Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

As Striking L.A. Teachers Push Back, Analysis That Profit-Seeking Billionaires Are Desperate To Privatize In Order To Lower Expectations And Prove Government Doesn't Work (cf: Fights For Green New Deal and Universal Healthcare)

On Deomcracy Now's report on the Los Angeles teachers strike against privatization: Cecily Myart-Cruz and Eric Blanc
We could write about the teachers strike in Los Angeles with respect to one very direct relationship to defending libraries: They are demanding more librarians, along with their other demands (for smaller class sizes, higher pay, the regulation of charter schools and more nurses, and counselors).  But the more important connection to make is how the teachers fight against privatization is part of a bigger overall fight against privatization of all our institutions, including places like schools and libraries where we go to develop our minds, educate ourselves, and learn about democracy and how to understand power.

It is sobering, how closely the attacks on the Los Angeles public schools involve tactics parallel to those used against New York City public libraries as those launching those attacks attempt to lower the expectations of what the public can expect from government and the benefits that can flow to the public through the public commons.

The Democracy Now coverage of the strike this week is very good: “Public Education Is Not Your Plaything”: L.A. Teachers Strike Against Privatization & Underfunding, January 15, 2019.

In the words of Eric Blanc, a reporter covering the strike for The Guardian and Jacobin: “the question of privatization here in Los Angeles has been put to the fore” as 20,000 people marched through downtown Los Angeles protesting the privatization of Los Angeles public schools.  In The Nation Blanc wrote: “Pro-charter billionaires like Eli Broad and Reed Hastings spent an unprecedented $9.7 million in the spring of 2017 to ensure the election of a pro-privatization majority [to] the school board.”

This resulted in new superintendent, Austin Beutner, taking charge of the system, “who was imposed by billionaires who bought the 2017 elections” and who:
has a plan to downsize the district to push students into charter schools. . .

So, what we see by Beutner is fundamentally a push to really dismantle the institution that he’s nominally supposed to be leading.
Does this sound familiar to ears of library defenders here in New York City?  The following will also sound familiar.  Beutner maintains:
that there’s a financial crisis, that he would love to meet the demands of teachers. But we know that there’s actually a $1.86 billion reserve. And so what’s at stake is, he doesn’t want to use that money to improve the schools, because if he were to do that, it would undermine his mission to basically dismantle and privatize L.A. public schools.
Substantial reserve funds that those running the system won't access when they want to privatize the system's assets?  Yes familiar.

This assessment of strike leader and National Education Association vice president at United Teachers Los Angeles Cecily Myart-Cruz will add still more to what library defenders will find familiar: That there is (as with the policies pushed by Betsy DeVos Trump's U.S. Secretary of Education who is deeply involved in pushing the charter schools she is connected to) a:
systematic underfunding of public education, we’re talking about a privatization model that has swept the country
Of all the things said during the discussion, the analysis of Mr. Blanc’s below is what struck us as the most wise and most critical to think about:
I think the most important thing to keep in mind there is that public education is like the last bastion of the public sector in the United States. They’ve taken away most of everything else we had, and put it into private hands. And so, really, what you’re seeing is working people really concentrating around public education as the last right that we have for all people in this country. And so, at the same time, big business wants to dismantle this, because they know that if they can lower people’s expectations . . that they don’t deserve anything, then it’s going to be much harder to fight for other gains that we need, such as Medicare for all or a Green New Deal. So, really, what we’re seeing is: Is this going to be a country that uses its vast wealth to fund human needs, or is it going to be using this wealth to fund, you know, really big billionaires?
We previously covered in detail the assessment that the success of libraries, by their example are a threat to the privatizers here: Libraries As A Threat To The “Perspective” That Virtually Everything Should Be Dictated And Run By The Forces of Market Capitalism.

That’s right, if the public can be convinced that government can’t do anything successfully, it means there are a lot of things we can never “expect” to get, like medicare for all, or a solutions for our climate chaos crisis and global warming.  (See: If the Government Shutdown Wasn’t About Obamacare (And It Isn’t), Then It Was About?. . . Ready To Be Hot Under The Collar?)

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