Órgano de la sección simpatizante de la Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores (Cuarta Internacional) en Estados Unidos Paper of the sympathizing section of the International Workers League (Fourth International) in the United States
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November 2010 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.lavozlit.com / www.litci.org / US$ 1 (colaboración / donation)
THE STRUGGLE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
IN THIS ISSUE: I. The Fight Against Privatization of Education Is An International Struggle: Argentina, Brazil, Central America, Chile, Spain, U.S.A. ....................... Pg. 2-21
II. Students and Workers United: Berkeley (U.S.A.), France ..........................
High School Students Lead The Resistance To Neo-Liberal Education Policies
Students for Public Education against the Mayor of Buenos Aires
The international struggle for quality public education had as one of its center in Argentina in the last period of August and September 2010, when High School students and University students occupied 30 school buildings and two universities, respectively. Their demands include the call for 1) improvements to the terrible conditions of the buildings, 2) having better conditions for study, and 3) the end of the plans of privatization of public education, like the Law of Higher Education (LES) . Occupations, mass marches, blockades and other mass actions took place over a series of weeks, culminating in a march of more then 30, 000 students, workers and community members on September 16th, which was the anniversary of the â€œNight of the Pencilsâ€?.  This march brought together different layers of the Argentinean society beyond the students, including the labor unions that are facing repression, wage cuts and privatizations of their industries. The same orchestrated privatization of education is happening here as is in other centers of struggle. However, the marked difference in Argentina is the elevated radicalization of the struggle, as seen in the occupations. Not only do these mobilizations and mass actions indicate the willingness of students to give it their all for their demands, they also emphasize the importance of grassroots organizations like the Assemblies in the various University departments. Furthermore, the General Assemblies are spaces of mass, democratic, direct student participation and are attentive to emphasize international solidarity.
The Budget, the Frustrations with the Government, and the State of the Buildings
High School and university students have occupied the buildings because many of them are falling apart & are in unsanitary conditions. High school students are
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also demanding for free lunch, scholarships and bus tickets in order to be able to afford to go to school. Many of the deteriorating buildings end up being abandoned due to the lack of investment and building maintenance as the previous government administrations have continuously neglected the funding needed to maintain the public schools. School occupations over the same issues happened 2008 when thousands of students hit the streets to demand for heating in their buildings and for building repairs as there were examples where pieces of roof were falling on students. Thanks to the occupations and demonstrations, the government has promised to start construction to a few schools next year, but it does not propose solutions to the the other schools and has postponed any other talks of solutions.
Balance Sheet: A First Victory in An Ongoing Struggle
Our LIT-CI comrades in FOS (Frente Obrero Socialista) and COI (Corriente Obrera Internacionalista- which is in the process of merging with the FOS) of Argentina played an active role in organizing the occupations and shutdowns of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) , National University of Arts (IUNA) and the National University of Quilmes (UNQ) , which included takeovers of the Social Sciences and Humanities buildings. They put out their balance sheet of the student occupations (Lucha Socialista, 10/20/10) and put forward an analysis of the building takeovers and perspectives for next steps in the student movement: - The huge march of September 16, which placed almost 30,000 people in the streets, united students, teachers, staff and sectors of workers like those from ParanĂĄ
Metal. It’s messaging targeted the Argentenean Kircher administration’s underfunding of public education and Neo-liberal privatization measures like the LES .With no further united action proposed by the movement to continue the struggle, the great unified movement that began in the occupations lost perspective and began to recede, leaving the occupations increasingly isolated and uncoordinated - Though mobilizations were important victories and advancements, the Argentinean government has not met the students’ demands and so education is still in danger. Therefore, the student movement must learn from the lessons of the school occupations by noting errors in the general course of the struggle, and in the occupations, which in FOS-COI’s opinion had an effect of the results of student struggle. -The strength of the occupations came from the massive assemblies and the participation new activists in the committees that held down the occupations. This form of organizing allowed democracy and the unity of the movement and its independence from bureaucratic organizations that are entrenched only in electoral politics.
Next Steps: Make The Struggle National
The majority of the revolutionary leftist organizations that led the university occupations did not provide a long-term perspective for the education struggle and did not push for further united actions nor had an orientation to extend the education struggle to a massive and national level. Instead, the struggle was dispersed and fragmented, and lost the opportunity to go on an offensive against the privatizing education model being implemented by the local and national governments.
ARGENTINA We see clearly the need to build a national plan to unify the occupations in the education sectors around a single statement, which calls for the: 1) immediate increase of the budget, 2) repeal of existing education laws that privatize and underfund the school systems, such as the Law of Higher Education (LES). The student unions and associations must push forward this key discussion in as many departments and colleges as possible. Furthermore, this debate should also be conducted in the other education sectors: among both teachers and non-teachers, be they university, secondary or primary. Building this unity is the key to defeating the educational policy of the Argentinean government.  Ley de Educación was enacted in August 1995 as part of a series of reforms that responded to the ideas set out by the neoliberal Washington Consensus. It puts forward plans to restrict university autonomy, limit public funding and put quotas on admissions. The Night of the Pencils (''La Noche de los Lápices'') was a series of kidnappings and forced disappearances, followed by the torture, rape, and murder of a number of young students during the last Argentine dictatorship. The kidnappings took place over the course of several days beginning on September 16, 1976. The victims were 10 students, mainly current or former activists and members of the High School Student Union of the city of La Plata, who had been demanding the creation of a free free travel pass. Such demands were deemed subversive by the dictatorship. Since then, Argentineans have had marches and celebrations in remembrance of the student’s heroic struggle for quality education.
The Revolution begins like this
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Student Struggles Ignite São Paulo at the End of the Year By Bruno Machion, from the PSTU National Youth Secretariat
The year 2010 was defined by the support for the administration. The general feeling on the presidential elections this year was around who would be the best continuation of the Lula administration. Lula will finish his second term still with record approval ratings. This scenario has had important effects in the universities and on the student movement. During his 8 years of presidency, Lula instituted a series of attacks on education, facing down the resistance of the students. 2007 was a year of major confrontations, with dozens of occupations of administrative buildings across the country against REUNI, the flagship educational policy of his government. This year, on the other hand, did not witness significant student mobilizations. It was a "lukewarm" year, with scattered struggles and no longer with the same steam as 2007. However, beneath all of the existing support for the government, there are still the effects of Lula's attacks on education. For this reason, a series of student mobilizations began to emerge with strength across the state of São Paulo. There are mobilizations in many of the UNIFESP (Federal University of São Paulo) campuses, in the state universities and, also, in some of the private ones. These mobilizations show the willingness of the student movement to confront the educational policies of the federal government and the PSDB (main opposition bourgeois party) administration at the state level.
Strike at UNIFESP - Another Expansion Is Possible! Down With REUNI!
The student movement at UNIFESP is fighting back. On Oct. 28th, the Student General Assembly of São Paulo voted to call a General Strike for the next week and a unified Day of Action for November 9th. The strike, which started in the Baixada Santista campus, expanded to the other campuses, including Guarulhos, where the students had already called for the strike, and Diadema, where the movement is just now taking off. Since the last Assembly, the expectation is that the movement will spread to other campuses, including São Paulo and São José dos Campos. The main demands are the diverse problems with the infrastructure which are the result of the policy of expansion of the campuses without maintaining their quality, funding or planning. All the campuses have various common problems: the students are studying in provisional buildings and many campuses have no policy to provide student assistence. But these problems are not the "special priveleges" just of the students of UNIFESP. Across the country, there are problems like these in the federal universities. These problems have a name: REUNI. The decree of the Federal Government mandated the expansion of the Federal Universities in the absence of an actual increase in budgetary funding - this generated situations like the
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one of the UNIFESP students who are now fighting back demanding an expansion that maintains the quality and demanding effective policies for student permanence. These were the first steps of the movement. From the beginning, the students joined the action in defense of ANDES-SN (a militant National Professors Union whose legal recognition is under attack) in Brasília, and - with the support of ANEL, they organized two buses to go to the federal capital. In MEC (Ministery of Education), a delegation went to the Secretary of Higher Education to present them with the students' list of demands. Now, the creation of a unified committee of the mobilization will strengthen the struggle in the campuses that are on strike right now and will build and mobilize for strikes in the campuses where they haven't started yet. The next step will be the campus assemblies during the upcoming week and to build for a huge mobilization for November 9th in order to force the regent to negotiate.
