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Out of Excuses

7 May

Well, Carl Paladino is the big winner in last night’s Buffalo School Board election. The two candidates he was backing won, and Barbara Nevergold was re-elected. I tend largely to stay out of Buffalo School issues because (a) I’m not invested in the district in any meaningful way; and (b) my own kids’ school district has its own problems relating to tea party politics, so I concentrate on that.

So, with a newfound, slim anti-Pamela Brown majority on the board, Carl Paladino is all out of excuses. By this time next year, one would expect there to be some measurable, positive changes to the district. They’ll fire Brown, bring in someone else, and own whatever happens.

The question is: what’s going to happen? When WBEN’s morning program interviewed Paladino the other day, he made much of “neighborhood schools”, the evils of busing, and expanding charters. Forty years after the federal court imposed busing on Buffalo, the city and schools remain as segregated as ever. Given Paladino’s clumsy and intolerant relationships with people who don’t resemble him, it’ll be interesting to see how his ideas shake out.

I suspect that one of Paladino’s big ideas will be de facto privatization of the public schools. When you examine his motivation for all of this – he says it’s because he cares, but this seems like an incomplete rationale, at best – it could have to do with the resulting demand that charter and new voucher-supported private schools will have for real estate.

In Clarence, we’ve got a school board candidate running who is billing himself to his friends at the Chapel at Crosspoint as the “Christian values” candidate. Richard Worling was feted Saturday morning by the local tea party anti-tax group and their mobile home park owner-benefactor. His kids go to a Christian academy in Amherst, so although he’s financially invested in the schools, he has no investment in the schools’ life, academics, faculty, or administration. The problem is that, if he’s elected, then the board will have three members who were backed by the anti-tax forces, and God help the district. These are the same people who concern-trolled the ELA curriculum just a few short weeks ago.

So, nowhere is immune from right-wing meddling and experimentation with public education. In Buffalo, failure is linked directly to poverty. In Clarence, success is under attack in the name of God and taxes.

We live in a society now where pulling money from schools is in vogue because public education is under assault from the right. It’s why congressional Republicans want to voucherize Medicare, eliminate Medicaid, privatize Social Security, and otherwise roll back the social safety net. I don’t know why people are buying into that, but it threatens to reduce the country to second-world status, if we aren’t there already. We’ll spend wildly on defense, but we reject investment in the next generation of Americans.

The time has come for Paladino to exchange divisive outraged demagoguery for leadership.

It’s a brave new world out there.

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