Posted in Corporate Charters, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, vouchers

Killing Public Education in Ten Easy Steps

While the public schools are struggling with inadequate funding, legislators in Indiana are considering forgiving loans to “failing” privately run charters*…and private schools are getting a significant increase through Indiana’s expanded voucher plan.

There’s an open movement to privatize public education (as well as just about everything else) in America. Those who favor privatization are clear that their goal is to remove public control. One of my posts about privatization got this response from “tiffany“…

Like all rational individuals, I do not support public schooling, I do not support charters which are a pitiful compromise, I do not support vouchers which are a frivolous waste of administrative time and resources. I support 100% private education and home education, because that is the only moral education. I support this the same way I support 100% private food service, hotel service, tanning service, and any other service provided by anyone. This is the only correct position – it’s not a conclusion, it’s the starting place for the discussion. Anything less than this is theft and therefore evil.

While not all pro-privatizers would consider all tax money as “theft” the purpose is clear…to remove public control of institutions and place it in private hands. Their point is, I think, that “the market” always does better than the government in everything.

To that end, the governors and legislators of states like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have crafted legislation (or taken legislation crafted by ALEC) to “redistribute” public funds from public education to private schools and privately operated charter schools.

A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog listed the steps being taken by pro-“reform” legislatures to destroy public education. Much of the following Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education has been put into practice (and not just in Texas). Even with the widespread community and parent backlash in places like Chicago and New Jersey, the privatizers are making progress…pushing their agenda.

Obviously many people are in favor of privatization. Those of us who oppose it have less money to buy politicians. The election in Indiana of Glenda Ritz over privatizer-pet Tony Bennett shows, however, that a strong, hardworking group of people can overcome the privatization-based money bent on destroying public education.

Texas: The Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education

What keeps many of us fighting 20 hours a day and digging into our own pockets to fund the work is our understanding that these bills are not the end game. We’ve read the web sites, beginning with Milton Freidman’s epistle on the Cato Institute’s website, that lay out the insidious plan we are seeing played out. We have also read Naomi Klein’s brilliant book, Shock Doctrine.

[emphasis added]

  1. First, impose ridiculous standards and assessments on every school.
  2. Second, create cut points on the assessments to guarantee high rates of failure. (I was in the room when it was done in the State of Delaware, protesting all the way, but losing).
  3. Third, implement draconian accountability systems designed to close as many schools as possible. Then W took the plan national with NCLB.
  4. Fourth, use the accountability system to undermine the credibility and trust that almost everyone gave to public schools. increase the difficulty of reaching goals annually.
  5. Fifth, de-professionalize educators with alternative certification, merit pay, evaluations tied to test scores, scripted curriculum, attacks on professional organizations, phony research that tries to make the case that credentials and experience don’t matter, etc.
  6. Sixth, start privatization with public funded charters with a promise that they will be laboratories of innovation. Many of us fell for that falsehood. Apply pressure each legislative session to implement more and more of them. Then Arne Duncan did so on steroids.
  7. Seventh, use Madison Avenue messaging to name bills to further trick people into acceptance, if not support, of every conceivable voucher scheme. The big push now as states implement Freidman austerity budgets to create a crisis is to portray vouchers as a cheaper way to “save” schools. The bills that would force local boards to sell off publicly owned facilities for $1 each is also part of the overall scheme not only to destroy our schools, but also to make it fiscally impossible for us to recover them if we ever again elect a sane government. Too, districts had to make cuts in their budgets in precisely the areas that research says matter most: quality teachers, preschool, small classes, interventions for struggling students, and rigorous expectations and curriculum. See our report: http://www.equitycenter.org. Click on book, Money STILL Matters in bottom right corner.
  8. Eighth, totally destroy public education with so-called universal vouchers. They have literally already published the handbook. You can find it numerous places on the web.
  9. Ninth, start eliminating the vouchers and charters, little by little.
  10. And, tenth, totally eliminate the costs of education from local, state, and national budgets, thereby providing another huge transfer of wealth through huge tax cuts to the already-billionaire class.

And then only the wealthy will have schools for their kids.

During the last presidential election Mitt Romney gave voice to the effect of privatization on America’s public education system. He said,

I want to make sure we keep America a place of opportunity where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they’re able to get…and if they have a willingness to work hard and with the right values they ought to be able to provide for their family and have a shot at realizing their dreams. [emphasis added]

The phrase, as much education as they can afford has, as its corollary, the fact that those who can’t afford it won’t get it. So the Romneys, the Obamas, the Gates, the Emanuels and the Duncans will continue to attend expensive private schools while those who have no money will have to make do with whatever “they can afford.” That’s the definition of Romney’s “fair shot.”

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Shopping for Legislators

How School Privatizers Buy State-Level Elections

A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.

The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake.

So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities by publishing a copy of the American Federation for Children’s “2012 Election Impact Report.”

The report, which was clearly meant only for members and donors, outlines how the American Federation of Children pours millions of dollars into state races around the country to back candidates who support school vouchers and other measures that siphon public money private schools.

Addendum to The Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education

5a. Claim that “poverty is not destiny” and use that as an excuse to ignore the high levels of child poverty in America and it’s relationship to lowered achievement.

Krashen writes,

To the editor

Re: Obama wants faster Internet in US schools. Would you pay $5 a year for it? (June 6). Twenty-three percent of American children now live in poverty, the second highest among 34 economically advanced countries. In comparison, Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty. Poverty means poor nutrition, hunger, and inadequate health care; all of these have a profound negative impact on school achievement.

Instead of 99 percent of American students connected to the internet with the latest, but soon-to-be-obsolete technology, how about making sure that 100 percent of American children are protected from the impact of poverty?

Next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless are of little help when children are hungry or ill.

What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?

In recent years the “no excuses”’ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school. Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.

For me the latter is right. In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being. Among 29 wealthy countries, the United States landed second from the last in child poverty and held a similarly poor position in “child life satisfaction.” Teachers alone, regardless of how effective they are, will not be able to overcome the challenges that poor children bring with them to schools everyday.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.