The Struggle in the State Universities in Sao Paulo
There are also mobilizations happening in the state universities of São Paulo. In UNICAMP (University of Campinas), the students were shocked last Oct. 21st by the presence of three vehicles of the military police on campus. The police were brought in to comply with a judicial order to prevent the IFCHSTOCK, a traditional festival organized by the students that is now in its 5th edition, from taking place. The judicial injunction was issued under the pressure of the AMOC (Neighborhood Association of Barão Geraldo - where UNICAMP is located). However, we know that the UNICAMP regent are also against the festival taking place. A few days after the invasion of military police, the director of the Institute of Economy at the university was called by the administration to give the names of the CA economics students who had organized, in 2008, a cultural students groups meeting. With this action, the administra-
Strike in UNIFESP Guarulhos
tion made clear the anti-democratic methods with which they handle the student demonstrations, whether they be of a political or a cultural nature. Now, they are threatening to launch an investigation of the students who are organizing the IFCHSTOCK, however, before this is, they were employing the same methods against the students who participated in the demostrations and occupations of the administration building. The economics students demanded the commitment of the director of the Institute to not hand over the names to the administration and, when he refused, mobilized and are on strike. The students of the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences also decided to paralyze all activities in order to fight against the repression and for democracy in the university. In UNESP, the problems regarding student assistance have been going for a long time. Fighting back, the students from the different campuses from throughout the state, took part in a unified Day of Action on Oct. 15th against the administration of UNESP, in São Paulo. A student delegation was received by representatives of the regent and they scheduled a meeting with the regent himself for Nov. 17th in order to present him with the list of demands of the DCE (students union). At the same time, the demonstration went on under constant police threats as they struggled to stop the protest from blocking off the street. This is how the governor of PSDB treats the students in the universities of São Paulo that fight back: as a criminal matter. It was like this at the University of São Paulo (USP) in 2007 and the same thing is happening with the students of UNICAMP that want to organize a cultural festival and with the UNESP students who are fighting for student assistance for needy students.
Important Mobilizations in Private Universities
And it is not only in the public universities that the students are mobilizing. In some of the private universities, there is an active student movement. This is the situation with the journalism students at PUC-SP, who are on strike, along with the professors in the journalism department at the university. The mobilization is against the resistance of the CONSAD (the administration) to implementing the Journalism Agency, a laboratory designated for the students of this course. They have been stalling the project since 2006. Beyond that, the students included in their demands the struggle to reduce fees, the call to immediately reveal the budget, demands that have been at the center of mobilizations in other departments at the university. Recently, students from different departments organized a petition and collected more than 2,000 signatures. In Vale do Paraíba, two other private institutions are sites of student mobilizations. At UNIVAP (University of Vale do Paraíba) and at UNITAU (University of Taubaté), the students are protesting against the abusive tuition hikes. In UNIVAP, the administration had to retreat
from its proposal to increase fees after two days of protests. The 17% increase in fees for 2011 was challenged by the students, who organized to impose a setback on the administration's plans, and now the administration is organizing a commission to review the real indices of adjustment. The students will hold a General Assembly in the November 3rd to decide the next steps forward for the movement, facing the attitude of the administration. It is essential that the students maintain the level of mobilization in order to not allow for new attacks. At the UNITAU, the situation is similar. The administration is also proposing abusive fee hikes and the students are beginning to fight back. Its necessary that they use the ongoing mobilization at UNIVAP as a base of support and that they defeat the administration.
The Role of ANEL-SP In These Mobilizations
As might be expected, UNE, the National Student Union, is not playing any positive role in any of these important mobilizations.The ANEL (the National Assembly of the Students - Free), on the other hand, has been working to advance these struggles. More than the specific importance of every one of these struggles, it is critical that we recognize the potential that they have to ignite the entire student movement in São Paulo for the struggles yet to come. It is important to remember that the upcoming year could be very important - whether it be because it will be the first year under the new Governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) in São Paulo, or because we will have four more years of the PT (Lula's Party) administration with the recent election of Dilma Roussef at the federal level. We have no doubt that this pair will continue their attacks on education, as has been done over the last years by their predecessors. And it will be critical that we continue to organize in resistance. On the other hand, however, the coming year will be the year of the First Congress of ANEL. This could be a very important Congress both for the organization and for the student movement to organize for the coming struggles. The organization of the Congress should be rooted in these processes. For this reason, each of the fight backs that are emerging at the end of 2010 could be an important tool to prepare for the mobilizations of 2011. ANEL must play an important role in these mobilizations, aiming to push them forward and to unify them, finally, because despite their specificities, all of them have common enemies: the governments and university administrations that implement policies attacking education. On Nov. 6th, ANEL-São Paulo will hold its 3rd Statewide Assembly. This Assembly should serve as a foundation of support for the struggles that are unfolding across the state. It is critical that the invitation to participate in the Assembly be extended to the activist layer pushing forward these struggle, so that we can make ANEL, every day more so, an organizational alternative for the key student mobilizations in the State of São Paulo and across all of Brazil.
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Report On The Characteristics Of The Reorganization Of The Labor, Popular & Student Movement
"Down With the Dictatorship Of Enem!"
At the meeting of the National Coordination of Conlutas CSP (held July 23-25 in Rio de Janeiro), we were able to talk to Camila Lisboa, a student in Social Sciences at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) that is located in the state of Sao Paulo, member of the National Executive Committee of the Free National Assembly of Students (ANEL in Portuguese) and the National Executive Secretariat of the CSP Conlutas (students have a 5% representation in the new trade union).
What is ANEL and how was it built?
Camila: ANEL was created last year in the National Camilla: ANEL was created last year in the National Student Congress. There is a reorganization of many trade unions and social movements going on here in Brazil. This process is occurring because the government of Lula is an expression of one party, the PT, who ran the whole country's social movements. When it came to power, it controlled the Brazilian trade union movement through the CUT & the student movement through the National Union of Students (UNE). From there, demonstrations started happening. And we saw that the CUT and UNE, because of their support to the government, could no longer continue to lead the struggles of social movements. From these experiences new union groupings emerged such as CONLUTAS (National Coordination of Struggles), INTERSINDICAL and from there the attempt to consolidate these organizations. In the student movement under the Lula government there are two important moments that occurred. In his first term, Lula's government proposed a university reform that followed the 6
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guidelines of the World Bank education project, the neo-liberal policy for education. And the UNE, which was the traditional leadership of the student movement, came to support the project, without any criticism. This caused a process of rupture in the leading sectors of the student movement wth the UNE and also with the Lula government. Then there were important struggles against the governmentâ€™s policies, including strikes in some universities. In 2007, already in Lula's second term, a second wave of struggles occurred with a massive fight of the Brazilian university students, whom started targeting the University Reform Act (known as REUNI). As part of this process, there were simultaneous occupations of Regents buildings in 20 federal universities. This was very massive and had a great impact on the people. This gave the objective conditions that would allow us to build an alternative organization of the Brazilian student movement. Between 2007 and 2009 there were several attempts to articulate organizations. In 2008 we launched an appeal to build a Congress. And in 2009, the Congress occurred, which involved 2,000 students. Almost all public universities were represented, but also an important part of the private universities. High school students were also represented. We were then in the worst of the economic crisis, there were layoffs across the country. The Congress then discussed the impact of the Brazilian crisis a lot. And they also discussed how to overcome difficulties in articulating the struggles of students. It was decided to found the Free National Students' Assembly, ANEL. The name deserves to be explained. "Assembly", because that was the method by which we organized the occupations of the schools. "National" because the phenomenon spread across the country. And "Free" comes from the dictatorship of the 1960 and 1970s. The dictatorship had imposed a law that outlawed the student groups. But the students remained independent despite the military regime and to express that used the term "free organizations." To date, the student centers continue to use the word "Free" to express their independence. We also wanted to use "free" to differentiate ourselves from the UNE that is now an entity fully subjected to the federal government. ANEL is a organization that is politically, financially and in every way independent of the federal government.
NO ENEM! No Vestibular, Free Acess Now!
At the insistence of Intersindical and other sectors, CONLUTAS agreed that there would be no student representation in the CONCLAT(National Congress of the Working Class) of June. What did you think of that?
Camila: From the beginning, ANEL was a member of CONLUTAS, which had student representation. But I think for CONCLAT, the position of CONLUTAS was right, in order to facilitate the dialogue with Intersindical and other sectors. We are committed to workers democracy and to open debate. CONLUTAS brothers & sisters stood against the exclusion of the student movement as it has the great potentialto be mobilized under a socialist strategy led by the labor movement. The student movement can be very helpful for the fight to end capitalism and the accomplishment of socialism. And I think it was a great victory that CONCLAT voted to incorporate the student movement with a 5% representation in the federation.
What was the meaning of the speech you made at the meeting of the National Coordination of the new federation?
Camila: I did a report on what is the project of ANEL and how we are mobilizing and implementing our concept in practice. And I said we have three central policies. One is the defense of the quality
Democracy, Education, Is Not A Commodity
of teaching. Lula's policy with the decree of 2007 known as REUNI has been implemented and has consequences: overcrowded classrooms, students can not continue studying because they have no support, teachers have no guarantees for the basic conditions for work â€“ people are worried. And so we have been pushing a fight for the quality of teaching that is supported in several cases by the community. Secondly, it was to report that from the CONCLAT we are implementing some major international campaigns. In the congress there were international student delegations from Japan, Costa Rica, Argentina, and California. We discussed with them that there is a neo-liberal project for education that is deepening around the world. And in all countries, although they play a different role in the capitalist order, there are massive sectors of youth who lack access to education. And in this situation we discussed what can learn from the labor movement, that is that the perspective of our struggle must be international. Along with that there are two particular international issues. The first is the situation in Haiti where Brazilian troops lead the occupation. There is great sensitivity around this occupation sĂł that we will promote coordinated protests in some major cities for the withdrawal of the troops. The other issue we are working on is how to strengthen the boycott of Israel. Due to the attack on the freedom flotilla we want to join the efforts to break the blockade of Gaza, if possible with Brazilian students taking part.
