The California Federation of Teachers will vote this weekend on a resolution to avoid investing in and to divest from companies advocating for and profiting from the privatization of public education.
Taxpayer dollars are diverted from traditional public schools to for-profit charter schools that are usually not held to the same standards of accountability as regular public schools, and diverted to curriculum and software chosen not for its educational value but because a company made donations to elected officials to give them contracts and craft "standards" that create a need for their products.
This movement has so savaged public education that as few as half as many college students are signing up for teacher prep programs and teachers burning out and quitting before retirement are at record highs too.
The debate in the CFT is not whether these companies are harming public education but how best to deal with them: through shareholder activism to change their behavior or simply dumping their stock. Some have argued that simply selling and avoiding their stock won't impact their behavior.
However, for at last the last few decades, the mantra in the corporate world has been "increasing shareholder value." If big institutional investors dump your stock, your stock value might take a hit.
More importantly, another divestment movement scared those in power enough that a presidential candidate condemned it and legislators are trying to figure out how to stop it--the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement against Israel. Whether you agree with the goal or not, the movement got the attention of those in power.
If divestment didn't work, Hillary Clinton would not have made attacking it an issue in the election.
At least one privatizer stock is struggling right now, Pearson, who pushes for and profits from the repetitive high-stakes testing and common core.
News of institutional investors planning to sell off might drive their stock even lower, and resistance from the people most familiar with their product might make their board of directors wonder if the take over of public education is worth the hit to their stock price.
If you are in a faculty union in another state, get your union to divest your retirement funds from public education privatizers too. Educators owning these stocks is like chickens owning stock in KFC.