VICE (2013) s06e09 Episode Script

No Choice But to Choose & Rebel Republic

1 SHANE SMITH: This week on Vice the growing movement to privatize public education.
ALIYA: If you close all the public schools in your area, what is the choice? You have no choice.
GIANNA GIANNA: Raise your hand if you went to a school that's now closed.
Wow.
SMITH: And then, rebel groups fight for control of the Central African Republic.
BEN ANDERSON: These guys are gonna get deployed to fight against one of 14 or more armed groups who have got lots of experience.
(SPEAKING FRENCH) (THEME MUSIC PLAYING) (CROWD SHOUTING) They're saying that right now, it's time for change.
(SHOUTING) In 2002, President George W.
Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act to fix what his administration believed to be the country's broken public school system.
Part of that package was an emphasis on what was called school choice.
The idea that free market competition will lead to better schools and better students.
Now, this reform movement has been supported by politicians and philanthropists on both sides of the political spectrum, and has led to a market rise in school choice programs across the country.
Today, one of the most powerful voices behind this free market philosophy is current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
So we sent Gianna Toboni to DeVoses' home state of Michigan to see how her vision is playing out.
GIANNA: More than 100 schools have been closed down in Detroit over the last 20 or so years.
That's more than five schools per year.
So when driving around Detroit, you're usually only a few minutes from a school that's been closed down.
Here's one of the closed down schools.
And you can see it's all boarded-up here.
Already there's another closed school.
GIANNA: Frank Cody is one of the lowest performing high schools in Detroit.
It consistently ranks in the bottom fifth percentile on state exams, and last year, the state threatened to close it down if test scores didn't improve.
GIANNA: How has your experience been at Cody? We don't got enough advisors, we don't got enough electives, and we don't got enough resources to make our education better.
We don't got no art class, they took that away.
We don't have like, all of us don't have Spanish class.
Only certain 11th graders get Spanish class.
And I feel like our teachers don't help you with what you need help with, 'cause we got seniors who can't pass their classes right.
GIANNA: What do you guys wanna be when you graduate? What do you want to do for work? What are your dreams for your future? Me, personally, I want to be a Become a WNBA all-star, superstar.
Everything, okay! I want to do it all and the whole nine yards.
I'm trying to get my mama outta here.
I'll just that's That's what I wanna do.
But if that don't go well, I wanna become a lawyer.
I wanna be a veterinarian 'cause I love animals.
All kinds: domestic, wild, all of that.
Do you like science class? Ooh, well, not really! But, you know, I'm gonna get there.
I'm gonna get there.
Raise your hand if you went to a school that's now closed.
Every single one of you? Wow.
GIANNA: But it's not just Detroit.
Public education across the country has been in a state of crisis for decades.
Diane Ravitch served as assistant secretary of education under George H.
W.
Bush.
She's one of the leading expers on education in the country.
What has happened to the education system over the past 20 years has been the growth of a very powerful movement to privatize public education.
We've seen a narrowing of the curriculum.
So that many schools, in an effort to raise their test scores, drop the arts.
Many schools drop physical education.
All because No Child Left Behind was the federal government saying that if you can't get your test scores up, you will be punished.
It's the standardized testing that sets up schools for privatization.
GIANNA: As school choice gained momentum, the largest growth has been charters, privately run schools funded with public money.
RAVITCH: No one had any evidence that charter schools were better than public schools, but nonetheless they were proposed as a remedy.
When students leave traditional public schools and go to charter schools, how does that effect the Not only the school district, but the communities? In district after district across the country, we've seen the growth of charters accompanied by the loss of funding to the public schools, meaning that they have to cut.
What people don't realize when they hear "charters," is that every dollar that goes to charter and vouchers, is a dollar taken away from public schools.
ANNOUNCER: The governor of Michigan, the honorable John Engler.
GIANNA: One of the first states to embrace school choice was Michigan, where 25 years ago, the state radically overhauled its public education system.
JOHN ENGLER: Ladies and gentlemen, public education is a monopoly, and monopolies don't work.
(APPLAUSE) GIANNA: As market competition was introduced, Michigan's education system became one of the most deregulated in the country.
In Detroit alone, close to 100 charter schools have opened since 1995, while nearly 200 traditional public schools, have shut down in the same time.
NEWSWOMAN: One third of the district's schools need to become charters, if they're to survive.
NEWSMAN: This place is now on borrowed time.