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The Abyss Between Poverty and Education BY GLORIA TROGO - MILITANT OF PSTU (BRAZILIAN SECTION OF THE LITCI We present the continuation of an article from the R Review, a publication of the Youth of the PSTU for the 2010 Elections. After 8 yeas of the Lula government, the youth still have no right to a better future. The average education of the Brazilian youth has not improved. A few statistics about Brazilian education will help us to reach some conclusions: - The rate of illiteracy continues to be extremely high, even compared with other Latin American countries: 10% in 2008. In Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, rates range between 2% and 4%. In Paraguay, the rate is 5.1%. The aim of the National Education Plan (1) was to erradicate illiteracy, but the index only fell by 3.6% over the last 8 years (it went from 13.6% in 2000 to 10% in 2008) (2). - The regional inequalities also stand out: out of 14.6 million illiterates in the whole country, 7.9 million are in the North East. In the North East, the rate for youth of 15 to 29 years of age is 10.4%. (3) - For each 100 students that reach the 8th grade, only 54 finish high school (4); 19% of youth between 10 and 17 years old begin to work before they have finished 9 years of schooling. As a result, in the North East, the index surpasses 27.9%; 86% contribute almost 1/3rd of their family's income. (5) - Only 48% of youth from 15 to 17 years old are in high school, which is in line with their social status. That is, more than half of the youth are behind in their studies and 18% are not enrolled in any level of schooling. In this terrain as well, the regional and racial disparities are clear: 66.3% of whites in the South East attend high school, while only 31.9% of blacks in the North East are. - The implementation of the projects REUNI, PROUNI, and the New ENEM (6) did not increase significantly the percentage of youth in higher education, which continues to be very small - only 13.7% in 2008. The comparison of these facts makes explicit that the differences in family income are at the heart of the problem: only 5.6% of youth who have an average monthly income of one minimum salary per capita are enrolled in higher education. For the youth who fall in the range of having incomes equivalent to five minimum monthly salaries or more, the percentage is ten times more: 55.6% are enrolled in higher education.
PROUNI: Democratization of Access or Stimulus For Private Institutions?
The Program University For All - PROUNI is demanded by the majority of the Brazilian
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population, who believe that it would be a demonstration of the government's concern for the poor. Would it? Today, 90% of the institutions of higher education are private. This sector controls 74% of total enrollment and charges 24 million reais per year. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of private institutions in Brazil increased 267%. The shortage of places in the public universities, the intense competition, and the precarization of public high school education transformed for profit education into the only option for thousands of students, who work all day in order to meet the extremely high monthly payments. However, this rapid growth confronts the permanent contradiction of the crisis of insolvency (the percentages reach 34.5% in Sao Paulo) and the high drop out rates (close to 50%). In 2003, a year before the implementation of PROUNI, the number of vacancies was horrifying. The irrational growth of the private sector created a situation where the number of positions available was superior to the number of students in high school. According to the Educational Census of the INEP for 2003, around 2 million positions were made available in 2003 and 1,880,000 students finished high school that year. In the same year, the percentage of not predetermined positions was 49.5%, according to the INEP. This data reveals a severe crisis of the private education businesses. It is not a new idea to give them tax exemptions. The military dictatorship exempted all of the private education institutions from paying taxes. This sector receives - since then, thousands of government benefits. The higher education companies in Brazil found themselves, in 2003, on the verge of a profound crisis. The Lula government created a option to save this sector. PROUNI was a policy that was elaborated in collaboration with the big education businesses to save them from insolvency. From April of 2004 to January of 2005, PROUNI went through various changes in the process of its passage through the National Congress. The big education companies participated effectively in amending the bill: The Brazilian Association of Higher Education Partners (ABMES), The National Association of Private Universities (ANUP), The National Association of University Centers (ANACEU), The National Association of Higher Departments and Colleges (ANAFI) and the Union of Partners of Higher Education For The State of Sao Paulo (SEMESP). All of these guys publicly expressed their commitment to the program and extolled the importance of
PROUNI. At the height of the 2008 economic crisis, it became even more clear whose side the government was on, when they lent, at extremely low interest rates, 1 billion reais to the private education institutions. Meanwhile, students who failed to pay their bills had their names added to the National Registrar of Brazilian Students, the CINEB, a type of SPC for education that blocks the enrollment de incumplidos in all the institutions in the country. The government listened democratically to and saved, to whatever degree necessary, the education businesses. PROUNI bestowed on tis sector the following exemptions:
- Legal Personal Income Tax (25% of your profit) - Social Contribution on the net profit (9% of your profit) - Contribution to Funding For Social Security (7.6% of income) - Social Integration Program (1.65% of earnings) - 105 million in tax waivers in 2005 alone
Why was the policy of the Lula administration, facing the 2003 crisis of the private sector, to award it millions of reais in tax breaks? Why wasn't this money used to increase the positions available in public education through a coherent program of expansion with quality and creation of night courses to allow students today covered under PROUNI to attend the federal universities? Its only possible to respond to these questions if we understand whose interests the Lula government represents. He has allied himself with the big banks, has received contributions from the multinational corporations and from the biggest businesses in the country for his government, and has sealed a deal with the rich and powerful and, for this reason, he rules in their interests.
REUNI: Another Chapter In The Dismantling of Public Education
In the public universities, the government has continued the neo-liberal policies initiated by FHC. They legalized the presence of big business in the Federal Universities through the Decree of the Foundations and the Law of Technological Innovation. But the most well-known government program is the REUNI. Under the historic call for the expansion of the public universities, Lula institutionalized the precarization of the university by imposing the aims of the decree. REUNI faced the resistance of the broad majority of the academic community and of thousands of students, who occupied administrative buildings in defense of the university. But the overwhelming majority of the youth have illusions in the Lula government. The PT (the party of Lula) wants to make us believe that the situation has improved and that in no time at all we will meet our goals. The data deconstructs this logic. In 2003, 10.6% of the youth went on to higher education, in 2008, we were at 13.7%. At the pace of the Lula administration, Brazil will take 59 years to reach the point where even 30% of youth have access to the university. Any kind of proposal for the expansion of positions without an expansion of the budget is pure demagogy. An increased budget for education is just government propaganda. An analysis of the GDP investment in education reveals that the percentage of the GDP invested in education under the Lula administration in fact grew at a vegetative rate: there is no qualitative difference with the
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investment under the FHC government. FHC ended his term investing 4.1% in education. In his eight years in office, Lula increased this percentage by a meager 0.5%.
The New ENEM: The Test Changed Its Name, But The Package Is The Same
The National High School Exam - ENEM - was created in 1998 and was used by some universities as the first phase of the vestibular (the exam that every public university uses to chose the best students). In 2009, the Lula government reformulated the test, announcing the creation of the New ENEM, as an alternative to the vestibular. Along with this, they created the System of Unified Selection (SISU), which is the computerize system used to select students. The government argued that the nationalization of the exam would be beneficial for underprivileged students and that, further, it would increase access to the positions in universities farther away from the big centers. Neither of these justifications ever materialized. The New ENEM is just as elitist as the vestibular. All of the students compete for the positions in all of the universities in the country. The ones who win are the "best" who, therefore, have the choice of attending the best universities. Close to or far from home, the cost of studying in another city is covered. For those who went to public school or who have few resources to live far away from their families, practically nothing has changed. The results of the latest ENEM show clearly what was already obvious: the social and regional inequalities define who has or does not have the right to an education. The general average score of a student who went to private high schools in the South East is 70.55% while the average score of a student who attended public high school in the North East is 44.93%. Is a system of selection in which these students have to compete for all the available positions in the Brazilian public universities really fair? Research done by the IBGE in 2007 found that only 0.04% of college freshman were from a different state. The New ENEM doesn't even touch the root of the problem: the extremely low economic level of Brazilan students. The majority of the families don't have the conditions to maintain a child studying in another city and the programs for student assistence don't arrive anywhere near the necessary minimum. The New ENEM is really far from representing any kind of democratization of access to higher education.
