Just as our prisons and healthcare systems have become capital markets, our public educational system is well on its way.
The steps are exactly the same. First the our governments screw up the system; then they throw up their hands and give it away to unrestrained capitalists whose interests are in profit-making, not the common good.
We may not have much sympathy for crooks and insurance companies, but surely we care about the well-being of all our children who are the victims of this injustice.
U.S. Department of Education Unconstitutional
This problem didn’t appear after the last election. School boards, administrators, teachers, parents and even students have been fighting this privatization battle for 30 years.
It was that long ago that corporate interests saw an opportunity to insert themselves into public education and secretly began a highly organized, well-funded effort to privatize public education. Even though their arguments seemed sound, they knew it would cause a debate, which would interfere with their movement. And so it was a stealth tactic.
They saw standardized testing as evidence that the quality of America’s schools was not only suspect but vulnerable. Other countries were eating our lunch. And they believed teachers deserved most of the blame. The lazy ones needed to be forced out by performance evaluations. The dumb ones needed scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach.
Taught by Five-week Wonders
The experienced teachers were too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by five-week-wonders from Teach for America, an organization founded in 1990. Recent college graduates who rarely possessed degrees in education were recruited and given five weeks of special training in what and how to teach.
Following the money, you find that TFA is funded through individuals, foundations, corporations and investors. Donors include the Walton Family of Walmart fame.
The TFA wonders were sent to poor schools in the inner cities and to some of the poorest rural school districts across America. School boards, strapped for funds, welcomed the opportunity to fire seasoned and well-paid teachers to be replaced by unqualified TFA “teachers” programmed by wealthy interest and available at entry-level pay.
Sound familiar? That’s the down-sizing model in corporate America. In public schools, it’s dumbing down. And it’s easily injected into schools afflicted by lack of resources.
This isn’t just history.
Applications for TFA teachers peeked in 2013 at 57,000 and then dropped to 37,000 in 2016. I’ve found no evidence, but it occurs to me that might have been caused by a new and more blatant attack on public education — direct corporate privatization through unregulated for-profit charter schools.
Standardized Answers Don’t Measure Learning
First, we need to understand the story of standardized testing, which opened the door to unrestrained capitalists and is the primary weapon used to peddle Teachers for America and eventually private schools.
Once again I have to insert the role of the general public in this game.
Consumers of public education are easily impressed by numbers and mathematical razzle-dazzle and brainwashed to believe that competition . . . even in education . . . is the key to quality.
But learning by rote and machine-scored testing doesn’t measure up.
It does, however, provide another opportunity for unrestrained capitalists to infiltrate one of the fundamental institutions of American life and liberty, our public system of education.
Bill Gates, who is at times hailed as one of a few socially responsible philanthropists, picked up the tab for what is now called Common Core State Standards. Influential politicians signed off on them and teachers were handed them as a done deal.
The Tests Are Rigged
Standards make administering tests a breeze and open the door for unrestrained capitalists to make fortunes through the ownership of private charter schools.
Using the excuse that students need to be challenged, test designers use a “cut score” high enough to fail as many students as possible. When the scores are published, capitalists-on-the-make use the results to “prove” that public schools can’t do the job and should be improved or privatized.
The argument resonates with the residents in the community as readily as it does with those managing education on dwindling budgets.
Since public funding of local schools is weighted proportionately to the amount of revenue collected through property taxes in a school district or region, it is unlikely that financial improvement is in the cards. You can imagine the elation at the local school board meeting when it is announced that a private chain is about to open another charter school.
Meanwhile, teachers in the public school system struggle to find time between teaching for tests to engage students in thinking and learning. At the same time, they realize their days are numbered and they’re too exhausted to do anything about it, such as improve educational quality.
Who’s to Blame? States or Feds?
Not knowing for sure, I have long blamed the federal government for creating this mess by using federal funds to usurp the local right to self-determination. But in researching for this course, I’ve discovered that less than 10 percent of school funding comes from the federal government.
You would not think there would be enough power in that amount of funding to make a difference, but it’s like in a business; it’s the last dollar that determines profit, pass or fail. Local governments are so strapped for funds that the loss of a dime is a big issue.
