Panelists: Privatization kills best chance to give all students quality education

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by Brian Washington

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An Arizona teacher and a Pennsylvania education support professional (ESP) recently outlined to an audience of bloggers from across the country the threats posed to students and public education by privatization. They also discussed how communities can band together to beat back the bad ideas and mythology connected to it.

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Arizona educator Jonathan Parker

The two educators were featured panelists last week at Netroots Nation 2015, a national gathering of hundreds of progressive bloggers. This year the conference was held at the Phoenix Convention Center located in the city’s downtown. The name of the panel:“Corporate Takeover Goes Local: Communities Fight Back.”

The discussion touched on all forms of privatization, including voucher and tax credit schemes, which use taxpayer dollars to pay the tuition costs for small segments of the student population transferring from public to private schools.

According to Arizona educator Jonathan Parker, who teaches history at Glendale Union High School, demand for corporate-based, free-market programs, like vouchers and tuition tax credit schemes, would not exist if it were not for misguided politicians draining public schools of valuable funding.

Politicians starving public schools create a self-fulfilling prophecy—programs are cut, class sizes swell, quality teachers leave, thereby concocting an artificial demand for privatization,” said Parker. “Whatever remedies privatization offers is nothing that a properly funded public school would not also provide to ALL students.

Marla Lipkin works with special needs students as an education support professional in the Pennsbury School District in Pennsylvania. Lipkin and other educators in her district recently rallied with parents and community leaders to successfully block attempts by local school board leaders to outsource to private companies about 300 jobs belonging to bus drivers and other school personnel who help students learn.

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Pennsylvania educator Marla Lipkin

Lipkin told the crowd a key part of the successful strategy used in her district involved engaging the community—getting parents on their side. She said parents had a natural stake in the fight because it was their children who would be impacted by the proposed changes.

“We continued our efforts by trying to get our friends and neighbors talking to their friends and neighbors about what a disaster this would be,” said Lipkin. “We created a power point for all the schools PTO’s (parent teacher organizations) and asked if we could come to a meeting to let them hear our story.”

Audience members who attended the panel discussion—which also featured Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a nationally-recognized blogger and education activist who’s also a professor at California State Sacramento, and moderator Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the publisher of ALECexposed.org—walked away with a better understanding of how they, too, can defeat privatization proposals in their communities. They also now know the serious threat behind these flawed, profit-based reforms.

“Profit results in winners and losers,” said Parker. “To embrace a system where the goal becomes profit rather than a quality public education for all is to destroy a democratic foundation for all in favor of an economic principle that favors a few.”

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Reader Comments

  1. In our State (PA), in part, as a result of the Grover Norquist pledge, there has been an overt attack by the right on public education. Their undisguised strategy of cut, cut, cutting State funding for public education in Governor Corbett’s and the GOP controlled legislature’s gambit, was to “starve the beast,” as they put it.

    When State funding was cut by the $BILLIONS$ per year, strapped public schools were forced to raise property taxes or dip into their reserves to make ends meet.

    This played perfectly into the GOP strategy of incensing each and every school district’s “hard working tax payer,” fully realizing these State funding cuts would precipitate property tax increases, even as they rhetorically postured as the party in favor of “tax breaks” for same “hard working tax payers,” demonizing their adversaries in the PA legislature as “tax and spend” liberals.

    What a brilliant, albeit disingenuous strategy! Who doesn’t like a tax break?

    Meanwhile, profit protecting think tanks like ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, etc., and business giants who populate these organizations, licked their chops waiting for the tide to turn against public education in favor of the privatization of the public school system, and the $$$Hundreds of Billions$$$ in capital gains connected to the take-over of public education. Imagine the capital that could be funneled into the coffers of for-profit, private schools from their board of directors to their stock holders if they could replace public schools with full public support.

    Gotta hand it to these guys; they’re smart, savvy, well-heeled, well-connected, and organized; mobilized as they are by the prospects of laying claim to “ALL THAT $$$CAPITAL$$$!!!

  2. It seems that someone’s bottom line is really the thing that is the major player in privatization. Greed trumps reason more often than not. If we really want all children to succeed, money and effort should go into insuring that families are secure and able to function at a level that supports and promotes their children’s education. Children who are supported at home, whose families are pro-learning and engaged in their children’s education are most likely to be the ones who succeed. Smoke and veils on anyone’s part really shouldn’t hide that fact.

