Thursday, February 23, 2017


HR 610, which would privatize education, has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Maybe the sky isn't falling and this bill will never see the light of day but it is worrisome. Here is some of the text of the bill to kill or at least badly wound public education

a) Education voucher program.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The State shall distribute funds received under this title among the local educational agencies in the State based on the number of eligible children enrolled in the public schools operated by each local educational agency and the number of eligible children within each local educational agency's geographical area whose parents elect to send their child to a private school or to home-school their child.

(2) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that States should distribute non-Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in a manner that promotes competition and choices in education.

How has so called school choice worked? We have evidence. At the New York Review of Books, there is a review written by Diane Ravitch of two books that analyze school privatization, what choice really is, in detail.

Samuel Abrams' book called Education and the Commercial Mindset covers school privatization both here and abroad. He demonstrates how so called school choice failed in the USA regionally and on a grand scale how it flunked in Sweden and Chile.

From Diane's review:

Abrams reviews the experience of Sweden and Chile, which embraced school privatization under conservative leadership. In both countries school performance declined, and segregation by race, class, religion, and income grew. The result of school choice was not increased school quality but increased social inequity.

Ravitch also looked at a book by Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana teacher-researcher-blogger who we frequently go to for in depth analysis on public schools.

Schneider writes that the greatest threat posed by school choice is the “systematic defunding of the local-board-run public school in favor of underregulated charter schools.” Even though most charter schools are technically nonprofit, she believes that the profit motive is the main engine behind the charter movement. She offers a simple proposal for those who want to stop “charter school churn” and resist the “parasitic squandering of taxpayer money in the name of charter choice.”

Whenever a charter school fails because of a financial scandal, she proposes, the school should lose its charter and be restored to the local school district. If the charter fails to meet its academic promises, or if it is found to have selected a student population that was not typical for its neighborhood, it should get one more chance, then lose its charter and be returned to the local school board if it fails again. One do-over only.

Ravitch concludes:

At present, proponents of school choice have the upper hand because they are backed by some of the nation’s richest people, whose campaign donations give them an outsize voice in shaping public policy. The issue that the American public must resolve in local and state as well as national elections is whether voters will preserve and protect the public school system, or allow it to be raided and controlled by the one percent and financial elites.

As these two fine books demonstrate, there is no evidence for the superiority of privatization in education. Privatization divides communities and diminishes commitment to that which we call the common good. When there is a public school system, citizens are obligated to pay taxes to support the education of all children in the community, even if they have no children in the schools themselves. We invest in public education because it is an investment in the future of society.

There is not much proof that charters or vouchers work but the deep pocketed supporters will fund them anyway. Maybe there will be some irony in the age of Trump if people are mobilized to oppose HR 610 and actually save public education in the USA.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it is just me, but I am not too worried about all of this privatization. Look at it this way, there are 1.5 million kids in NYC schools. Let's say the feds give families $6,000 for each kid in a family. Now let's say for argument sake that all 1.5 million kids try to use those vouchers to put kids in private schools. Logistically, it could never work. I will explain. 1) There simply is not enough room in private schools in NYC to take on 1.5 million kids. 2) Private schools don't have to take kids they don't want. (Behavior or special needs kids) 3) Most, if not all private schools in NYC cost more than $6,000 per year, per student. Thus, I do not see privatization becoming standard in NYC. I am way more concerned with the upcoming constitutional convention where my pension is at stake. I am also very concerned with the possibility of further erosion of tenure law in NYC. Lastly, I am concerned that if NYS becomes a right to work state, that union protection in regard to due process can become weaker. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am also worried about the possibility of LIFO laws being changed. There is no doubt that the teaching profession is on the cusp of being decimated as a career. It can be done in one big punch but is more likely going to be death by a thousand cuts.

James Eterno said...

We have had about 900 of those thousand cuts already.

As for your other points, we all heard that we don't have to worry about charters too in the 90's. They were wrong. Logically, you are totally right on the impractical nature of vouchers for NYC. The people that want to destroy us will find a way to use whatever law is passed against us.

I agree on tenure and the constitutional convention eroding our pensions.

Anonymous said...

I'm still not too worried about charters. (Other than the fact that they can become co-located in DOE buildings) However, the school that I teach in already has 3 different schools in it right now: elementary, middle, and high school. Co-locations are stupid even when all the schools are regular district schools. That problem was caused when Bloomberg was mayor and he broke up large schools into boutique schools. Right now, only 10% of NYC students are in charter schools so I do not have a big fear that they are going to take away my job. However, in places like New Orleans or Detroit, yes, charters are a very real threat to career teachers. As for the constitutional convention and tenure situation: if tenure and pensions are eroded I will leave the teaching profession. I have been teaching for over 20 years and the only thing keeping me on the job is the job security and the fact that I currently will have a pension when I retire. If this is taken away, there is no way in Hell I will continue to work such a stressful job. And yes, teaching is a job. I never fell for the "teaching is a calling" thing. Yes, I love my students and I love what I do. However, it is my job that pays my bills and puts a roof over my head. It is a very stressful job but I know for now that there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Take that ray of light away and I am history.

Anonymous said...

The evidence that it wont work is easy, the students, nothing will work with 80 percent of NYC students.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I think we can say by looking at reading and math scores in this city, that public education does not work. At least as practiced in this city and many others. Trying something different is a good idea and it's too early to evaluate its worth.

Anonymous said...

Scores are going up.