Privatizing the Public (On Steroids)

In one of the scariest articles on education ever written, States Weigh Turning Education Funds Over to Parents,” you will find that many states are creating policy that will allow parents to create “Educational Savings Accounts,” paid for by funds that were previously used to cover public education, that will give them “the freedom to design a custom education for their children — at taxpayer expense.”

It’s the ultimate in privatizing the public.


I shouldn’t be surprised.  My own governor of the state of Michigan once developed a secret plan for the same idea.  And that was 2 years ago. Of course, when exposed it disappeared, only to surface again in a different form.  I guess I just hoped that such stupidity would be so abundantly obvious that no one else would ever attempt the same.

I was wrong.

So, to say the least, this idea is a threat to our most basic form of democracy, your local school district.

But then again, local democracy has also been disappearing for years.

And what has been the narrative that has allowed for such ideas?

The notion that our public schools are failing.

The article succinctly essentializes this point of view in quoting Tennessee’s state representative John DeBerry Jr.:

“Tennessee state Rep. John DeBerry Jr., a Democrat, couldn’t agree more: ‘We created public education. It didn’t fall from the sky. It wasn’t divinely given to us. We created it, so we can reform it,’ he said. ‘If the status quo  isn’t working, it needs to be changed.'”

Unfortunately for John DeBerry, the status quo he’s referring to, the common good of public schools and the traditional idea of local democracy, has been working just as it is intended, thank you very much.

“Public Schools Aren’t Failing,” a recent article in the Charlotte Observer, which leans on two recent studies and concludes,

“In fact, both (studies) show that American public school children are doing remarkably well.

For example, the NCES report shows that in schools with less than 25 percent poverty rates, American children scored higher in reading than any other children in the world. In. The. World.

The takeaway is simple. Our middle-class and wealthy public school children are thriving. Poor children are struggling, not because their schools are failing but because they come to school with all the well-documented handicaps that poverty imposes – poor prenatal care, developmental delays, hunger, illness, homelessness, emotional and mental illnesses, and so on.” (Emphasis added)

(Granted, I hate the idea of using “achievement data” as the basis of any form of comparison.  But if it’s going to be done, as a minimum we can be honest in recognizing that it measures privilege rather than learning.  These studies reinforce that fact.)

The issue isn’t public education, it’s poverty (and always remember the complication of race).

The neoliberal ideology of the privatization narrative finds it very convenient to ignore poverty. Why? Because they are actually fighting an ideological battle against so-called “government schools.”  They are actually not concerned with poverty, or the ills it leads to.  They are not able to see beyond the privilege offered by wealth and class.  And I’m not certain, at least judging from the evidence of their policy decisions, that they are able to garner any compassion for those less fortunate.

“The ultimate in local control” is actually a thin veil that intends to cover the ultimate in selfishness at the expense of those most marginalized.

Be on the look out.


One response to “Privatizing the Public (On Steroids)

  1. Local school districts aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon although some probably should be reinvented, reorganized, restructured and renewed. Yes, when controlling for poverty (try that in reality) U.S. students are doing just fine and when the question was asked about poverty in a few other countries, the respondents could say that poverty was not a factor. Now, let’s have a hard look at that and the inequalities in more than SES.

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