it appeared on Change.org).

The addition of the “21st Century” wasn’t entirely my doing, as both the Board and the community has added this moniker to their own descriptions of education and the changes they wish to see in our school system. A 21st Century Citizen Action Committee isn’t limited to the few who show up, it’s open to every tax paying member of the community. In the vein of the Board’s Transparency Project, a 21st c. committee could vote for changes or add their own, form groups and act in unison just like on Facebook. It’s what we’ve come to expect of every other aspect of our lives, and it’s time to change this on a local level, starting with our schools.

I wish our teacher’s all the best and look forward to the 21st century!

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