Committee to Defend Public Education Founded!

March 27, 2006

Earlier this month, a group of teachers and people concerned about our country's educational system got together in Chicago to initiate a new Committee to Defend Public Education (CDPE). The Committee published a founding statement and mapped out plans to publicize its program. It also took steps to get further involved in various popular struggles to defend public education.

Below, we reprint the founding statement of the CDPE.

Our public education system is in an all-sided crisis.

The government is carrying on a concerted, ongoing attack which has left our schools underfunded and overcrowded, especially those of the workers and minorities. In Illinois, some districts spend less than $4,000/pupil while others spend more than $15,000/pupil. Nationwide, our schools are in dire need of repair; more than $268 billion is needed to bring our schools' facilities into good overall condition. Class sizes commonly exceed 30 students, far surpassing the government's own recommendations for student-teacher ratio.

The government tries to cover its own criminal neglect by imposing high-stakes standardized tests. Students are blamed and punished for low scores - retained, denied High School diplomas and college admission, etc. Poor test performance is used as an excuse to slash funds and close schools in poor communities. These arbitrary tests provide justification for tracking students - some into college preparatory schools, others to vocational schools and still others into the military. High school military academies, financed by funds from the public schools, are being opened for the first time in our country's history.

The overall program of the government is to privatize the public schools. One of the main forms of privatization is charter schools - schools funded by taxpayers but run by private companies or the military. More than 3,600 charter schools are operating across the country in 40 states. Chicago's Renaissance 2010 plan calls for turning nearly 70 more of the city's public schools into charter or contract schools over six years. Privatization goes directly against equality in education. Charter schools intensify an unequal school system by taking vitally needed funds out of the general school treasury. Charters are free from public supervision and accountability. Many charter schools are used to break unions, lower wages and cut benefits.

These attacks on public education most be stopped. We say:

- NO to privatization!

- NO to underfunding!

- NO to punitive high-stakes testing!

- NO to the militarization of our youth!

The American public education system is founded on the concept of providing equal education for all. Every generation has fought to extend that system from universal grammar school to high school to college and beyond. The development of a universal education system is one of the greatest tasks our society has accomplished.

We demand equality in funding at the highest level for pre-kindergarten through university.

We demand the all-around modernization of the schools. This includes lowering class sizes, fully investing in school infrastructure, developing a curriculum of enlightenment and inquiry, and hiring more teachers and staff.

We demand that the government make all investments necessary to guarantee everyone their right to equal, high quality education.