The current Secretary of Education has been a primary leader for revamping the schools in Detroit for two decades, using for-profit private schools to do it.
The biggest change in the Motor City has been out-of-control mostly-for-profit charter schools. There are no regulations demanding that these schools be run by competent or even law-abiding leaders in order to open or stay in business.
After 20 years of the growth in for-profit schools, Detroit has by far the worst performing schools of any major city in the country. The dropout rate is phenomenal and only a fraction of the students graduate, due largely to tuition cost. Students who do graduate (or their families) are burdened with the same kind of debt their counterparts in higher ed bear.
Non-profits No Better
I wish I could tell you that there is an alternative to all this in the form of non-profit private schools, but there is no guarantee that they are any better staffed. And most are attuned to one brand or another of self-serving ideology.
The problem does not lie in the organizational structure of public or private schools. It lies in their quality and their purpose and their protection from self-serving influence. Or lack thereof. Once again, the problem did not begin during the last election and currently there are no immediate solutions. We can’t depend on public or private solutions to solve the problem. And so, we’ll have to do it ourselves.
I want you to carry these issues with you into the Yellow and Green Zones of this course where you will become not only a socially responsible capitalist, but responsible citizen as well. There we will make room in our strategies and tactics for developing socially responsible schools based on my new profit-for-purpose business model. We can do it.
Same Scenario in Higher Ed
Tons of Big Money is being invested in higher education whether the institutions themselves are for-profit or not.
The Koch Brothers are probably the most worrisome because they openly consider the higher education programs they fund a “fully integrated” part of a massive organizational network they use to deregulate government policies that bother them and by electing like-minded political candidates.
I don’t know what side of deregulation you are on, but I’ll guarantee you the Kochs are not on your side. They’re looking for more power over the economy and they are not only invading our democratic process but our educational system as well.
A pair of private foundations led by the Koch brothers and their families poured $23.4 billion into U.S. colleges and universities during 2014 alone.
Meanwhile, private foundations led by liberal political bankroller George Soros spent a little more than the Kochs on a smaller number of colleges in the same year. His investments are global, but his U.S. grants go to programs aligning with his domestic policy priorities. Also not good.
These are among the richest men in the world and they are not only bent on usurping our democracy, they are messing with our minds.
And, while aiming at unrestrained buyers of academic influence, one cannot leave out Bill and Melinda Gates who run the country’s largest philanthropy, which spends large sums on “higher education reform.”
Their foundation is notable not only for its size, but its approach. It defines its strategic goals before the first dollar is granted. It works closely with its grantees in the spending of the money, and it expects measurable results. The Gates are on a personal mission.
So, what is that mission?
The Gates foundation advocates using money as a way of influencing policies that further their own goals and to leverage its own funds to tap into much larger spending by state and federal governments.
Gates has shown little interest in supporting higher education for its own sake and makes it clear the foundation does not accept grant applications. They troll the market and decide on grants for their own purposes. Period.
Private is for Profit at Screw U
Here in Florida, small private institutions of higher education calling themselves “universities” are becoming as pervasive as Walgreens and CVSs on every street corner.
The words “university,” “college” and “school” have never been clearly defined and so just about any institution can use whichever word it chooses. If you are in marketing, “university” has a ring to it.
One of these miniature universities cropped up in one section of a real estate office here in my community and I discovered it was actually a professional school focusing on the business of healthcare.
And that’s what I’ve concluded most of these mysterious educational facilities are about. They are a replacement for vocational schools in a world that will employ more mid-level technicians than laborers.
If that were what these post secondary institutions were really about, they would perhaps be useful. But in my research I found more about the issue of money than purpose or academic performance.
The most revealing reports were about ITT Technical Institutes with 147 campuses and more than 60,000 students nationwide. The same company also operates a smaller string of Daniel Webster Colleges.
ITT Technical is the most profitable of the big industry players with revenue doubling over the past seven years.
Instead of enrolling in a higher cost private school, I suggest you check out the curricula at your public community college. The mission there is education.
Please move on to the next essay
Messing with Mother Nature