Tag Archives: privatization

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.


Sacrificing Our Children

Can we finally move beyond the illusion that the privatization of public schools is for the benefit of kids?

Much empirical evidence says we should.

Can we finally be honest about that fact that for profit charters simply move money from that which is set aside for the common good to corporate profits at the expense of children, particularly those in poverty and of color?

A new study, Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Schools Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  by Gordon Lafer, says yes.

Ruth Conniff, in her article, Scathing Report Finds Rocketship, School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids, shows how this study excavates the way in which the Milwaukee school system, “ground zero for school privatization,” uses children as fodder for corporate profits.

“Lafer’s research…is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry–and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business–that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children.”

Let’s be clear- despite what you hear from the right, from Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, and Bill Gates, etc., despite their lofty rhetoric of offering choices for poor families, despite their stated intentions of helping lift families out of poverty, the fact of the matter is that the corporate education reform movement functions to insure that the educational quality experienced by poor children is harmed when school privatization occurs, and corporate profit is greatly increased.

From Conniff’s article:

“Because of its extraordinarily high teacher turnover (the chain relies heavily on Teach for America volunteers), its large classes, and reductive curriculum, Rocketship [one of the for profit charter chains used in Milwaukee] subjects kids most in need of consistent, nurturing, adult attention to low quality instruction and neglect.

That model, which is also on display in Milwaukee’s low-performing voucher schools, is demonstrably harmful to kids. But it has generated big profits for wealthy investors.

From 2010 to 2013, Rocketship increased its assets from $2.2 million to $15.8 million…” (emphasis added)

Got it?

Students become objectified as workers for the purpose of increasing profit at the expense of the welfare of these children. Tax dollars, ostensibly spent for the public good, become corporate profit at the expense of our children. 

We are sacrificing our children to the god of profit.

“It appears the question [Rocketship] aims to answer is not simply, ‘How can we do better by poor kids’? but rather, ‘How can we educate poor kids while generating a 15  percent rate of return for investors.?’ ” 

But, as Conniff notes, it doesn’t stop there.  The report goes on to connect how the illusion of failing schools is used to increase privatization, and thus corporate profits.

“Worse, in pushing these efforts, politicians, rightwing think tanks, chambers of commerce, and, most of all, the American Legislative Exchange Council are actually creating the very problem of failure in the school system they claim their privatization plans will help address.

A recent proposal in the Wisconsin legislature, expected to come up again next session, would mandate that 5 percent of all of the state’s public schools receive ‘failing’ grades, which lead to closure after the third ‘F.’ Schools deemed ‘failing ‘would be replaced by charter schools such as Rocketship.” (emphasis added)

By creating a system that has 5% of schools mandated as “failures” as determined by the abstraction of standardized test score results, a pool of schools that legally must be privatized, and thus ripened for profit, has been created.


This is already happening in Michigan, where over 80% of the charter schools are for profit, under our state’s  Educational Achievement Authority.  And despite a horrific track record, there is a daily push by Michigan’s GOP legislature to expand the EAA to a minimum of 50 schools.

Again, to be clear, the evidence shows that this push is not about children.

It is about profit.

“‘The idea that what chamber of commerce lobbyists lie awake at night thinking about is what will help poor kids…I mean, we’re adults, right?’ Lafer commented by phone.”

Let’s hope so.

Please read Conniff’s article and Lafer’s report.