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ANEL organizes against patriarchy in the university
It Is Necessary To Radically Transform The Bourgeois University
"We struggle because we refuse to become:
- Professors at the services of selective education - which the children of the working class are the victims of; - Sociologists who manufacture slogans for the gubernatorial electoral campaigns; - Psychologists responsible for making the 'teams' of workers 'function' 'in the best interests of the bosses' - Scientists whose research will be used for the exclusive interests of the profit-driven economy. We reject this future as 'guard dogs'. We reject the classes that prepare us to become this. We reject the exams and titles that reward those who accept joining the system. We refuse to improve the bourgeois university. We want to transform it radically to the point that, from now on, it will produce intellectuals who struggle at the side of workers and not against them." - The French Manifesto distributed by the students in May, 1968 Universal access to education is a democratic right that capitalism denies to the majority of humanity. In the 21st century, everything that humanity has produced in terms of knowledge is under the monopoly of a few. In a country like Brazil, on the perifery of the capitalist system, this contradiction is even more alarming. Creating a contrast between the millions of illiterates and the few centers of high technological production. We do not share the idea that education could change the world, or that universal access to education, under the capitalist system, woudl guarantee equal opportunities for all and would, therefore, produce a more just and equal society. As long as capitalism endures, education will serve to reproduce the existing social relations. However, free, quality, public education for all is a demand of all socialists. The state of decadence of capital is so brutal that the Brazilian state, whether it is under the government of the PSDB or the PT, was not capable of guaranteeing access to quality education. This is, without a doubt, one of the tasks
of the Brazilian revolution. Capitalism has transformed education into a commodity. The privatization of knowledge produced collectively by all of humanity is a crime against humanity itself. More than that, it is a sad consequence of a society in which everything that is produced is at the service of the profits of the few and not for the benefit of all. The irrationality of the private sector is an undeniable proof of the nefast consequences of the commodification of education. The departments are opened and closed using only the criteria of profit and not the needs of the society. Today, 37% of the enrollment in undergraduate courses are in the Administration, Law, and Pedagogy departments. This has nothing to do with the demands of the majority of the Brazilian population. This distortion is the product of the enormous demand for these departments and the low costs of keeping them running. Is this the university that we need? Are these the criteria that society should use to choose which departments need to be opened or not? The growth of private foundations, legalized by Lula administration's Decree of Foundations, legalized the presence of businesses in higher education. The universities function with public money, they were created and are sustained through the taxes paid by the majority of the working class, however, their scientific production is tailored to the interests of the big multinational corporations of the country. It is a very sad portrait of a country that has lost control and sovereignty even to the point of its
BRAZIL scientific discoveries. It is utopic to think that this system could coexist with a university oriented to the majority of society. Only socialism could guarantee the free production of knowledge. (1) The National Education Plan was approved in the National Congress of 2001, as a result of the great pressure of the social movements. It established a series of goals to be completed by 2010. Only 33% of the goals were met and, this year, a new Plan 2010-2020 was voted on in the National Conference on Education (2) The people who are older than 15 who cannot read or write a simple paper are included in this index. Source: Revista Educación, Año 2, Número 003, pág. 36. (3) Libro Situación de los jóvenes brasileños, pág 92. (4) Revista Educación, Año 2, Número 003, pág 60. (5) Revista Educación, Año 2, Número 003, pág 60. (6) PROUNI: is a program of subsidies for private universities. The government "buys" positions in private universities that are occupied by students who can't afford to pay. It is like a loan that must be paid back after they finish their degree. REUNI: is a program that encourages the search for private funding for public universities through the "foundations", which are private institutions that are used to get money for research projects , etc. ENEM - The National High School Exam: is a centralized national exam from the Education Ministry that high school students have to take at the end of their time in high school. It is used as an admission exam for many public universities (the federal universities are subordinated to the Ministry, the state universities are subordinated to the governments of each state).
Protest Against REUNI: "No to Lula's REUNI"
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Public Education Under A Neoliberal Attack Reflections on the Struggles for Public Education in Central America In the last month, Central America has been shaken by struggles of varying scope and size - in opposition to the educational counterreforms. These reforms must be understood in the context of the implementation of the US - Central America Free Trade Agreements. In addition, this counter-reform is rooted in the fiscal packages that the six Central American governments have applied as a product of the policies the bourgeoisie pushed through in order to save the wealthiest from the economic crisis that they themselves created.
Guatemala: The Occupation of the USAC
This month, we have witnessed the struggle in the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, where hundreds of students (with the support of thousands) occupied the buildings and launched their struggle for the right to representation in the university government. This struggle rapidly transformed into a struggle in defense of the autonomy of the university and of public education. The occupation has been going on now for more than one month. In an interview, three of the leaders of the Student Assembly for Autonomy (EPA), trying to identify the roots of the conflict, pointed out: "We could say that, even though today they would like to relegate this vocabulary to being out of fashion, this is the problem of class struggle. Because this, without a doubt, continues existing: and the university is evidence of it. There are very different projects in the university: one elitist one, to serve the very few - of private universities in function with big corporations and with depoliticized students and workers and with student leaders who are sellouts. This whole conservative group, who are from the right politically, and who act like mafiosos, represent a specific model of university. They are the ones who have held on for years in the University of San Carlos, the public university, with this ideology of privatization." "And there is a project of a university embedded in the social struggles, which is the political project we are part of: a university of the people and for the people. Our fight is against the privatization of higher education. Obviously, these two models are incompatible...For this reason, looking at how the situation is within our university, we feel that it has made a real and profound University Reform essential."
Costa Rica: The Struggle Over The University Budget In Costa Rica, there was a month of struggle for a fair budget for the public universities followed by a four day fight against the betrayal represented by the Agreement between the government of Laura Chinchilla and the Regents. The agreement
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UCR: FEURC & El Sindicato de Empleados de la UCR (SINDEU) march into the Sala de Secciones del Consejo Universitario in protest against the FEES accord
essentially betrayed the objectives of the struggle and symbolized an agreement from the Regents to apply the World Bank policies to the univerisities. The betrayal of CONARE led to the occupations of the administrative buildings of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the UNA, as well as several regional offices and buildings. In response to this "university rebellion", the university authorities unleashed a hate campaign against FEUCR (the UCR student federation) and SINDEU that included a 2 day institutional lockout, an attempt to organize a "white march" in support of the administration, and an effort to criminalize the leaders of the rebellion. Silvia Herrero RodrĂguez, President of the FEUCR, responded to this hate campaign saying: "We believe that the smear campaign that they are waging against us can only have one name: it is a hate campaign against the real meaning of a public university - free and with good quality - and we are willing to fight seriously against whomever to achieve that. Those who call us stubborn don't mention that the Agreement signed by the CONARE will further entrench the model of sales of services in our university, that they are subjecting us to an unpopular fiscal reform that limits the possibilities for stable work and dignified study, that restricts the access of popular sectors to public education, and that threatens student rights. In the last negotiation between the CONARE and the government, the only loser is higher education and we have voted to defend it to the end. This is the
November 2010 agreement of the Student Federation because, as the Manifesto Liminar of the C贸rdoba Reform says: ''The pains that remain are the liberties that are missing.' We will continue fighting for the liberties that we still don't have in the University of Costa Rica."
Honduras: From the Coup D'Etat to The Educational Counter-Reform
In Honduras - despite the "electoral facade" of the Coup government and the efforts of the Funes government in El Salvador and the Chinchilla government in Costa Rica to "normalize" the international situation of Honduras, and despite as well the defeat that the working people of Honduras suffered as a result of the policies of pacts and demobilizations of the 'Zelayaists' - the Honduran people continue mobilizing important struggles that threaten to destabilize once again the entire picture. For example, on Sept. 7th, they pulled off a national civic strike called by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular. There "thousands of people mobilized (...) to reject" and "demand a halt to this neo-liberal offensive against the poor." According to the Frente, there were also acts of resistence in Tegucigalpa, in San Pedro Sula, Choluteca, Copan, El Progreso, La Ceiba, Colon Comayagua, Catacamas, Tela, and Danli. The demands of this national mobilization were "a) an increase to the minimum wage; b) a general increase in public employment; c) the rejection of the laws that the de facto government is promoting to advance temporary, hourly work; d) the elimination of the law of public-private investment; e) solidarity with the struggle of the UNAH workers; f) the defense of the 18-2008 Decree, that gives certain guarantees to the campesinos; g) no privatization of natural resources, which they misleadingly disguise behind the facade of production of renewable energy." A few days before the National Civic Strike, two events occurred that deeply affected the Honduran society and, in many ways, paved the way for the Civic Strike. The first was an extensive high school teachers' strike that demanded: 1) the return of 3,600,000,000 Lempiras (around $190.5 million US) that was stolen by Micheletti from the funding for the Instituto de Previsi贸n del Magisterio (INPREMA: Teachers' Institute); 2) no adoption of the proposed General Education Law; 3) the resignation of the Education Minister Alejandro Ventura; 4) Respect for the teachers' statutes; 5) an end to the repression of teachers engaged in work stoppages. The second event was the the newest intervention of the respressive bodies of the state in the National Autonomous University of Honduras, in order to be able to restart "normal" schooling. This latest violation of the university's autonomy had the real aim of crushing the occupation of the university, dissolving the hunger strike, and arresting the leaders of SITRAUNAH,
that have been fighting for the last four months for the rehiring of the workers who were laid off in an open violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Even though many of the leaders were able to escape from the police, one of the judges issued 22 arrest warrants and three of the persecuted union leaders have been imprisoned.
