What will the business philanthropists concerned about the education progress of our young people do about Flint?
For over 30 years, politicians and big business decided public schools were failing and nothing would do other than CEOs of huge corporations and the states take over. They told us they wanted to close the achievement gap in poor schools.
Well what about Flint’s children? If these wealthy individuals care so much, shouldn’t they be on the frontline?
Shouldn’t they be stepping up for the children who face learning disabilities—a likely outcome since they drank lead-tainted water?
Educators always tried to tell the wealthy CEOs it was the poverty holding children back—that teachers needed improved facilities and resources to do their jobs—and that poor communities needed economic help too.
But the oligarchs would have none of it. For them it was no excuses. No excuses for the teachers—no excuses for the students—and no excuses for the poor parent either.
Lead poisoning of children has always been related to poor test scores. We’ve known about dilapidated buildings like we are seeing in Detroit too. It was apparently easy to dismiss all of this in the past. Pretend it wasn’t relevant.
Now we see it on a grander scale! Now we have poisoned children and everybody knows it.
So where are the domineering voices of the CEOs now? Do they still feel the same way about education reform when they watch the nightly news?
Since all these folks implied they cared so much for the progress poor children were making, so much so they’d shut their public schools down and let the for-profits take over, what solutions do they have now?
And shouldn’t they also question themselves morally about the meaning of accountability? Why is it just teachers that have to follow the rules? Why not other state workers and elected officials?
I am not trying to be flippant here. I have written about the good I think the upper 1% could do for schools if they redirected their vision. But it takes strong people to do that and by the looks of things, it is just more of the status quo from them.
While Walmarts are shutting down in communities, leaving workers and towns in the lurch, the Walton Family Foundation is spending $1 billion on charter schools.
The Broad Foundation is spending $500 million to get children into charter schools in Los Angeles. They’ve got help from the Waltons and other rich people there too.
They claim to be well aware of the dismal reports about charter schools. But it doesn’t matter. This is where they will spend their dollars.
And Bill Gates—what will he command teachers to do by way of their remote controlled earbuds when those children arrive at schools with profound learning disabilities?
And it isn’t just the Waltons, Broads and Gateses. There’s Zuckerberg and Hastings, and every state and every city have a long list of corporate leaders who hate public schools and the teachers who work there. They want charters and choice, but most charters are not serving the children with the most difficult learning disabilities.
So don’t the reports about Flint, not to mention the other cities that sound to be in the same situation, bother the CEOs?
There are plenty of ways they could redirect their assistance and help the children of Flint and all students if they are truly concerned for the future. They could start with helping to fix the pipes. But they could focus on real public schools and the students too.
For example, today we learn that the Koch brothers are starting a new group to “revitalize civil society.” They want to take on poverty, and what a better place to start right now than Flint! Stand Together will create partnerships where they can look at serious issues like gang violence.
Perhaps they could start with the lead problem! Research indicates that lead poisoning in children can lead to violence. We know this, HERE. HERE. HERE. so why not direct resources to working with the educators in Flint and cities with lead problems around the country?
Certainly such work could reap valuable information for students in their schools.
Connect this with universities to honestly prepare teachers for the future work they will have to do with students who have learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral difficulties.
The CEOs are smart and lucky people who knew how to be successful in business. Some of them even attended public schools themselves. Surely they can figure something good to do to finally get it right for America’s poor children.
And by all that is good, that means starting with Flint.