Set to close June 22nd The end of an era for West Michigan's largest school district, as students and staff said a final farewell.
If you close all the public schools in your area and you pop up two or three charter schools, what is the choice? You have no choice.
GIANNA: Aliya Moore grew up in Detroit, where she's now raising her two daughters.
She started fighting for public education after the state closed her neighborhood school in 2013.
ALIYA: It is almost like if we can get rid of these schools, then we can get rid of this district, and charter it out.
When charters first came to the city, it was like: "Don't send your children to filthy public schools.
Go to nice charter schools, nice academies.
Our children are dressed in uniform, our children walk on blue lines.
" And it was more of a to me, a prison or jail mentality.
You know, not really open to parent input and involvement.
You know? Just get the dollars, get the kids.
And even if our school fails, we can close down and open another one in another name.
It's a business.
What do you say to those who say that they want to give families like yours school choice? That kinda angers me when I'm hearing that so much now.
Choice, choice.
It's a choice! This was my choice! GIANNA: At the center of Michigan's experiment in school choice is current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
The DeVoses are a powerful fore in conservative politics, both in Michigan and around the country.
Since lobbying to introduce charter legislation, the family has spent an estimated $7 million promoting the unregulated expansion of choice.
And with Betsy DeVos now working in the White House, her model may be representative of what's to come nationally.
Do you believe parents should be able to choose the best school for their child regardless of their zip code or family income? (CROWD CHEERS AND APPLAUDS) DEVOS: Me too, and so does President Trump.
(CROWD CHEERS AND APPLAUDS) GIANNA: Former state representative Lamar Lemons has seen the influence of the charter lobby in the Michigan House firsthand.
How strong is the charter lobby here? It is extremely, uh, strong, and particularly that Betsy DeVos and the DeVos family, uh, essentially spearhead it.
Betsy DeVos has said that public schools here are financially and educationally unsuccessful.
She suggested retiring DPS.
- Does she have a point? - No, she does not.
In fact, she helped undermine DPS with her influence with the state legislature.
Did the state government intentionally close down hundreds of traditional public schools in order to create opportunity for charters? I believe so.
Because no one would attend them if our schools were performing as they were.
So they had to create a crisis, and then drive the children We call them "educational refugees" Into the for-profit charter schools.
But the charter schools, as a rule, don't perform as well as the public schools.
GIANNA: Nationwide, studies have shown that most charter schools haven't produced better results than traditional public school.
In Michigan alone, about 80% of charter schools perform below the state average.
And as they've expanded, Michigan has dropped to dead last in terms of educational improvement and is the only state to have regressed in the past 15 years.
But the DeVos family has continued to advocate for school choice.
They even founded their own charter school in their hometown of Grand Rapids.
We're at West Michigan Aviation Academy, and this 18-year-old student is about to fly us in this plane.
(ENGINE WHIRRING) (ENGINE REVVING) INSTRUCTOR: It's gonna be a little bumpy today.
(INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER) That's it.
First indication.
GIANNA: David's a senior at West Michigan Aviation Academy.
One of the best charter schools in Michigan.
I have to say Dave's pretty good, especially given the weather conditions.
INSTRUCTOR: Aileron comes all the way over to the right.
Hold it here.
Hold it off the ground.
Hold it, hold it, hold it.
Good.
Pretty nice cross-wind landing.
Nice landing, Dave.
GIANNA: For those who understand the traditional public school model, more so than this one, you're essentially the superintendent of this one school.
Correct.
As the CEO, which I don't love that title, but that's the title that I have, they expect me to run the operation.
And there's very little bureaucracy.
Uh, they expect, you know, short briefs on things that are happening here.
So it is kind of more structured like a business? Yeah, I think more of a business model, more of a board of directors, more of a corporate feel to it.
We have a lot of teachers that are fresh from college, and so, they are relatable for us high school students, and they dedicate so much time.
What I love most about this school is the opportunities that it provides for everyone.
Like whatever you wanna do, the school helps you get to that goal, and it helps you find where you are in society, and, like, what you want to be.
GIANNA: I know you have a diverse student population.
I'm noticing all the pilots are white.
Why is that? It's the ones who have made it through the program.
We have more diversity in this current pilot class.
And it's something that we'd love to have is more diversity and more females.
- Okay.
- And we're very cognizant of that.
And we do have now in the pipeline this year, not in that picture, our first African-American student pilot who soloed.
GIANNA: But getting into charter schools like this one isn't easy Something we saw at their annual admissions lottery.
