U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin
SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND
Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.
I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?
Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.
…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.
Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.
Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.
CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION
How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.
With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.
By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”
CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE
For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”
The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.
An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.
A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.
Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.
…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.
EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS
In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.
The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.
A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.
All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…
…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.
Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?
BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION
Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.
In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.
“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”