Is UC Santa Cruz selling infants and toddlers to a cesspool of injustice while claiming to fight injustice?

Is UC Santa Cruz selling infants and toddlers to a cesspool of injustice while claiming to fight injustice?

     One of the reasons I applied to graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) was because of the commitment to social justice that the university boldly proclaimed and embraced with slogans like the one on the side of the campus bike-bus: “UCSC, the original authority on questioning authority.” Knowing there was a shared vision of fighting for what is right and standing for the most vulnerable inspired and comforted me. How did this revolutionary spirit descend into voluntarily expanding the profits of the barbarians at Bain Capital? It’s perplexing.

     Bright Horizons, the daycare mega-company that UC Santa Cruz is contracting to take over childcare services once the new facility is built, is owned by Bain Capital.  In an attempt to justify the move, one UCSC spokesperson seemed to be utilizing an age-old whining child’s tactic – everyone else is doing it. “We continue to believe Bright Horizons will provide our campus — the faculty, staff, and students — with quality child care, based on its performance at several other University of California campuses,” was written in a statement by a UCSC representative. In 2013, The New York Times offered a brief history of the way Bright Horizons took care of Bain Capital over the decades and how “Bain’s profits on the deal have been anything but child’s play.”

     In a 2017 news story in New York City, the local CBS station reported on a protest by parents when they discovered what those caring for their children at the Bright Horizons childcare center were making. They revealed, “Bright Horizons has a market value of more than $4 billion.” A parent in the story reported paying $30,000/year for childcare services there but learned those caring for infants and toddlers were only making $11/hour. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2012 presidential candidate and partial founder of Bain Capital (who also employed Bain Capital and Pioneer Institute members as part of his Massachusett’s executive branch staff), bragged about the low paying jobs created through Bright Horizons in response to criticism that Bain Capital was the private equity group of corporate vultures who destroy jobs. Meanwhile, as Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer at BRIGHT HORIZONS FAMILY SOLTN, David H. Lissy made $1,822,308 in total compensation in just 2017. Of this total $396,608 was received as a salary, $444,697 was received as a bonus, $967,960 was awarded as stock and $13,043 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2017 fiscal year.

     Professors at Cornell raised alarms in 2012 as their university contracted with Bright Horizons. Here is a quote from their local city paper:

     Bright Horizons provides daycare services to Cornell’s Ithaca campus and Weill      Cornell Medical College. In 2010, faculty urged President David Skorton to cut ties with Bright Horizons for violating 56 state child care regulations, overworking its teachers and overcompensating its top management. Skorton, however, decided to renew the University’s contract with Bright Horizons — a decision that some professors say they remain unhappy with.

    Citing past problems with Bright Horizons, Prof. Sydney van Morgan, sociology, said she finds Bright Horizons’ relationship with Bain Capital — which took the company private for $1.3 billion in 2008 — problematic. The University should not use the services of a corporate company when there are several other childcare institutions in the Ithaca community, he said.

    “Is that really the kind of company that Cornell wants to be working with, as opposed to IC3, the local childcare center, which is public, not-for-profit and run by a board of parents?” van Morgan said. “Why not have that model?”

Yes. Why not have that model? Hopefully, Bright Horizons remedied their 56 state childcare violations in New York, but they certainly did not cut their ties with Bain Capital. In fact, two members of Bright Horizons Board of Directors, Joshua Bekenstein and Jordan Hitch, are the Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Bain Capital Partners, respectively.  

     Why should anyone care about Bain Capital?

     In recent times, the most powerful education policy-making players in the arena have been from businesses and their foundations. Dell, Gates, Waltons, Broad, and private equity firms like Bain Capital have pushed for model legislation that requires high stakes standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, teacher accountability systems that link pay to test scores, retaining students for not meeting benchmarks, vouchers, charters, and approaches that maintain a system of segrenomics. Essentially, legislation that applies the principles of capitalism to education (which is notably not part of the business college because teaching is a social science that involves humans – not products) is the type of legislation Bain Capital supports in complete opposition to what education researchers at all of the universities worth anything have found to be best practices.     

     Some of you may be recalling your social studies lessons right now. Don’t legislators in legislative branches make laws? Sure, and Bain Capital has supported right-wing pressure groups such as the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research who are major drivers of the model legislation that has come from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have been passed into law across the United States. Bain Capital helps fund ALEC initiatives. According to ALEC Exposed, “ALEC’s education legislation diverts taxpayers’ money from American public school children to for-profit education corporations, strips away the rights of teachers and their ability to negotiate strongly for small class sizes and other practices that help children learn better, and gives more tax breaks to rich corporations and individuals to pay private school tuition.”

