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The Occupy movement has not gone away. It’s just pulled an ACORN with various attempts to legitimize themselves and in doing so, branching out into topic specific groups and areas. One such area is, not surprisingly, debt. Specifically Student Debt, as well as overall education issues.
While looking at video of the recent HKonJ rally in Raleigh that featured the NAACP, AFL-CIO and a host of other Left leaning groups, I came across an organization called The North Carolina Student Power Union which had attended the HKonJ. On Twitter, this group sports the handle @StudentPowerNC.
NCSPU held a conference on the 16th of February. This conference’s tag line is ‘Retaking our schools! Remake Society!” Since NCSPU is aligned already with the local union presence, this snippet from their blog on the upcoming conference is not surprising:
Wealthy right-wing donors bought the North Carolina legislature and put Tea Party conservatives in the driver’s seat of our state. Their program is clear: public education and services will face massive cuts, and the general welfare of our state will be undermined to benefit the richest few. From voting rights to women’s rights, those in power want to take us backwards. North Carolina families, students, and workers cannot afford this regressive agenda – and we will not accept it. It is more urgent than ever to build upon multi-issue, grassroots mobilization efforts in NC. Our state has a rich history of activism and resistance, and as in the past, students must serve as leaders in the fight for social justice. The time for organizing a powerful student movement is now!
Apparently NCSPU is not concerned with actually obtaining jobs to pay off their own incurred debt and the possibility of not having to move back in with Mom and Dad. How dare Governor McCrory demand colleges offer courses that might yield an actual job? The group seems more preoccupied with making sure someone else is responsible for the poor choices of others while demonizing the usual suspects. Give us what we want because… because… rich people or something. Sounds familiar.
NCSPU’s mission statement reads much like an Occupy list of demands hitting poverty, social justice and of course, the horrific debt of students in the United States. One line in their mission statement stood out to me which in part is taken from the actual NC Constitution that contradicts their ‘education is a right’ mantra. From the NCSPU Mission Statement page:
We demand that North Carolina lives up to its constitution, a promise that education shall remain “as free as practicable” and accessible to all. We demand that a new power structure be created on our individual campuses and in society as a whole.
“As Free As Practicable.”
Some brief comments and observations on this statement and education:
The Public Education Experiment in this country has stuttered, sputtered and every four to five years reinvented itself in an effort to correct falling grades and pure lack of academic achievement. North Carolina is no exception; building the above qualifier into the state constitution was perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The latest incarnation of school transformation, The Common Core, is also proving to be an untested failure and massive federal overreach. The cost each time has gone up as competency has gone down. We spend more per pupil than almost any other nation with negligible results. A variety of factors play into this spending, with the most obvious area being the issue of Teacher Unions. There is quite a bit more to be said about Common Core and school funding versus competency, which I will likely cover in a separate post.
The bulk of spending in education in NC is allocated in employee salaries and benefits. This poses a budget situation much like what we saw happen in Wisconsin as NC contributes the Lion’s share of funds for education spending at 64.3%. 2009-2010, NC supplemented the budget with Federal funding and is part of the current cuts that have Democrats up in arms. NC has been relatively self-sufficient in its public school funding as previously noted by the 64.3% in state funds. These cuts seem to be an attempt to return to that. Also of note, Teacher pay since 92-93 has increased 119%. For those interested in the NC school budget cuts and the historical spending on education in NC see these two links:
Of note in the second link:
Much of the money spent on public education in North Carolina pays for employee salaries and benefits. For the 2008-09 school year, the state spent nearly 91 percent of funds appropriated for public education on salary and benefits.
Returning to NCSPU – connections to Occupy:
This group is supported by another similar group, one called Debt Strike. This is clearly an Occupy Wall Street offshoot, as they state it themselves:
Debt is a tie that binds the 99%.
As individuals, families, and communities, most of us are drowning in debt to Wall Street for the basic things things we need to live, like housing, education, and health care. Even those of us who do not have personal debt are affected by predatory lending. Our essential public services are cut because our cities and towns are held hostage by the same big banks that have been bailed out by our government in recent years.
We are not a loan. Strike Debt came from a coalition of Occupy groups looking to build popular resistance to all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks. Debt keeps us isolated, ashamed, and afraid. We are building a movement to challenge this system while creating alternatives and supporting each other. We want an economy where our debts are to our friends, families, and communities — and not to the 1%.
Nowhere on their site did I note any reference to the over $5 trillion added by the President. Debt Strike didn’t have time to delve into that or the crony capitalism he practices tied to banking and Wall Street, but they did have time to compose a 132 page manual on how to combat debt and debt collectors. I found the section on ‘Economic Hate Crimes’ starting on page 44 very interesting.
The big push by Debt Strike right now is what they have titled ‘The Rolling Jubilee‘. It’s “a bailout by the people for the people” that has reached cities across the country, mainly in areas where a large occupy presence has typically been. From the Rolling Jubilee site:
A bailout of the people by the people
Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to enjoy their debt and tuition graphics. I think some of them would benefit from reading Glenn Reynolds’ Higher Education Bubble posts or perhaps a better starting point would be his book. Perhaps some of their time might be spent on finding out of they are getting what they are paying for. Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing what most of us do today as we try to find work out in the real world, maybe some of us might have done some research on what fields actually have jobs that enable us to pay off the debt we incur. Novel idea, I know.
Debt Strike has a local Raleigh chapter as well, complete with the competence we’ve come to expect from Occupy. One can visit the Occupy Raleigh forums to see who is working on it. Since their site is apparently not functioning, you can get a look at the Raleigh chapter on Twitter: @StrikeDebtRal or check out Facebook. Both Debt Strike and Debt Strike NC have a page there; so does NCSPU.
There is a disconnect from reality going on here. For North Carolina, specifically, it would seem these local occupy related groups want to see lowered tuition rates yet no corresponding budget cuts. The money has to come from somewhere to meet these demands and no one disagrees education is a priority. I refer these groups back to “As Free As Practicable”.
- NC: Parents Blow Common Core Wide Open in Legislative Hearing (Video)
- Teachers in Upheaval in North Carolina
- NC: Sen. Tillman Calls for Name Change of Common Core (Video)
- NC: Judge Rules Against Minority Children in Vouchers Lawsuit
- NC: Is Legislature Ignoring Public Outcry on Common Core?