Use Public Money for Public Schools!

The following is the speech Kenneth Jannot made at a meeting in Detroit

My name is Ken Jannot. I’m running for the school board of the Dearborn Public Schools (which is also the Board of Trustees for Henry Ford College) because I am horrified by how the public schools are being dismantled to give the money away to private interests. Especially in working class districts! Detroit has seen the worst of it, but it’s not just in Detroit – it’s happening in Dearborn and in school districts across the state and the country. Public schools get closed, then reopened as corporate-run charter schools. School budgets get cut; experienced teachers get fired – class sizes increase past 40, 50, 60 students.

As a longtime teacher in the public schools and community colleges, I’ve seen the results of these attacks. Whole generations of working class children are being tossed on the educational scrapheap because the two big parties serving the capitalists won’t spend public money to really educate working class children. Those parties – Democrats and Republicans – use the money to bail out the banks and to cut taxes and give outright subsidies to the corporations. Use that money on the schools.

The answers for how to improve the schools are EASY: decrease class sizes – 15 in elementary, 20 to 25 in secondary, max. Hire MORE teachers, as well as support staff, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, nurses, social workers, counselors. Make sure each and every building is fit for human habitation – fix, repair, renovate, rebuild if necessary. Build MORE schools. Stock them with ALL the materials necessary for student learning AND comfort throughout the day: textbooks, computers, art and music supplies, not to mention chairs, paper, pens, pencils and, yes, toilet paper.

Putting money into the schools, by the way, would also have a big impact on the local economy. Hiring more people at decent wages to do all this work could raise the standard of living of all workers in the area because more people would be spending more money locally.

Start with early childhood education, for every child! All children enter school already having experienced some kind of education from their families. The children whose parents received a very good education – those coming from money, in other words – start school with a greater education than those coming from families without money, who had been cheated of an education themselves. Children of privilege start school with a “head start” in other words.

When the Head Start program was a real, broad, national program, it had noticeable effects on working class and poor children. Head Start should be enriched and expanded, for every single child, and not just be a glorified day care holding pen until parents get out of work.

Start early and continue all the way through high school – and beyond. Schools should NOT be about just the basics, teaching to the tests. They should educate and enrich the whole person, with all sorts of extracurriculars – sports, music, art, theater, robotics, chess club, and on and on. And parents should not have to pay extra fees for their child’s participation!

And yes, free education should continue even beyond high school. Pundits and politicians keep saying that young people need to get an education to get ahead in this society – and then they make it impossible for people to get one, at least not without being in debt for the rest of their lives! Why shouldn’t young working class people get a FREE college education? Why shouldn’t ALL education be free? Why shouldn’t every COLLEGE be well-staffed, with full-time teachers, with reasonable class loads?

We all know that the children of the wealthy have access to all those things, and more. If it can be done for those kids – if it can be considered NORMAL, just and proper by those parents for their kids to have all that, why shouldn’t it be NORMAL for the kids of the working class? Why shouldn’t public money be spent to provide just that?

Why not? Because the capitalists want that money for themselves.

Money should be increased to our schools, not decreased. Detroit and the working class suburbs should get MORE than the wealthy suburbs do per student – it has more ground to make up. Corporations in Detroit, in Dearborn and throughout the state should no longer get their free ride – no tax havens draining our community’s resources. Working class kids deserve and need well-paid, experienced teachers, small class sizes, state-of-the-art buildings with up-to-date equipment, just as much as wealthy kids do.

I’ll say it again – the money is there. The wealth is there. Workers deserve to benefit from that wealth – their labor created it. It is CRIMINAL that the children of the people who have made all this wealth, who make society run every single day should be thrown on the scrapheap.

And it’s all possible from a purely material standpoint. Make the Ford family or Sergio, all the capitalists who live off the labor of working people, sell a yacht or a mansion, or two or three… but that’s not what THEIR policy is. The policy of the wealthy, the corporations and the banks – and the politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who represent them – is to drain money from the schools. It’s their policy and it’s what they do. They accumulate wealth at the cost of our lives, our children’s lives and futures. They solved their crisis by taking more from us. It’s time we reversed that equation.

Our campaign doesn’t have a lot of money – we don’t have any big contributors to our campaign. But WE have something much more important from the standpoint of the working class – a REAL policy in the interest of the working class. We know that a vote won’t bring that policy into existence. It will require a fight, a fight by working people, for us to begin defending ourselves, including in the matter of education for workers’ children. But everyone who votes for us can send a message in this election – that there is a part of the working class today that understands the need for that fight.

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