     ALEC has also introduced legislation such as the “Stand Your Ground” law that allowed for the murder of Trayvon Martin to go unpunished, anti-immigration legislation, tough-on-crime legislation that nourishes and expands the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) (the PIC that UCSC Distinguished Professor Emerita Angela Davis has been fighting to abolish for decades), and environmentally destructive legislation.

     Bright Horizons is part of and funds Bain Capital. Bain Capital supports and funds groups (like the Pioneer Institute) that support ALEC and ALEC legislation. UC Santa Cruz wants parents to give their money for childcare to Bright Horizons, which will enrich Bain Capital. Bain Capital will continue to monetarily contribute to all of the unjust initiatives many of us at UCSC will spend the majority our lives fighting.

     What. The. Actual. F***?!?!?!

 

  

 

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Not My Inmates

     When he stood up to sharpen his pencil at the sharpener on the cart directly in front of my desk, he spoke unprompted softly and reflectively while he gazed blankly at the classroom wall. “I have never been to school in an actual high school. That’s a dang shame, isn’t it?” I looked down quickly to fight back any tears that might involuntarily form in my eyes. “Yes. It really is,” I replied.

     I knew this student’s case had just been adjudicated to the adult system, and it clearly weighed heavily on his sixteen-year-old shoulders. All of his high school credits prior to arriving to our classroom were from another detention facility in the state, and he seemed to accept he wouldn’t be exiting the system any time soon.

     As an educator at our county’s juvenile detention center, it is difficult to witness the effects of multiple moments of disappointment and neglect on our city’s most vulnerable children. My heart splinters for their lost childhoods and obstacle-laden futures, but also for those in the community whom they may have hurt because the interventions these kids desperately needed as they were growing up were never provided.

     Teaching is a humanity. It is difficult to find more glaring examples of the need for human connections once you have had the misfortune of being immersed in experiences at a juvenile jail. This necessity for a human nexus continues once kids leave my classroom for their next destination. Ideally, that next destination is in the community because the juvenile justice system in conjunction with other agencies has efficiently and effectively performed its established purpose. Tragically however, I often maintain communication with my students through correspondence with them at another incarceration facility.

     I optimistically expect most citizens to agree with the assertion that the United States’ justice and mass incarceration systems require reform. Yet, unless someone is directly entangled in the system, most of us are oblivious to the many costs people incarcerated and their loved ones must pay.

     In addition to having to purchase cheaply made and easily broken “j-players” in order for incarcerated people to electronically communicate with those outside of the prison system, each electronic message sent requires payment equivalent to or more than the cost of a U.S. postage stamp. Each picture attached to an electronic message sent through JPay also requires an additional “stamp” purchase in order to digitally send it.

     For example, a former student I maintain contact with asked me to send him a picture of his high school diploma because he was taken from our facility before his graduation could be certified. In order to send the picture, I paid .50 cents for the electronic message and an additional .50 for the digital picture attached, for a total of $1.00 for the one communication.

     Securus, the company which owns JPay, yields over one hundred million dollars per year in profits, with a gross profit margin of 51 percent, by exploiting already disadvantaged citizens. Although the profits generated as a result of people’s suffering are sufficiently abhorrent, the pit in my stomach the first time I became a JPay consumer was not initially spurred by the money I was spending. Rather, it is the way in which JPay and multiple other prison industries, in collaboration with various established institutions in our society, have successfully dehumanized people who are incarcerated.

     Going to JPay’s website, users can see how to do an “inmate search.” I am never looking for an “inmate.” I am searching for a young person who was a student in my class. They are sons. They may be brothers, uncles, nephews, or fathers. Whatever their worst deeds are, “inmate” should not be the summary of their existence.

     The over two million people incarcerated in the United States are human beings. Redacting their humanness and reducing them to their prodigious mistakes is a practice utilized by the inhumane to erase their humanity. Just as the revolting practice of referring to enslaved human beings as “slaves” was once embedded into our culture, attributing the term “inmate” to incarcerated human beings is similarly repulsive to my sensibilities.

     I often quote Desmond Tutu when I am concluding public presentations about my students and our classroom at the county’s juvenile detention center. He said “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” We must all remind each other of our innate worth as living beings on this planet, and seek the humanity that connects us. Discarding dehumanizing language that transforms people into negatively implicated nouns may enlighten our perceptions of the people many would rather not know or name.

     I may refer to the young people in my classroom as my students, but they are not my inmates.