Two separate incidents in the US in the last week have demonstrated the contempt for democracy and human rights, which is inherent in the education 'reform' movement.

In Newark, New Jersey, where the right wing administration of  Governor Christie is proposing to hand over public schools to the KIPP charter school chain, five school principals have been suspended for speaking at a public meeting, called by a Mayoral candidate for Newark so that local communities could express their views and ask questions.  The principals explained that their schools had been suffering years of cuts both in staffing and facilities while schools in other more affluent parts of town schools were well funded. They also welcomed the support of their school communities in fighting the closures and privatisations. As one principal, Deneen Washington put it: 'We are boycotting the application -- we're not doing it. Maple Avenue school is not listed on the applications. . .  And I was told today, "Maple no longer exists." The devil is a liar. Because I'm going down fighting. I will no longer stand still and stand quiet and let them do to our babies, whether it's Carver, or Maple, those are all of our kids in the South Ward.'

The suspensions were carried out according to on the internet: 'Because they spoke at a public forum on Wednesday in opposition to Ms Anderson's widely criticised "One Newark" reorganisation plan, which involves "repurposing" or closing nearly one third of Newark's public schools.'

The Ms Anderson referred to above is one Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov Christie (himself embroiled in corruption allegations) as schools superintendant. She has previously worked for Teach For America. The story gets murkier however. According to the Facbook page, two of the main sponsors of the 'one Newark' plan are Mark Zuckerberg of (ironically) Facebook and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank which happens to be heavily involved in financing charter school construction projects. So while corporations and their bosses are having a huge say in the privatisation of Newark's schools, and moreover have a vested financial interest in them, parents and communities have no say and teachers get sacked for exercising their democratic right to speak up.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, where a massive neo-liberal restructuring of schools took place after the devestation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the courts have just found for 7000 teachers who were summarily sacked after the hurricane, as public schools were replaced by charters and the teachers themselves largely by Teach For America 'associates' flown in from anywhere but the local community. To add insult to injury, teacher 'evaluation' was managed by a Teach For America , with 5 weeks training.

According to an excellent by Michelle Chen, the restructuring in New Orleans: 'Rather than “saving” New Orleans schools from failure, has aggravated divides between black and white, wealthy and poor, by pushing schools to operate more like corporations.' As for the firings, as one teacher put it: 'Everyone lost a lot in that storm. And to lose your job in such an undignified way on top of it all was really dispiriting to a lot of people. So I just hope that people would think twice before they attempt to do something like that again.'

The judgement in the teachers' favour could cost the School Board $1.5 billion according to estimates.

It is really not surprising that education reform bodies like Teach For America, KIPP charter schools and their like should play fast and loose with democracy. The whole neo-liberal project has private capital at its heart, with oligarchs like Bill Gates calling the shots with no regard to democratic accountability. It is money and only money which gets to speak up when it comes to 'reforming' US schools and the same is true over most of the globe. Meanwhile teachers who speak up face the sack or worse. Like the brave Newark principals however, teachers will not be silenced.