September 2017 Issue
August 30, 2017

Film tells cautionary tale about privatizing education

Source: NYSUT United
backpack full of cash poster

Backpack Full of Cash," a powerful new documentary film, offers an in-depth look into the very real perils of privatizing and defunding public education, and sounds a warning for New Yorkers. The film will be shown at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 8 by the New York State Writers Institute at UAlbany's Page Hall. The screening is free and open to all.

Producers Vera Arnonow and Sarah Mondale, a former NYSUT member who also directed the 90-minute film, will lead a panel discussion following the screening.
NYSUT plans to sponsor additional screenings across the state this fall. Watch for details.

The film, narrated by actor Matt Damon, focuses primarily on cities that have experienced large-scale expansion of charter schools — Philadelphia, Nashville and New Orleans — the "hotspots," Mondale calls them.

"The film is a great discussion starter. It's a cautionary tale of where privatization of public education can lead. People have reason to worry," she said. Mondale, a teacher whose parents were public school teachers in Minnesota, started work on "Backpack Full of Cash" after she saw the pro-charter propaganda film "Waiting for Superman."

"It made me mad," she said.

After securing much-needed donations and funding — "We all went into debt making this," Mondale said — "Backpack Full of Cash" is now making the rounds in states across the country.

Mondale was a member of the White Plains Teachers Association and taught French in middle school. She left the classroom earlier this year in order to meet the growing demand for screenings— about 500 requests at last count.

"It is so timely because of [U.S. Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos" and her privatization agenda, Mondale said.

An accomplished filmmaker, Mondale directed and co-produced the award-winning PBS series, "School," a PBS prime-time film "Marcel Proust" and the Emmy award-winning "Asylum" and "Megamall."

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