"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's No Stealth Campaign: Privatization is the Goal

This morning Walt Gardner wrote that there is a stealth campaign to privatize education. He supports his thesis by discussing the increase in the number of virtual schools.
The Stealth Campaign to Privatize Education

Despite no independent evidence that students learn more effectively through the use of technology than through traditional pedagogy, Levesque [Patricia Levesque, adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush and now head of Meridian Strategies LLC, a Tallahassee-based lobbying company] has managed to convince the Legislature otherwise, in the process boosting the profits of her educational technology clients. The result has been to pave the way for private virtual schools. Strangely, the move has prompted little public debate or opposition.

...what is happening under the guise of putting children first is a thinly veiled attempt to privatize all public schools. Florida is not alone. Pennsylvania and Indiana are also in the vanguard, even though the evidence is far from convincing. In fact, a recent study of virtual schools in Pennsylvania by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that students in online schools performed significantly worse than students in traditional schools.

If the $2.2 billion spent on software for schools in 2010 produced anything near the outcomes that supporters claim, I would be far more receptive. But the evidence is not there...

This blind faith in technology is extremely troubling at a time when the demand is for decisions that are evidence-based. But when the money to be made is so great, companies will not be deterred from lavishly spending on wooing legislators with their fairy tales. At some point even the most skeptical among them caves in. When that happens, another step is taken along the road to privatization.
He is correct that virtual schools are an additional step on the road to privatization, and those who are pushing virtual schools might be trying to do it without too much fanfare. The movement to destroy America's public school system and replace it with private schools, however, is not a stealth movement.

In 1995 Milton Friedman called for the abolition of public schools. And he did it without stealth or subterfuge. In Public Schools: Make Them Private, he said,
Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system--i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools.

The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955.
Wrong. Public schools are far from perfect. However, his comment above is wrong in at least three ways.

First of all, competition doesn't help public schools. If it did, then every public school system with charters in the same district...and every public school in a state which allowed vouchers...would be getting "better." If incentives and competition among schools and teachers made students learn more then the merit pay schemes, which have been shown to be ineffective, would have worked better. See HERE.

Second, and more important, charter schools and private schools are not, as a whole, better than public schools. Yes, some charter schools and some private schools might have higher test scores than some public schools, but on the whole public schools achieve higher than private and charter schools. See HERE, HERE and HERE.

Third, schools with low numbers of students in poverty score higher than even the highest scoring countries in the world. The quality of American public schools is good. The problem with low performing schools is not the quality of public schools, but poverty.

In a new report by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, researchers found that the achievement gap between rich and poor is now greater than the achievement gap between white and black students. It's poverty that is the basis of low achievement. Not race. Not bad teachers. Not bad students.
The Academic Achievement Gap Between The Rich And Poor Is Double The Gap Between Whites And Blacks

“Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children’s achievement.” This groundbreaking research is more evidence that America is devolving into a rigid, class-based society where the 99 Percent continue to struggle to get by as a small aristocracy rises.
Once again we see that the problem with America's public schools is child poverty...the highest in the industrialized world.

The Friedmanesque obsession with privatizing everything in sight has already brought us high unemployment (yes, the "job-makers" still have their tax breaks...but there are still millions unemployed), and the highest national poverty levels in a generation. Do we want the same people who brought us the banking/Wall Street fiasco telling us what to do with our public schools? I think not.

The privatizers want the money the country spends on public education. The religious right wants to theocratize public schools. Jefferson's concept of an educated populace, was based on the principle that universal education results in a population of good citizens. His plan involved an educational progression that started with free, local, elementary schools. The inclusion of women, blacks and native americans had to come later, and at high cost. Free public education, while given tacit acknowledgement in federal law, left out children of color until Lyndon Johnson forced the issue.

Killing public education is based on selfishness, pure and simple.

frharry, a commenter at Religion Dispatches online magazine said,
“Increasingly Americans are saying we do not want to be a nation, we do not want to be a single people. And without a single story, we won’t be. Without a shared set of knowledge and understandings, we can’t be. And without the resolve to remain united, we have no way to be.”

What? You think I'm paranoid because I believe the corporate and religious right wants to privatize education? Read:

Privatization of Public Education
Turning the operation of public schools over to private companies is a controversial idea based on the less-controversial notion that part of what makes improving public schools so hard is that they are bogged down in bureaucratic mire.

Advocates of privatization ventures see in them the combined virtues of government and business. They argue that government's oversight function and its responsiveness to the needs of citizens can be retained while taking advantage of private enterprise's ability to be more efficient, reduce costs, and maximize production—in this case, student achievement.
Religious Right Dream of Privatized Public Education Gets Boost
The longstanding religious right goal of privatizing control and/or ownership of public education is being pushed along by the ongoing economic crisis, budget deficits, tax concerns and anti-government/anti-union sentiment. Since the Reagan Administration, religious conservatives have pushed for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education. The strategy has been to move from federal control, to state control, and then toward privatization.

Rick Scott’s plans to massively expand Florida’s voucher plan, which would inevitably result in taxpayer money funding religious education in Christian schools and Christian home schools. The plan would save money because the dollar amount of vouchers is lower than the actual cost of vouchers due to additional state infrastructure costs.

The result of these reforms is likely to be a fractured educational system incapable of serving the very purpose of public education: to ensure an educated citizenry capable of participating in a democracy.
Abolish the Education Department? Abandoned Idea Gets New Life
...all of the GOP candidates said they would either get rid of the department -- created in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter -- or seriously diminish its function. Their uniform responses earned wild applause during the debate.
Religious Right Spokeshole: Time to Destroy Public Education
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees’ unions.

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