BACKPACK FULL OF CASH, a documentary film on America's public schools to be screened at UAlbany Sept. 8, 2017

Director/producer Sarah Mondale and producer/editor Vera Aronow to provide commentary following the screening

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Still from documentary film BACKPACK FULL OF CASH (2017)

ALBANY, NY (08/23/2017) (readMedia)-- A screening of the new documentary, BACKPACK FULL OF CASH (2017), about the effects of privatization of America's public schools, will be followed by Q&A with award-winning director/producer Sarah Mondale and producer/editor Vera Aronow on Friday, September 8 at 7:00 p.m. [note early start time] in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, on the University at Albany downtown campus. Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the NYS Writers Institute, UAlbany's Department of History, Documentary Studies Program, School of Education, and United University Professions.

Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Matt Damon, the documentary film BACKPACK FULL OF CASH (2017, 96 minutes, color) explores the real cost of privatizing America's public schools. Filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow will speak and answer questions immediately following the screening.

Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow couldn't have known that the new administration in Washington would dramatically shift the national debate about education to the very issues at the heart of their film: charter schools, vouchers, and privatization. Now, this timely new documentary takes viewers into the world of market-based education "reform".

BACKPACK FULL OF CASH, a cautionary tale, follows the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities where public education – starved of resources and undermined by privatization – is at risk. The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right.

The film features principals, teachers, activists, parents, and students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp, and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond provide policy analysis in the film.

Narrator Matt Damon explains, "I got involved in BACKPACK FULL OF CASH because I believe that every kid should have access to great public schools. I got a great education in public schools and my mom is an educator so I know just how hard teachers work every day."

Director Sarah Mondale notes, "I come from a family of teachers. I know the value of what public education did for me. Public schools face big challenges, but I think with charters and vouchers, there's a real danger of undermining the system." Producer Vera Aronow adds: "We wanted to understand the impact of reforms on the public schools, and give the families and educators who are most affected a chance to tell their own stories."

The filmmakers are part of the team that made the award-winning, four-part PBS series SCHOOL: THE STORY OF AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION narrated by Meryl Streep. BACKPACK is a follow-up to the SCHOOL series, and a rebuttal to the widely seen 2010 documentary WAITING FOR SUPERMAN.

Sarah Mondale is president and co-director of Stone Lantern Films, and a former public school teacher in New York. In addition to the PBS series SCHOOL, she directed and co-produced the PBS primetime films MARCEL PROUST: A WRITER'S LIFE and ASYLUM, which was nominated for an Emmy award. She also co-directed and co-produced MEGAMALL (2010), which has screened at festivals in the U.S. and abroad.

Vera Aronow is an accomplished producer and director. Recent works include co-directing and producing the feature-length documentary, MEGAMALL (2010), about suburban development in the age of sprawl, produced with Stone Lantern Films and now available on Vimeo On Demand.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at