  3. Faulty thinking: competition improves student learning and educators’ teaching. Inaccurate beliefs: that public schools are bad. Each individual teacher could be highly effective or not–but there’s no such thing as a “bad school” or a “failing school district.” These are terms that came about as a result of politicians not wanting to support ALL public schools–just the ones in their community. Most urban schools and poor rural schools are highly effective. The proof: highest high school graduation rates we’ve ever had; highest rate of students going to college ever; the U. S. has the highest work productivity rate in the world; military superiority; greatest inventions across the globe; most Nobel prizes for science. The list goes on. Charter schools are now sponsored by hedge fund managers; Walmart; and ALEC. What would make anyone believe that these organizations are here to protect the public; or our children? What would make anyone believe, inappropriately so, that uncertified teachers, that are in most private schools and almost all charter schools–that those unqualified teachers are better than university certified teachers–they’re not! This unwarranted attack on America’s public schools is a sign of ignorance on the part of many non-professional educators. This ignorance is costing the economic world and state tax payers all over the U. S. as millions of their taxes are now paying for charter schools. Let’s protect our greatest path to democracy for all–our amazingly successful public schools. Ninety percent of America’s students attends public schools–protect the majority of our youth–STOP the madness of taxes being spent on charters and vouchers. Research clearly indicates that neither of these scenarios works–see the book, Why America’s Public Schools Are the Best Place for Kids: Reality vs. Negative Perceptions–for the facts!

    1. I think you’re wrong. The main reason we’ve increased the number of graduates: we’ve dumbed down the curriculum, lowered grading standards, and made it easier to graduate. Most inventions: Yes, but you would be surprised how many of those are created by immigrants from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. And the list doesn’t go on. As a musician, I am acutely aware of the undisputed fact that most of the younger generation of world-class violinists, pianists, and especially conductors come from Israel, Finland, England, Russia, Germany…even Venezuela. Few great classical musicians come from the US.
      Anyone who thinks school standards are so great needs to do some basic research. Find a copy of the State of Indiana 7th Grade achievement test from say 1935. You will be shocked to see what high demands were placed on students. It will also destroy the common belief that schools used to teach only by rote memorization. Our schools are NOT better than ever, no matter how much NEA/AFT koolaid you drink.

      1. What you are overlooking is that the arts have been starved relentlessly in our public school budget process. Much of this has been caused by the influence of business groups imposing themselves on public education at the state level. Even my state of Massachusetts has had business groups attempting to dictate to educators and that effort continues. Suffice it to say that business groups could care less about the arts and they are a major influence in shaping state funding for education. Math and science is the be all and end all for them. It is misguided to blame public schools per se.

  4. I wish I could agree with the anti-private school crowd, but I can’t. Public schools had their chance – and they blew it. I started teaching when A Nation at Risk came out. I knew things were bad, and optimistically thought that the next 20-30 years were going to be great – boy, was I wrong. It got worse. Frankly, there is NOTHING that government does as well or better than the private sector. We gave schools huge sums of money, did the testing thing, increased teacher requirements (well, not really), built fancy new buildings, brought in computers – and kids today are stupider than ever. They can’t spell, write coherently, do basic math, use good penmanship or much else. Their knowledge of western culture is nil, their appreciation of the humanities non-existent. But you know where students do all these thing? Private and the better charter schools. So, despite spending my 35 years in the public schools, I can no longer support them. I am all for privatization and vouchers – let those who have demonstrated they know what it takes to succeed do the job. If public school teachers can’t compete, tough. We’ve wasted an entire generation on public schooling and it failed. Time to move on.

  5. Correct! Profit creates winners and losers. That is, successful schools win and unsuccessful lose. Students win in this model. No one is saying that public schools should go away. Why should unsuccessful Punic schools be federally funded and not successful private schools. The objective is to create better schools. Ignoring the success of some private schools does not promote better education. Blocking poor families access to better schools does not promote better education and equality. It only limits poor parents options for their children. This is about control and teacher salaries. This is about limiting competition and lowering expectations.

    1. Because free public education is a “right,” and as such it should not be undermined and eliminated by corporate America. Congress and the Executive and Legislative branches of government need to uphold this right by making sure “EVERY” child obtains the best educational program possible….If they do their jobs….serve the public for the public good…and revisit public education and reform it to redistribute money to “teach” rather than “test,” everyone will receive an “Education”…not just a bunch of grades!

  6. Competition to obtain the best results, can occur in a free market. Privately funded and even tax supported vouchers can lead to schools truly offering their best in schooling. Tax payers should have the option to send their children to the schools of their choice. When it comes down to considering prudent use of funds, private funded schools are also more efficient and cost effective.

  7. Another consequence of privatization is that not only parents, but schools have choice. They can select their own students and then boast about high scores while the public school mandate is that we educate everyone.

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