The Government and the Regents Are Implementing the Imperialist Policies of The World Bank
We are seeing a strange similarity between the supposed "centenial democracy" of Costa Rica, the illegitimate government of Honduras, and the oligarchical and racist Guatemalan government: they all have the same project of reducing the education budget and especially the wages of the educators, they are all trying to diminish the university's autonomy, they have all declared a state of war against the teachers' and university unions, and all of the Regents are acting as their accomplices in imlementing their repressive, antiuniversity plans. For example, the Chancellor of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, Julieta Castellanos, campaigned for and authorized the entrance of the military onto campus and immediately afterwards she suspended classes for a week to avoid protests from the unions or the students. Strangely, in Costa Rica as well, the Chancellor Yamileth Gonz谩lez tried to strike at the root of the rebellion against the CONAREgovernment agreement by imposing a 2 day shut down of the campus in "order to ensure the integrity and security of all the members of the university community." Then she, together with the mechanical majority of the University Council, passed a resolution seeking to covertly criminalize the student and union leaders that participated in the occupations on the 26th and 30th of August. What we are seeing now is how, all across Central America, there is a unity in the type of plan that is being applied by imperialism and the bourgeoisie for education. In this plan, the governing bodies of the universities play a strategic role. Even more importantly, however, at the same time, a new generation of student and worker fighters are emerging who are asserting more and more the need to fight for a Reform of the University system, similar to the old Reforma de C贸rdoba. Our task is to empower this trend and look to bring together this new Central American union and student vanguard in one united movement. All our struggles should be to develop the critique of the bourgeois University a first step towards a critique of class society.
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The Privatization Testing Ground in Latin America September 11th 1973. A bloody military coup d'etat ousted Salvador Allende and began a strong dictatorship fully committed to transforming Chile into the testing ground for the neo-liberal policies that would ultimately, after Margareth Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, become dominant all over the world. The education sector was unable to escape the greed of the profiteers. Along with other public welfare rights, it was transformed into a commodity. The end of the Pinochet era brought into power the “concertación” administration (a Christian Democrat and Socialist Alliance). The Organic Constitutional Law on Teaching (LOCE) was instituted by Pinochet in his last days in power in March, 1990. The primary function of the law was to limit the role of the government to only regulating Education. At the same time, it transferred the responsibilities previously provided by the State to the Private Sector and municipalities.
The first strong movement to challenge this situation was the "Pinguinazo" (a kind of revolution of the penguins: “penguins” is the term used for high school students in Chile because their school uniforms make them look like penguins). From April to June of 2006, the penguins’ massive protests shook the country. In May 30th, around 800,000 students (including sectors from higher education) participated in marches, strikes and occupations. It was the largest outpouring of students in Chile's history. The uprising was sparked by an increase in the fees for college admission exams and efforts to eliminate free public transportation. There was a rapid radicalization of the demands: from the initial reaction to the fee increase and the threat to public transportation it evolved into a struggle against the LOCE itself and for free, quality public education for all. Through their mobilization, the students were able to force the "socialist" administration of Michelle Bachelet to concede on some small demands.
¡Ministra Jiménez pague lo que debe! ¡Cuantos colegios tienes!
(Secretary Jimenez pay the debt! Look how many schools you own!) In November, 2008 and in June, 2009, the K-12 teachers mobilized and struck to fight for three demands: -Their wages for work hours that they never received payment for -A 14.5% increase in wages -A bonus In addition, they were fighting against the process of replacing the federal school system with municipal control over the schools and the closures of many schools that happened as a result. One feature of this was the privatization of kindergartens. The education secretary responsible for implementing the government’s project of privatization, Ms. Jimenez, was herself the owner of a chain of 11 private schools. Ms. Jimenez negotiated with the striking teachers, promising them a bonus, no loss of pay and amnesty for teachers who participated in the struggle, and the formation of a group to quantify the debt owed to them. Despite these initial gains, the teachers were unable to force the administration to fulfill them. In October, the teachers received the bonus but, then, in November the government announced that, in fact, they would not pay the teachers. At the same time, despite the militancy of the teachers resistance up to this point (they had carried out hunger strikes, freeway blockades, occupation of The Pinguinazo
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education administrative buildings), the teachersâ€™ union, led by the Socialist Party (in government) and Communist Party, refused to continue the
Chilean students protest against education law
2010: University Students in Struggle
In May 12th and June 1st 6,000 students, both university and high school students, took to the streets. At first they demanded scholarship increases for the victims of the earthquake and more funding for Public Education. Then they moved on to demand limits for profits and freezing of tuition fees in the private sector; against the replacement of direct state funding and scholarships for student loans. They also demanded freezing the cost of transportation.
The World Bank In The Command
The WB together with the IMF, IDB and OECD, are ruling the policies towards Education. Their main directives are very simple. The State cannot fund all Education. The private sector must provide it and the state must limit itself to provide some kind of low quality public education for the poor. The state must follow up the quality of the whole system through centralized exams that evaluate students, teachers and schools. That is what privatization is about. These policies are the background, together with 18% unemployment and the backlash against labor and social rights, for the mass mobilization of the students and the working class. These struggles can bring real change.
Chilean students occupy school
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Lessons From The Fight Against Plan Bolonia From Marxismo Vivo. We are interviewing a couple student activists, militants of Corriente Roja - Corrient Roig and the PRT-IR, about their opinions on some of the most important debates that existed within the student movement. Núria Campanera: a member of the Student Assembly in IES Industrial School, which participates in the Moviment d’Assemblees Estudiantils de Sabadell (MAES) and the AES de Catalunya (Assemblees d’Estudiants de Secundaria) Violeta Benítez: a member of the Student Assembly Against Bolonia in the University of Córdoba, which participates in the Andaluza Student Coordination (CAE) Adrián Ruiz: a member of the Student Assembly of the Politics and Sociology College in the University Complutense of Madrid (Somosaguas campus), which participates in the coordination Bolonia No Mola
What should the geographical scope of the struggle against the privatization of education be?
Núria: It is important to keep in mind that we find ourselves facing the largest attack that they have ever made against public education, and that this attack, despite coming out of international plans, is being implement via laws implemented by the Spanish State. At the moment to fight against Plan Bolonia, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the United Nations does not have any real power over educational materials, that is why the university is being privatized through the LOU (The Organic University Law in Spain) and the royal decrees. There can be no doubt that the primary framework for the struggle against privatization of education should be the State level. Only a struggle united at the State level will be able to achieve the repeal of a State law. Even in the moment when we are fighting against the measures beign taken by regional governments (like the LEC or the university budget cuts), we must not forget that these are developing out of the State laws. More than that, it is necessary that the entire student movement at the State level take up the demands of the oppressed nationalities within the Spanish State: the Catalans, the Basques, and and the Galicians. For example, the national rights of Catalunya are under severe attack through the LOU because Catalan would be deeply marginalized in comparison with Castellano (Spanish) and English in the Catalan universities. Its important that the students in the rest of the Spanish State understand that the LOU also represents an attack on the "minority" languages, and that they incorporate the defense of our languages into their demands. From Catalunya, we have to push to unify the movement at the same time that, from here, we must insist to the Basque and Gallicians that they should join the Statewide movement to defeat the LOU. Whatever honest and serious nationalist who defends their nation should have defeating the LOU as one of their priorities, and for this there is no other way besides unifying the struggle at the Statewide level. This in no way means giving up the specific characteristics or forms of organization used by each nation. Rather, it is to unify the fight by addressing the demands of the different sectors and territories, without reducing nor homogenizing nor ignoring their specificities. In regards to the arguments against the necessity of a Statewide struggle, those who argue that the most important thing is maintaining the
national structures (at the level of the Catalan nation, for example) to in this way "fight for the university we want for our nation", its important to remind them that the immediate, critical task in the struggle against privatization is defeating the LOU. And any policy that prevents this Statewide struggle will inevitably benefit the government and the multinationals that want to privatize the university. I insist, any activist that is working against the unification of the struggles at the State level is really endangering the different oppressed nations (whose languages are facing being expelled from the universities) and the working class as a whole (that will not have access to quality public education once the privatization goes through). Adrián: Behind the debate over which geographic scope the fight against Plan Bolonia should operate on is hidden primarily the two opportunist conceptions. On the one hand, there are those who are opposed to the unification of the student movement in order to prevent the movement from strengthening itself and from focusing its attention on destroying the LOU and on denouncing the Zapatero government. Within this sector, we find the organizations linked to the PSOE and IU that, since Zapatero took office and began working to deepen the LOU and to implement completely Plan Bolonia (with the explicit support of the IU), they have been doing everything to avoid the movement reaching the point of confronting the government and the LOU, under the pretext that we can't do anything that would benefit the PP (fascist party in Spain). Among these organizations are the Student Union, the different Communist Youth groups and Espacio Alternativo (today called the Anti-Capitalist Left), which have been working to divert the struggle, trying to focus all the attention on Europe and Bolonia (and to divert attention away from the government and the LOU). At the same time, they have been limiting the struggles to their immediate surroundings with the objective of making their work politically profitable in terms of their Party interests. On the other hand, we have the independent sectors (like the Catalan SEPC) and the ultra-left (including the CNT and the autonomists) who are opposed to a Statewide unification of the movement against Bolonia. Some use nationalist arguments (like "we have to defend our national framework against the Spanish one") and others with nonsensical arguements (like "we don't need to defend public education but rather create a self-organized and liberitarian education"). For these sectors, the way to defeat privatization is through decisive actions and media stunts taken by small groups of really courageous activists. Through this, we can put the university into crisis and win, in this way, the halting of Plan Bolonia. This Guevarista understanding entails a vanguardist policy from these organizations, who only want to organize with the politicized students to win them over to their project. As a result, they neither orient themselves towards the majority of the students nor do they have even the most minimal interest in unifying the movement at the Statewide level to fight for the overthrow
Occupation of the historic building of the University of Barcelona
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of the LOU. These sectors, despite loyally following with great admiration and sympathy the fight against Bolonia in Greece (the only place where they have been able to halt its progress), don't go so far as to extract any of the important lessons from their mobilization. The only thing they do is imitate what they see as the direct actions and the confrontations with the police (without taking into consideration that they are happening in a context of mass mobilizations and General Strikes where there is a critical unity between students and workers across the whole country).
