“Education as Commodity: Corporate Dollars Seek to Redefine Public Schools”

This was an article i read for my paper on education, written by Jack Gerson and Steven Miller, from an independent newspaper which tackles the idea of privatizing education in order to help improve the standard of education, especially here in new york. The article was based on a commission given in December 2006 by the New commission on the skills of the American workforce who are trying to push for the privatization of education. This campaign has actually generated support from individuals such as Bill Gates who in fact helped fund this report given by the commission. This idea of privatizing education is a very serious and important one, especially as it is getting more attention and support. Supporters argue that by privatizing education, the overall value and standard of education would rise and therefore translate to a better educated workforce that can compete in global markets. But as we seen with private health care systems and private businesses, the only individuals that generally benefit from this are those that can afford it.

Tough Choices or Tough Times,” published by the National Center on Education and the Economy, is the definitive corporate statement on public education. The report calls for, among other things, making all public schools into “Contract Schools”; ending high school for many students after the tenth grade; ending teacher pension plans and cutting back on health benefits; introducing merit pay and other pay differentials for teachers; and eliminating the powers of local school boards by turning “public” schools to private companies to be regulated at the state level. These measures would cut the heart out of public education, severely penalize students and deal a heavy blow to teacher unions.

So the proposal is to massively overhaul the education system currently in place. This means created stricter criteria to be met by both students and teachers. But what i don’t understand, is how do they expect such a plan to work if they are also severely punishing teachers, and taking away many of the benefits of teaching. As many of us may be aware of, there is an increasing shortage of teachers, especially highly qualified ones. Such as overhaul would seem to deter individuals from wanting to teach. I could understand wanting to penalize students for lack of performance. Many young individuals these days aren’t pushing themselves to perform well academically, but it is also important to assure that student get the help and attention they need in order to do so.

 First, the role of school boards would change. Schools would no longer be owned by local school districts. Instead, schools would be operated by independent contractors, many of them limited-liability corporations owned and run by teachers. The primary role of school district central offices would be to write performance contracts with the operators of these schools, monitor their operations, cancel or decide not to renew the contracts of those providers that did not perform well, and find others that could do better. … The contract schools would be public schools, subject to all of the safety, curriculum, testing and other accountability of public schools.

So schools would basically be run as private corporations and not have to deal with much regulation by local districts and boards. This sort of deregulation is what led to many of the problems faced in the current financial crisis. Many of the corporations weren’t given much oversight and were allowed to run “freely” leading to massive problems in the long run that these businesses never saw coming. Such a situation would inevitably happen with these privatized schools.

The significance of the report is that the march toward privatization of public schools is now completely out of the closet. Evidence of this shift is already seen across the nation where the public schools of New Orleans were almost completely privatized, the mayor of Los Angeles favors charter school corporations and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein sits on the (private) “Skills Commission”.

The privatization of public education already results in the transfer of tens of millions of dollars in public assets into corporate hands without a discussion of compensation or, still more fundamentally, whether society should allow public education to fall into private, corporate hands.

So this shift towards privatization of education is slowly occurring with instances all over the country. Whats frightening is that there doesn’t seem to be much public outcry over this happening as i feel individuals don’t think that such a thing would happen in this country, where not all individuals would be given access to education. Corporations are playing an increasing role in the funding and accessibility of education and this trend seems to have no end in sight. Public schooling was used to combat child labor, but what will happen when only the rich can afford to get an education. A scary thought indeed.

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13 Responses to “Education as Commodity: Corporate Dollars Seek to Redefine Public Schools”

  1. gjeon says:

    especially private schools, colleges, and higher education.. has largely become tainted.. and unfortunately have become profit-driven… as opposed to knowledge driven…
    It’s prevelant in public schools as well.
    The board of education these days are literally equipped to work in favor of the way in which they can receive more funding for the years ahead… it sucks… it’s all politics..

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