The first name is Avery Walter.
Kendall Springborn.
Ashley Escobar.
Sarah Herwire.
Number 70, Matthew Kleinstra.
Charles Cortice.
Number 147, Tyler Azar.
Gosh! That's so nerve-wracking, huh? What were you thinking as you saw those 140, whatever names go up? I thought I was not gonna get in at all, 'cause I was 147.
GIANNA: 147 out of? TYLER: Uh, I think 155.
155.
Wow.
GIANNA: The debate over school choice has reached a boiling point across the country.
While Betsy DeVos declined our request for an interview, her husband Dick DeVos, one of the most powerful education lobbyists in the country, agreed to sit down with us.
GIANNA: Over the last few months in reporting this story, we've seen some really impressive charter schools, including yours.
We've also seen the effect that charters have had on traditional public schools.
Does that concern you at all? Well, I think I think there has been an effect of Of charters on public schools.
And my hope is that that effect has been positive.
That the effect has been that traditional schools, having been confronted with an alternative that they were never confronted with before, that that will have them take a look at themselves, and say, "How can we be special, too?" I've talked to low-income parents who I know would be offended by that.
Because they feel like the influence that your family has over the Michigan state legislature has caused their public schools to be shut down.
Okay, I I appreciate their perspective.
The answer is we we don't.
We haven't.
- Mm-hmm.
- I don't know how I don't know how they can come to that conclusion.
For I Fairly speaking.
I think lobbying for pro-charter legislation, funding campaigns of candidates who are voting strictly pro-charter, contributing to the Michigan Republican party, whose stance on education is pro-charter.
Um, I think those would be the reasons.
And they feel like the rise in charters is defunding their public schools.
I think that's what they would say.
And I appreciate the point of view.
You know, and And I respect that.
I respect their point of view.
GIANNA: On average, when you look across the country, charters don't out-perform traditional public schools.
How do you, sort of, push for growth of chartes when we don't know they're any better than traditional public schools? Why are parents choosing charters? Nobody's forcing them to go to a charter school.
If parents weren't choosing charters, charters wouldn't exist.
Mm-hmm.
Parents are making these decisions.
Not bureaucrats.
Not me, not you.
Parents are choosing these alternatives.
Because, apparently, they think they're better for their children.
My hope is, not that one does better than the other.
My hope is that they all do well.
Mm-hmm.
The nature of competition though, is not everyone wins.
The nature of competition of education is that potentially everybody wins.
GIANNA: A hundred schools were closed in the last 20 year.
That's not winning.
DEVOS: Children are getting a better education as a consequence of new options and new choices, and new possibilities.
That is winning.
For years, the Central African Republic suffered a brutal sectarian conflict between Christians and Muslims.
On top of this, the so-called resource curse has morphed the crisis into a fight between multiple armed groups over money and power.
Now over half the population, some two and a half million people, now depend on humanitarian aid for survival.
Another half million have fled the country all together.
We sent Ben Anderson to report on this ongoing story.
This is the biggest IDP camp in Bria, where at least 40,000 people are living Who have had to flee their homes and live in these little tiny huts.
And there are an additional 20,000 people who've had to flee their homes outside of this camp.
This is happening to almost the entire country, um, roughly three-quarters of the country is in a similar state to Bria.
BEN: MSF & Oxfam run food and water distribution here, but are only managing to deliver two-thirds of what's deemed essential for survival.
So people collect as much water as possible however they can.
The people living in this camp were forced out by the FPRC, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the CAR, one of the most powerful armed groups here.
(WOMAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) The town is controlled by the armed groups now.
As long as that's the case, you think there's any chance you'll be able to return home? (WOMAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) BEN: So I can't think of another situation in the world where tens of thousands of people are forced to live in a camp like this.
And there's no security, obviously, no medical care.
The kids can't go to school.
And yet, their homes are just two, three kilometers away.
And this is one of several areas where no one really controls it.
I think, because of that, no one feels safe enough to return home yet.
And there's just no one.
BEN: The conflict here began between rebels called the Seleka, from the country's oppressed Muslim minority, and Christian anti-Balaka forces.
But they splintered, and now at least 14 different armed groups control over 75% of the country and fight over resources and territory as much as religion.
The resource they fight for most is a surprising one: not gold, coltan or diamonds, but beef, which once made up over 15% of GDP here.