What problems is the student movement facing regarding democracy?
AdriĂĄn: The primary democratic problem in the Assemblies in Madrid is within Coordinadora Bolonia No Mola. The members of the different assemblies that attend it often end up defending their individual or Party positions while disregarding the decisions taken by their respective bodies. This anti-democratic method ends up resulting in numerous problems. On the one hand, we end up hurting a lot our own organization and effectiveness, resulting in neverending discussions that, in the end, leave us without a good division of labor (when it would be infinitely more practical and dynamic to just lay out the views and proposals of each of the assemblies and then, immediately afterwards, to move to vote and decide). Moreover, the bureaucratic functiioning allows the political organizations and the ultra-left sectors to divert the discussions with their proposals, proposals that were usually unable to gain support in their own Assemblies. Violeta: If we are still not able to respond with a really massive movement against Bolonia, where the majority of the students are politicized, join the struggle and mobilize themselves, it is primarily because of the lack of democracy that exists within the student movement. In the majority of the mobilizations and strikes that we have called over the last years, we have not been able to call forth the majority of the students at the hour when we need to make decisions. In many universities and institutes where there are student organizations fighting against Bolonia, they have been making decisions directly through these organizations, without making a public and massive call (including stopping classes) so that the strike or the corresponding action can be decided by everyone. Through this method, it is impossible to involve the bulk of the students in this struggle, a struggle they are not involved in mostly as a result of lack of knowledge. If we aspire to mobilize the entire educational community to fight against the privatization of education, it is absolutely necessary that, first, we find have a powerful and unified mass student movement on a Statewide level. And in order to have this movement, it is essential that we involve all of the students and that the important decisions in the struggle be taken in Student General Assemblies. In this sense, we have to break with and avoid reproducing the culture that has, over the last years, permeated the Student Union. Despite having material resources to reach and mobilize the vast majority of the students across the Spanish State, the Student Union limits itself to using bureaucratic methods to call on the students to strike and protest, without making any effort to organize them in their schools or to explain to them the content of the educational refoms.
Is it necessary to support the proposal of creating a new student union now?
Violeta: Both the proposal to create a new student union that is being raised by sectors of the Izquierda Anti-Capitalista and the Communist Youth and the self-created student unions (SE, SEPC, AEP....), do not correspond to real trade union structures. A student union should be an organization primarily intended to defend the students' rights in their daily life. However, the primary unions that exist in the Spanish State are
SPAIN agroupments of the anti-capitalist militants in every school, who are connected in turn to some political organization or current and who limit themselves to just doing political activities instead of union work. The new proposals for unions are along the same lines, and what's more, now that these anticapitalist political agroupments exist, they are making the proposals at the level of individual terrritories, when the most fundamental task we are facing right now is the extension and Statewide unificaMass protest against tion of the student movement. Plan Bolonia in Catalonia NĂşria: First, we have to identify what are the central needs of the student movement, in order to in this way have clear in our minds what our political priorities should be. From there, we need to study the organizational forms best suited to carry out these tasks. Starting from the current stage of the process privatization of education and from the current situation of the student movement, we reach the conclusion that the immediate tasks go through the extension and unification of the movement itself, with the objective of defeating the LOU. Without a doubt, we see how the majority of the Assemblies against Bolonia are not clear on this priority. In a moment in which the movement against Bolonia neither sees the need for nor wants Statewide coordination, the artificial creation (now that it does not respond to the concerns of the movement) of a new student union would not at all help us to overcome this. On the contrary, it would diminish, divide, and further polarize the different sectors within the Assemblies. The proposal for a new union aspires to resolve through an organizing formula something that is in fact a real political problem: the lack of unity and of orientation for the student movement. This does not mean that there is not a need for a student union on the State level. On the contrary, having a real student union: - that is militant and democratic - that would be a reference for and a representative of all of the students, with base groups in every university and every institute - that would be, at the same time, Statewide while also taking into consideration the different national realities is one of the most critical necessities. However, this organization can only emerge as the product of an upsurge and a common understanding of the tasks posed for the student movement. What is impossible is to just call for or proclaim such an organization.
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The Dismantling of American Public Education
Students and Workers protesting at UCB
Since taking office, the Obama administration has chosen to continue and even expand the plan of dismantling of public education put in place during the Bush years. His administration is implementing wide-ranging market-based reforms like merit pay for teachers, pushing for charter schools as alternatives to public schools, and the distribution of federal funds through competitive grants linked to scores on state-mandated standardized tests - policies that amount to an open attack on organized labor, a project of privatization of low-performing schools, and a further entrenchment of the failing model of "teaching to the test". This project of restructuring of public education comes on top of decades of defunding and neglect of the nation's school system. And the hardest hit school districts are always the ones serving primarily working class communities and communities of color. The chronic inequalities in the public school system are clear: overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating, often hazardous, facilities, a complete lack of essential technology and didactic materials. Now, the increasing subjugation of the entire educational curriculum to high-stakes standardized testing has dealt another blow to the quality of the learning experience as everything not directly contributing to increased test scores is deprioritized as schools try desperately to improve results. As teachers are forced to focus almost exclusively on preparing for standardized tests, students rarely get experiences that connect what they are learning to the real world. Teachers are also demoralized from having to teach under these circumstances. Further, these appalling conditions have led to a high school dropout rate
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of nearly 30 percent nationwide, and more than 50 percent in many major cities.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), charter schools are â€œpublicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school's charterâ€?. Partly because they are not covered under union contracts and partly because of the minimal school district regulations, publicly-funded charter have attracted a lot of investment from sources such as churches, nonprofit organizations and, most alarming, its biggest investors are owners and CEOs of the richest American corporations and industries in the U.S. This list includes the Walton Family of Walmart fame, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who are all on record as being anti-union. This means that many of the charter schools are basically privately operated and serve private interests with public funding. It represents a privatization of primary and secondary schools, allowing corporations like Walmart to fund and push for schools that are run along a business model. Or, in another example of this conflict of interest, there are religious groups opening and running charter schools with public funding. Most state that their purpose is to improve educational outcomes, but the reality is that most comprehensive studies show little or no improvements as compared to traditional public schools, and in some
cases, show a drop in the educational performance. These include studies by the AFT, which, in a study conducted in 2003, found that ”students attending charter schools tied to school boards do not fare any better or worse statistically in reading and math scores than students attending public schools”. The following studies of charter schools also show similar results: a study done by the U.S. Department of Education in 2003, a study released on August 2006 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and one done by Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University in 2009. Furthermore, recent studies like the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2010 prove a disturbing racial imbalance in the proliferation of charter schools: "As the country continues moving steadily toward greater segregation and inequality of education for students of color in schools with lower achievement and graduation rate”…"the rapid growth of charter schools has been expanding a sector that is even more segregated than the public schools." Even with the aforementioned studies, former President’s Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (who’s No Child Left Behind Act also promotes charter schools) and President Obama, are still big proponents of charter schools. Not only are charter schools a glaring threat to public schools, they are also a conscious effort at union-busting aimed at destroying the powerful teachers' union of AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and the National Education Association (NEA), with 1.4 million and 3.2 million members respectively, which are the biggest unionized sector of public employees in the U.S. First, when public schools are shut down to make the way for charter schools, many of these charter schools have nonunion contracts or have teachers under separate contracts from the rest of the big unions. Second, charter schools contracts tend to have weak job
United States protection, lower pay, and fewer health and pension benefits.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind
Obama’s and the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s rebranding of the publicly unpopular federal bill No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in March 2010 is another explicit push for charter schools. NCLB was originally proposed by the administration of George W. Bush immediately after taking office and was signed into law in 2002, with both Republic and Democratic Party support. It requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students as a precondition for states to receive federal funding for schools. In reality, NLCB ends up 1) transferring the funds reserved for public schools to charter schools, 2) forcing schools to focus narrowly on two subjects—math and reading; which leads to deprioritizing subjects and types of learning that cannot be demonstrated via test results, whether it be because the subjects are simply not included in the test or because the skills taught are not included, 3) encourages “teaching to the test”—strategies for guessing the right multiple choice answer, rather than encouraging true thinking and learning— and encourages scripted teaching and 4) it facilitates military recruitment, since it requires public secondary schools to provide military recruiters the same access to facilities as a school provides to higher education institution recruiters. ESEA (or as Obama calls it “A Blueprint for Reform") maintains the same project as NLCB, calling for increased intervention into “lowperforming schools”. It sets up “school turnaround grants,” which states can only receive if they choose one of four models for their most troubled schools: transformation (replacing the principal, extending the school day, and implementing new governance and “flexibility”); turnaround (replacing the principal and rehiring no more than 50 percent of the school staff); restart (closing the school and reopening it under the management of a charter operator); or closure.
