Dr. Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz explains how the push to professionalize and standardize educators beginning in the mid-1800s, without granting them decision-making power, has made them the public face of foundering school policies developed and implemented by local school administrators and state and national policymakers. Widespread policy narratives that schools and teachers acting as mother figures can solve communities’ problems have inherently placed the public’s blame on teachers when those problems don’t disappear, as seen most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. D’Amico Pawlewicz is an assistant professor in the Educational Foundations and Research Program at the University of North Dakota, where she focuses on the history of education and social policy. She received the 2021 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award for her recent publication, Blaming Teachers: Professionalization Policies and the Failure of Reform in American History.
Kelly Goodman speaks about the political history of funding education through local and state taxes. Having worked as a data analyst for the Detroit public schools, Goodman pursued graduate school to explore the structural issues surrounding questions she often found herself asking: why are some schools perceived to be bad? Why do some schools receive less funding than others? How does the economy work, and for whom?
To answer those questions, Goodman’s research for her dissertation, “Taxing Limits: The Political Economy of American School Finance,” reorients political history around enduring tensions between the control of decisions and the allocation of money in federalism by exploring the 1930s and 1970s public budget crises in Michigan and California. Both states were notable for their powerful labor unions and business associations, and for their pioneering role in applying the fiscal concept of tax limitation to constrain, not cut, government. Her extended research at the Reuther Library has led her deep into the archives of the American Federation of Teachers and AFT tax guru Arthur Elder, as well as records documenting the UAW’s political actions on school finance and teacher organizing. Goodman is Ph.D. candidate in History at Yale University.
American Federation of Teachers archivist Dan Golodner tells guest host Bart Bealmear about the 1933 Chicago Teachers Walkout, when Chicago teachers joined together to demand that they be paid in actual money and on time, rather than in scrip that wasn’t honored by local businesses and banks during the Great Depression. Paid only nine times in four years because property taxes meant to fund Chicago schools were withheld by corrupt businesses, banks, and school board members, students and teachers staged public demonstrations on the streets and in bank lobbies, ultimately shaming the banks into releasing school funds and the school board into issuing consistent paychecks.