Herders lucky enough to get their cattle all the way to the main market in Bangui told us about the risks they face.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Is it possible for you to make a living now? To make a profit? (GARBA SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) BEN: Taxing cattle herders, or stealing their herds all together, is now a major source of illicit funding.
Some of the armed groups say they're protecting people like you, um, from other armed groups.
Do you think that's true for any of them, or do you think they're all the same? (MAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (MAN 2 SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Do you think the goal is to try and get rid of you completely? BEN: Not only is this account true, it's happened numerous times.
Some were even filmed and put on Facebook.
(SHOUTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) BEN: We followed the FPRC, a predominately Muslim force whose leaders are under sanctions for committing acts of violence including killings, summary executions and torture.
We joined Muhammat Said, one of the FPRC's most senior generals, as he visited people living in an area they had just conquered.
(SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: It's another abandoned village with 11 or 12 homes destroyed.
(SPEAKS FRENCH) (BOTH SPEAKING FRENCH) So, when this explodes, it's bigger? (SOLDIER SPEAKS FRENCH) (SPEAKS FRENCH) So this entire area was just anti-Balaka, and no civilians? (SPEAKS FRENCH) None of these buildings were destroyed after you'd cleared out the anti-Balaka? (SPEAKS FRENCH) BEN: Before the conflict began, the Central African Republic was the 10th biggest diamond producer in the world.
General Said took us to one of hundreds of diamond mines now under rebel control.
So, you tax the the minerals that come out from this area? (SAID SPEAKING FRENCH) You've only been in power in this area for a month, but if we came back in one year, would we see those schools open? The houses rebuilt, the roads improved? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: General Said arranged a meeting with the commander of the rebels he had just defeated.
(SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: The general said that there is now peace.
The the war is over.
Do you agree with him? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: The civilians who had gathered to listen didn't believe what they were hearing, and decided to speak up.
(MAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (WOMAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (WOMAN 2 SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) BEN: With the civilians clearly believing that each armed group is just as bad as the last, we asked General Said what his group's motives really were and how this conflict might end.
BEN: Is it not the case that although there were legitimate causes for the conflict in the beginning, armed groups now are just prolonging the conflict, and even attacking other communities, so that their local population depend on them for their security, so that they can control natural resource, they can tax people and gain wealth? Is that not now the driving force of this conflict? (SPEAKING FRENCH) But right now, today in Bria, there are 40,000 IDPs living in a camp, and they fled from your armed forces.
And they say they are too Too terrified to come home, 'cause they are convinced they will be killed.
(SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: So, you've said to us a few times, that that already your opponents are very weak, and that you can take the capital city, and overthrow the government in 24 hours if you wanted to.
Why why aren't you doing that? Why are you waiting for something, in which, it sounds like you have no faith in? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: In Bangui, the capital, the government has two main policies, which it hopes will one day solve this crisis.
One is an EU-funded effort to train a new national army, which is meant to include former combatants from all sides.
(SOLDIERS CHANTING MILITARY CADENCE) (GUNS CLICKING) SOLDIER: Bam-bam-bam-bam.
(SPEAKS FRENCH) These guys are in their fifth day of basic training.
And then they're gonna get deployed for $50 a month, which is nothing, to fight against one of 14 or more armed groups who have got lots of experience, know the terrain really well.
And the two battalions that have completed the training so far, total roughly 1300 soldiers, so with these guys, it'll be 1900 total for the entire country.
(SOLDIERS CHANTING MILITARY CADENCE) BEN: The government's other main policy is called "Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration.
" It's designed to convince armed groups to give up their weapons, but it too is severely under-resourced.
BEN: So many people are in the are in the camp? (SPEAKING FRENCH) When you agreed to disarm, what were you promised in return? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: Nothing at all? No no food at all? No money at all? No education? No no doctor's visit? (SPEAKING FRENCH) This is the only source of water for the whole camp? (MAMADOU SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: Are people getting sick from this water? (MAMADOU SPEAKS FRENCH) BEN: When you agreed to disarm, did you think you'd be trained, and you'd become part of the National Army, so, you'd have You'd have a job? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: You were told you'd be re-trained and become part of the National Army.
Has anybody told you why that hasn't happened? (MAN SPEAKING FRENCH) And what will you do if the situation remains the same? (SPEAKING FRENCH) BEN: As long as the government remains crippled, and the world ignores the crisis here, the armed groups will make sure that Central African Republic remains a failed state, which they can profit from.
(SPEAKING FRENCH)