Race to the Top
Parents at a Chicago elementary school occupy to protect their field house from demolition. The community demands that the children have a library for a school.
Another new public education “reform” initiative that is being used by the Obama administration as a conscious push for “charterization” is Race for the Top (RTTT). RTTT pushes school districts across the U.S. to compete for a pool of $4.35 billion in stimulus funding for education. RTTP’s has four core education reform areas: 1) adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy, 2) building data systems that measure student growth and success,
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United States and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; 3) recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and 4) turning around our lowest-achieving schools. In reality, RTTT pushes the following policies: 1) merit pay (i.e. student performance on tests to determine teacher evaluations), 2) requirements that districts use at least 50 percent of the award to provide sub-grants to local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that operate by siphoning money from the public schools system, 3) the adoption of common standards and high-quality assessments and 4) as put by Duncan (Obama’s Secretary of Education) back in June 2009, “states that don't have charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund”.
Federal Budget Allocation for Education
On January 2010, the Obama administration announced a three-year partial spending freeze on domestic spending for the 2011 federal budget on everything but the military , Afghan and Iraq war budgets, foreign “aid”, social security and spending on healthcare for the poor and retired. Consequently, this has led to defunding of public education at all levels. Over forty-three states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities, resulting in reductions in faculty and staff in addition to tuition increases. In addition, thirty-six states have cut higher education and more than 27 states have cut K-12 spending, which a have led to increases in tuition, layoffs and furloughs, cuts in programs and expanding class sizes. Furthermore, in early May 2010, the American Association of School Administrators announced that 2010-2011 would bring nearly 250,000 layoffs nationwide
to teachers alone, with thousands of additional layoffs to education-related staff and workers. The case of the Chicago public school system is emblematic of the general situation: the over $700 million educational budget deficit is being balanced through teacher and staff layoffs and, by the end of March 2010, approximately 9,800 layoff notices were handed out to teachers. This, coupled with a hiring freeze, left 1,600 positions completely vacant. Furthermore, they increased maximum class sizes in the K-12 sector to 37 students and the total statewide teacher and school personnel layoffs were projected to be over 20,000.
California: The Testing-Ground
The most recent phase of starvation of state budgets has hit California hard, with a budget deficit of $6.9 billion . More importantly, the budget cuts are just the newest pretext for what California has become - a testing ground for repressive neo-liberal policies that are later extended to the rest of the country - the ban on affirmative action, attacks on immigrants, charter schools, tax reform (also known as Proposition 13) , and the drug wars. This means California is a neo-liberal testing ground since privatization policies are being applied unevenly across the country by state and local administrations. Most recently, California is serving as a testing ground for policies that the big businesses and banks aspire to spread everywhere. Nevertheless, California has been the heart of resistance and that is why its resistance has national significance. In the context of the budget crisis, local administrations implemented salary decreases and many layoffs at state universities in California. In order to curtail the budget shortfalls, the University of California’s Board of Regents decided to pass a tuition hike for all 10 universities in the system, as did the California State University
UCB students and workers protesting against the fee hikes
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Trustees for all 23 universities in their system.
Students and Workers Fight Back
The fee hikes, layoffs and furloughs (salary decreases) pushed students and workers at University of California campuses to hold major protests and strikes on September 24, 2009 and on the 18th,19th, and 20th of November 2009, after the UC Regents' voted to increase fees an additional 32%. Besides strikes across the UC system, students blocked cars from entering the universities and occupied several university buildings. Protests continued the following year in a National Day of Action on March 4th, 2010, when students and workers from all of the educational sectors across the state of California and in 33 other states mobilized massive, united protest actions. Like March 4th National Day of Action, October 7th was a day of national action and had at least 76 actions in 25 states.Actions included rallies, sit-ins, marches and were centered in the higher education sector. Though primary and secondary education sectors were mostly absent, the protests occurred in some of the same university campuses that organized for March 4th and some new campuses also had demonstrations. Nevertheless, October 7th expressed the reality that students and workers in higher education are still committed to building a mass and democratic movement to fight back the privatization efforts of the Obama administration and his neo-liberal allies.
The Struggle Continues
The morning of the October 7th Day of Action, and 100 days past its original deadline, the California state government finally passed a state budget that includes $4.3 billion in cuts to public education and suspends Proposition 98, which voters passed to guarantee funding for K-12 and community colleges. These cuts are on top of $17 billion in previous cuts in the past two years and will leave a $2 billion shortage for schools, k-12 and community colleges until next fiscal year. Though the budget had some slight increases in funding for UCs and CSUs, they are only a fraction of last years cuts. To make matters worse, it has cuts to social services and to state employee pay and benefits. Furthermore, the budget is balanced on temporary money â€” some of which may never materialize - and so the next California Governor is expected to face a multi-billion dollar deficit from the moment he or she steps into office next year. State lawmakers also agreed to increase retirement ages and pension contributions from state employees.The budget shortfall leaves the public education sectors, state employees and those who rely on social services - who are majority working-class and communities of color - in a vulnerable position. With these conditions in mind, there was a California Mobilizing Conference against the Privatization of Public Education on October 30-31st
UCB October 7 National Day of Action
that, like the previous two statewide conferences that took place after the 2009-2010 protests, was an opportunity to advance the struggle on a statewide and national level. The conference brought many activists in the public education struggle throughout California that decided three main things: 1) To send an open letter to the newly elected California Governor in defense of public education, 2) Call for protest actions culminating in a sit-in at the UC Regents meeting November 16-18th to resist their expected decision to significantly increase tuition. 3) Set Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 as a statewide Strike and Day of Action in defense of public education. Furthermore, it adopted demands that call for the reverse on the ban on affirmative action, immediate full legalization of all immigrants, denounces the privatization and austerity measures on public education and social services & calls for democratic governance of the educational system. All in all, it was a positive step in mapping out a resistance for the public education struggle that will help set the foundations for the coming year.
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Interview with UC Berkeley Academic Workers The Academic Workers are struggling for a fair contract. In the last 12 months they have been one of the most active sectors in the struggle for Public Education. Here we interview three members of the rank-and-file caucus AWDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union).
teach. Our appointments are called "50% appointments" because teaching one course should only take 20 hours a week. We are not allowed to work more than 50% according to university policy--but GSIs live full-time on these part-time salaries! I have never met a graduate student who didn't work on their studies nights and weekends in addition to being at school, teaching or in classes all day.
LV - How are the budget cuts affecting the Academic Student Employees?
