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Welcome to the second edition of Bad Bill Day. I could easily write one of these every day, because when the NC legislature is in session, they will reliably chug out at least one bad bill for every day that they meet. There are so many, past and present, that it’s hard to choose, but today let’s focus on House Bill 1032, or the Academic Transparency Bill.

This bill is another in a long line of bills opening public school teachers to attack by newly weaponized parents providing a veneer of public support for the dismantling of public education. Although the legislature continues to defund public schools and is poised to give increasingly large portions of the public monies to largely unaccountable private schools, this bill mandates that underpaid and overworked teachers add to their load the necessity of making all lesson plans in every subject available for public viewing on school websites.

This is not harmless. The scope of the material that must be documented in the bill is wide and deep, forcing teachers to compose a bibliography of materials that can then be scanned  by eager members of such astroturf groups as Moms for Liberty (or as I prefer to call them Moms Against Literacy or MAL) for any hint of material that might threaten the Euro-centric, conservative church-approved and historically white-washed lines of thought that protect their children from any real knowledge of the world they inhabit. Since almost anything of any value in education written since 1945 is guaranteed to run afoul of those standards in some respect (including word problems in math), the gimlet-eyed and fearless moms against literacy will find something to use to get a teacher fired, reprimanded or left fearful of the incandescent rage of MAL members.

It is hard not to believe that the bill’s intent is to strike fear, anxiety and depression into teachers. Fear of the powerful and determinedly racist white men in the legislature (who else but racists would insert KKK-friendly language in a previous version of HB 237, since removed), fear of retribution from malevolent political appointees in the state Department of Public Education, and fear of some triggered, unhinged “patriot” with a gun or a knife accosting them in the parking lot at the end of the day. As an article in the News and Observer pointed out in early April, North Carolina is losing teachers at a steady clip.

This new avenue of out-sourced intimidation will increase the pressure on teachers to leave the profession and possibly the state. At some point, there won’t be enough teachers left to maintain the student load, and the public will see an uptick in the mainstream news media of articles and broadcasts questioning the viability of continuing public education, couched in the language of dollars and cents, taxes and choice, with a thick layer of claims of private superiority and cost efficiency. (What does an “efficient” education look like? Is it one that doesn’t cut into profits? What is the minimum level of resources that will produce 50 students that are immediately employable in the hotel industry? What estimates of future return on investment will determine recommendations to pursue advanced courses useful in commerce, or suggest early graduation to an entry-level job at the local gravel pit?)

Finally, some crazed, backward-looking legislature will close their public school system, and the avalanche will begin. The vaunted vouchers (excuse me, Opportunity Scholarships) that are supposed to be race and class neutral can easily cease to exist on the day that the last public school closes its doors. Democrats and liberals will shrug their shoulders, talk about the need for bipartisan solutions, and campaign on a return to public education. Right after they restore abortion rights and rein in the military industrial complex.

Under pressure from conservatives since the 1980s, Democrats led the way into this situation with their introduction of charter schools in the 1990s. Like many roads paved with “bipartisan” cooperation, it eventually meandered to hell. Once Democrats were rendered impotent for all political intents and purposes by the Republicans, since 2010 that opening wedge has been retooled to a hydraulic ram splintering the potential of a good education system into decaying mulch for the propagation of private schools, often overtly religious in nature. The death of public education, which will only accelerate in the coming years, will lead to a return of schooling stratified by affordability, which means by class and by race.

Right now, the public school system, damaged as it has been, still offers the chance that students too low on the economic ladder to meet private school costs can learn enough to participate in civic life and maybe, just maybe transcend their pre-determined economic destiny of exploited wage labor. That’s a threat to conservatives, and we can expect more bills accelerating the process.

Conservatives are not as transparent about the intended goals of bills like HB 1032 as they are about making (select) areas of government transparent, but after decades of unremitting assault on public education, triggered by Brown v Board of Education (1954) and Engel v Vitale (1962), there is increasing public exposure of their apparent end goal. States like Texas and Florida are showing the way. There is no reason to believe that public education will continue to exist in North Carolina. Both Republicans and Libertarians oppose it.

It will be to our great shame as supposedly the most powerful, richest nation on earth that we have presided over the destruction of the most powerful tool on earth against poverty, poor health and world peace, which is free education for all. We are poised to rip those outcomes away from the future, and put education in the hands of private capital, with predictable results – education stratified by class and race, wide-spread ignorance, burgeoning poverty, and the flourishing of war for profit.

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