When we grew our school system from one conducted by itinerant, very young generalists to that of a modern, publicly funded collection of certificated and professional specialists, we developed a system intended to be integrated at the “student-level”. That is, in attending specialized classes, these separate classes would all become blended inside of any given student. And any given student would be “composed” of exposure to a certain constellation of specialty subjects. In the meantime we determined what a core group of those specialty subjects looked like and acknowledged that there is a difference, in some sense, between certain “kinds” of classes.

Thus we had a High School in which there were an array of classes to be chosen and from which certain core courses needed to be taken by all – math, for example, to a certain level, and English Language Arts (ELA). There were “academic” classes and “physical education” classes and “performing arts” classes of, say, choir or chamber music or orchestra or theatrical production or drawing or painting. There were vocational classes intended to be learned from a master as an apprentice and utilizing physical skills rather than academic knowledge like, say, a foreign language. Instead these classes taught how to do some thing, in contrast with accreting the building blocks of understanding that would be used toward investigating some existential or academic life’s truth, say, ‘The Meaning Of Love’ or ‘how cancer develops’.

So all that knowledge gets integrated inside of the student, collected from a series of individual classes. And when these are absent, or diminished in quality, then the ability to integrate a full set of experiences and information is jeopardized. Here, parenthetically, is an interesting challenge to the wisdom of this protocol at least in earlier grades.

In practice, because the current paradigm relies on a large collection of disarticulated classes integrated elsewhere (inside the student), it is possible for the system to glide for a good while with an increasingly fewer set of constituent components without seeing a breakdown of the general setup.

And yet at some point, the fiction can no longer be sustained that a complex educational product (a child with a well-rounded education) has been derived from a depauperate set of constituent components, that is to say classes, or the resources (teachers, funding) to support them.

Thus school opens in a matter of days with less, always less, even, from within a set of promises that there would be more.

Less is not more but when will we notice? The problem is that this system is so complex it can absorb so much less for a long while before it becomes obvious the whole system has fundamentally changed. But in defunding our educational system a fundamental change has been imposed and it is time to take notice.

We were led to believe, for example, that the Draconian education cuts of the past were to be reversed by a combination of prop 30 that would net more educational dollars and by an improved economy that would replenish the general coffers from which educational dollars could flow and from a political initiative (LCFF or Local Control Funding Formula) that would rearrange apportionment of educational dollars permitting more budgeting control by school administrators rather than state-level “educrats”. So, say, if the principal wakes up one morning to discover there is no more toilet paper s/he can just grab money intended instead for, say, text books or sidewalk maintenance toward that end because there is more “local control” of that money (permission granted for decisions at the local level), and there ought to be more of it (improved economy) than formerly (pre-prop 30).

So what are we to make of this breathtaking report: that athletic funding is cut by more than half across-the-board at local High Schools? Further, that Arts and Music Education funds earmarked for 2014/5 have decreased by 15%? At least two additional components of that integrated student’s education, Adult Education and student’s vocational classes, remain decimated. Special Education faces the same degree of funding cuts as Arts and Music Education funding.

What I make of this is that we are experiencing the same-old assault, regardless of what’s being told to us. Just like when an older sibling grabs the little one’s arm and keeps whacking it upon your own head saying “stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself”: words and deeds can be completely disconnected even when packaged in the same event.

From an empirical, on-the-ground perspective, you just know this is true.

When I went to (public) HS I could – and did – take two modern foreign languages and Latin. Our schedules were constructed so as to be able to sustain this course-load without a time-turner. As well over the course of four years I took several vocational classes of life-long and employment use as well as the three ‘R’s and some science and history (natural and geopolitical grounding must anchor a well-rounded education). Classes in music and drama and art flushed out a fuller set of educational components that together, inside of one given student, create The Educated Citizen.

There is no such opportunity for a public school student today. And it is not just a function of economic downturn, it is a concerted effort to systematically deaccession these component constituents of a child’s education. Else, why when these funds have supposedly been restored, is the access to diversity in educational programming only becoming ever scarcer?

This is what’s happening. Our educational dollars are continuing to be funneled with decreasing volume into fewer and fewer courses among fewer experienced teachers among schools with increasingly greater proportions of increasingly “higher-needs” children.

This has happened regardless of what is being said and it is not a novel strategy. It is an old chestnut of a political stratagem, favored by the current regime of politically ascendant neocons; ‘Starving The Beast’ is a misnomer of an economic fix for a problem that doesn’t exist until the solution actually imposes it.

By imposing an emaciated curriculum on our students, it becomes impossible for them to receive a well-rounded or functional, never mind fun or effective, education through the public commons. The death knell of public education is tolling not because it was dysfunctional and needed fixing but because we so mangled its effective modernization that anyone actively seeking a good education for their children must actively look elsewhere now.

Actively Look Elsewhere Now”. This is the only logical conclusion as to what the end-game of Education Reform could possibly actually be about. Athletics, and Arts – even Special Education are all receiving less money now as ever, because the message between the lines — the only conclusion supported by the evidence — is: get out, you are being pushed out. If you need counseling, go find a school that offers it. If you need rigorous academics, go buy a space in a private school where this is supported. If you need your children to experience performing arts, look to the private sector where artists are employed: we have no funds for such frivolity in the Commons.

The mantra of public school privatization has saturated every conceivable way, shape and form, from Public Relations as the mantra of “School Choice” to partisan economic theory as championed by Friedman’s school “vouchers” aka Charters. This message has been cogitated, cajoled, wheedled and finally, simply coerced by just plain starving the beast of public education such that now, promises of bountiful budgets notwithstanding to the contrary, it is actively choking to death.

Arts and music classes and a budget for them is already functionally non-existent at most schools. Not just small, but not-present. The rank basic, pedagogically critical, baseline necessity of PE classes, teams and coaches for releasing physical energy preparatory to mental concentration, is likewise small and getting smaller. Ditto for counselors and special ed needs and just about every conceivable teacher or course secondary to the astonishingly narrow agenda of ELA and math standardized-test-prep for children struggling to perform at grade level. And this is not changing, no matter what they say.

If your needs fall outside of that teensy tinsy buttonholed needs-category of debatable merit (not that ELA and math skills are unimportant but that raising standardized-test achievement substitutes for genuine foundational learning), then your best-interest solution is to: get out. Charter School or Private School it matters not because either way, the interests of deconstructing the public in favor of the private, are served.

It has been and continues to be, this “Ed®heeform” Biz, a long-term, multifaceted, multi-pronged effort to shift the registers of schoolchildren from the public into the private sector — and it is almost complete.

With this latest news leaking out of impotent parent input and persistently evaporating budgets and school conditions of ongoing privation and ever-accelerating charter school gains, just one logical consistency leads inexorably to one conclusion, one goal on this eve of a fresh new school year: the public system is forcing you away if what you really want is any semblance of a good education. LAUSD’s administration is reinforcing – not mitigating but creating — conditions where students cannot receive an acceptable education.

As parents and citizens, in satisfying our family’s own best interest, we’re simultaneously forced into the hands of Very Big Business, people who are surrogates for vast, integrated, vertical corporations that require ever more consumers of Education, a sector which must therefore be commoditized. Because privatization is what supports the corporate imperative of expansion.

Happy Back To School Season! Take your pick: pay for what once was provided by society as a basic human civil right, or stay ever-vigilant as the pressure on your school’s budget, class sizes, teachers, programs and services absorb every single day an assault designed to diminish their value.