UCB Graduate student on strike
La Voz - What is the current situation of Academic Workers today? M - The majority of undergraduate education in the
UC is taught by either lecturers or ASEs, not by the professors. There are about 12,000 Academic Student Employees in the UC system today, represented by UAW 2865. This includes graduate students, professional school students and undergraduates who work as graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, tutors and readers. ASEs do a huge amount of the undergraduate instruction in the UC. We teach many of the required courses: languages, math, sciences, composition. We lead discussion sections for large lecture classes taught by faculty. We teach lab sections. We read students essays and grade their tests and exams. We are the teachers who know students by name, know their personal problems, their work schedules, who counsel them when they are struggling. Despite this crucial work, the university treats ASEs as a disposable, casual workforce. I teach reading and composition courses, so I will give you the example of what that is like. Teaching a composition course at step 1 pay at UC Berkeley, I make $16,637 a year. What work do I do for that salary? I design the entire course--choosing books, designing writing assignments and planning every lesson on my own. A class is supposed to have 17 students, though many GSIs feel compelled to go above this limit and accept additional students because so many students cannot get into courses they need. I read, grade and help students to revise all of their writing. I meet individually with students at least 2 hours every week and answer students emails. And I teach the course. The UC guidelines recommend that a GSI spend 16-20 hours doing work for their class every week, but many GSIs feel pressure to work above those limits for the sake of their students and for their own reputation as a teacher--something that can decide our chances of finding a job after graduating. At the same time, graduate students are often taking two or three courses while they
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B - The cuts are affecting us in a triple way, in many ways we are the generation that is going to be bearing the core of the consequences of the destruction of public education. First, as students, we are affected when fees are raised and classes and staff are cut. But we are also affected as workers: as workers presently, who are denied a living wage and basic rights as we are seeing in this contract fight, but also as future workers as we see the increasing cuts of tenure track positions and the degradation of our profession. The cuts to departments affect our ability to survive. Because of the budget crisis, many departments have had to cut back on the number of GSI positions that they offer. If you are not guaranteed a teaching position or have already taught more than 8 semesters, you might not get a position-grad students who can't get GSI positions often take work teaching for for-profit tutoring companies like Kaplan, or they take out student loans in order to stay in school. In some departments, the cut in GSI positions has led to an increase of the size of the classes that GSIs teach, though of course the GSIs don't get paid more. Instead, the department does things like switching from handwritten to computer graded tests, so that GSIs can do their work more quickly. The cuts have also led, of course, to overenrollment--many students cannot get into courses they need in order to graduate, and are then forced to pay for an extra semester. LV - Which are the main issues Academic Workers in Berkeley raised for a fair contract? How did you organize yourselves to fight for them? Can you tell us about the formation of the AWDU? C - Many GSIs and members of the Berkeley unit of UAW
2865 have been active since early last year, and before, in the movement to fight the disastrous implementation of the budget cuts – to protect the education of undergraduate and graduate students in the UC, and the working conditions of academic and non-academic workers. As our own contract struggle began to loom last winter, it became clear to us that this struggle was entirely bound up in the broader movement and that we needed to take a more active role as a union in protesting the UC’s management of the budget crisis. This would mean both increasing our union’s presence and participation in the movement to protect public education, and making a strong fight for a fair contract. With these goals in mind, a group of active members of the Berkeley unit formed Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) in order to increase the rank-and-file parti-
cipation that would allow our union to take strong positions on both of these fronts. AWDU’s work began as – and has largely remained – grassroots outreach and education to ASEs across the Berkeley campus. We have held meetings in dozens of departments and programs since last spring to find out more about working conditions on our campus and to inform members of the high stakes of our contract fight. Out of those meetings came a set of demands that were ratified by the Berkeley membership. They include a living wage; childcare subsidies that actually cover the cost of childcare, which can be greater than an ASE’s salary; dependent health coverage; full remission of fees so that ASEs don’t have to pay to work; housing subsidies to ensure that rent doesn’t exceed 50% of an ASE’s salary; improved appointment security and notification so that ASEs know whether they’ll have jobs the next semester; and the right to respect other union’s picket lines. In order to fight for these demands, AWDU and other members of the Berkeley unit have maintained an active presence in the bargaining process – from public sunshine meetings over the summer to bargaining sessions in September. We also organized actions to target UC president Mark Yudof and Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau, held protests at bargaining sessions and UC Regents meetings, and brought our contract demands to the October 7 Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Just as important, though, AWDU has continued its outreach to rank and file members, ensuring that the Berkeley unit is well informed about the ongoing negotiations, and so prepared to fight for a contract that meets its demands.
LV - Two delegates from UCB participated in the last UAW convention in June. How was it? Did you manage to establish connections with other sectors? C - Along with our work to strengthen UAW 2865 through
increased rank and file participation, AWDU was also able to send two delegates from the Berkeley unit to the UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit last June, to connect with activists from other locals nationwide and learn from the work they are doing. We are also in communication with grad students at the University of Washington, also organized with UAW, who have a caucus "For a Democratic Union."
LV - Since Obama is in office, one of the most striking and visible struggles has been the one for Public Education in California. Even students in Puerto Rico said that they were influenced by the events in Berkeley. What is the participation of AW in that struggle? B - ��������������������������������������������������� In the UC, students, workers and teachers have voi-
ced very clearly their total rejection of the privatization policies that are implemented at the UC as well as at the state and federal level. If we refuse to see the teaching profession casualized through the destruction of tenure-track professorships and increased year-by-year lectureships; if we refuse the privatization of the UC through decreased state funding, increased student fees and private corporate sponsorship; if we refuse the movement to online education and computerized testing--why would we accept these same policies as "educational reform" when they come from the federal government and are applied to the K-12
United States system?
LV - Recently the Daily Cal published an article that shows the tendency among College professors and staff to support the Democrats. Among Colleges and Universities in US, the University of California faculty and staff appear as the first in donations to the Democratic Party. Do you think that the Democrats are friendly to Public Education? President Obama is about to complete two years in Office. What is your opinion on his mandate up to now? M- The Obama administration educational policy is ab-
solutely a continuation of Bush's policy, "No Child Left Behind." This so-called reform program has been framed in the guise of a "Race to the Top" where state school boards compete to restructure their schools according to the Obama Administration's mandate in order to receive federal grant money. But even the name "Race to the Top" and the structuring of education reform as a competition among schools reveals that the administration is not interested in creating an educational system that better serves the children of the nation. Rather, they want to reform the system according to a business model--the same business models that brought our economy to collapse and which leave tens of thousands unemployed in California alone. The pillars of Obama and Arne Duncan's educational reforms are: linking teacher pay to student performance, increased assessment of student and school performance through standardized tests and curricula, and closing down "failing" public schools to be replaced by charter schools. The philosophy behind these ideas is exactly the philosophy we have seen at work in California higher education: privatization, casualization of the workforce, and increased centralized control in the hands of high paid administrators, rather than local teachers. Obama and Duncan try to portray these policies as "educational reform," programs which will improve the quality of education in the US. At least when the UC administration tries to push through these kinds of "reforms," they use the budget cuts as justification. This is actually more honest than what the Federal government is doing: because the truth is, all of these reforms are about cutting public funding for education. The proof of this is that, despite all the money "Race to the Top" is supposedly giving to schools, it is predicted that 275,000 education jobs will be cut this year across the nation. Local teachers' unions around the country have opposed the educational reforms because policies like including student test scores in teacher assessments will allow teachers to be laid off, despite seniority or existing contracts. The real results of these policies will not be improved education, but rather cheaper education, where teachers are hired and fired after a few years, never earning benefits or pensions. Additionally, the move to charter schools is leading to a resegregation of the school system. Again and again, city schools with large populations of students of color are shut down because of "poor performance," and charter schools are opened in suburban neighborhoods, where students are accepted by the luck of the draw. Often literally by lottery. Obama's educational policies are one of the greatest betrayals of the working people and people of color whose struggles he exploited to be elected.
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Students Join The Front Lines of The Struggle Against The Pension Reform
Strikes rock France in October
The Mobilizations Against Sarkozy Radicalize
France was rocked by protests on Oct. 19th, the sixth day of General Strike since September against the Sarkozy administration's pension reform. According to the unions involved in the mobilizations, around 3.5 million French took to the streets in 260 protests across the nation, coming out against the proposed increases to the minimum retirement age and the pension contributions. With the refineries and a large portion of the ports shut down, the country is feeling now the effects of shortages. On top of that, there are sectors of transportation, including the trains and a portion of the airport services, that are parallyzed. According to the newspaper, Le Monde, some 60% of the railroad cars are not running. The truck drivers are also participating massively in the protests. Along with this, the militant French student movement joined the front lines of the mobilizations, bringing to a halt all of the activities in the schools and universities and filling the streets with hundreds of thousands of youth. According to the high school student oranization FIDL, more than 1,200 high schools participated in the protests, striking at more than 850 schools, a record for this day of strikes and mobilizations.
After remaining intransigent regarding the attack on pensions, the right-wing government of Nicolas Sarkozy escaladed their rhetoric against demonstrators. In Lyon and Nanterre (on the periphery of Paris), the police brutally repressed the demonstrators. "This reform is essential. France has pledged to pass it and France will implement it," said the President. He confirmed to the press that he would "take measures" against the shortages, making
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it known that there would be an increase in repression against the protests. This position was reinforced by the Minister of Justice, MichĂ¨le Allion-Marie, who promised to act with "firmness" against the protestors. The reform is part of the austerity plans the European governments are adopting in order to cub the deficits produced by the policies of aid and subsidies to the financial market during the crisis that exploded in 2008. With the explosion of public spending and the inevitable appearance of deep paths, governments are now evading the crisis at the expense of the workers, pushing forward labor and social security reforms as a way to reduce expenses.
The Movement Radicalizes
The Sarkozy administration, stunned by the growth and radicalization of the protests, while remaining resolute in the face of the attacks, hints at the possibility of agreements. But the mobilizations are just becoming more and more radicalized. According to one French investigative institute, more than 70% of the French population support the protests. Its not just a shortage of sleep that is getting to Sarkozy. The arrival on the scene of the French youth and the radicalization of the movement bring back to mind the scenes of the protests led by the youth of the French banlieues (working class and immigrant suburbs on the outskirts of Paris) in 2005. They are also reminiscent of the demonstrations against the First Employment Law, two years later. In addition to disturbing the government, the radicalized French youth make the leadership of the union bureaucracies very uncomfortable, specifically because they are terrified of a direct confrontation with the government.
Published on Nov 12, 2010