How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education—and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea
The billionaire-backed privatization movement is stealthily advancing an undemocratic agenda, cloaked in deceptive rhetoric, that the public is not aware of and does not understand.
The following is an excerpt from the new, expanded edition of The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch (Basic Books, 2016):
Something unprecedented is happening to American public education. A powerful, well-funded, well-organized movement is seeking to privatize significant numbers of public schools and destroy the teaching profession. This movement is not a conspiracy; it operates in the open. But its goals are masked by deceptive rhetoric. It calls itself a “reform” movement, but its true goal is privatization.
This movement has had strange bedfellows. Some of its funders and promoters on the far right of the political spectrum are motivated by ideological contempt for the public sector; others earnestly believe they are providing better choices for poor children “trapped in failing schools.” Still others believe that elected local school boards are incompetent and should be replaced by private management, or that the private sector is inherently more innovative and effective than the public sector. And some are motivated by greed, while others are motivated by religious conviction. These strange bedfellows have included the US Department of Education (during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama); major foundations and think tanks, both conservative and centrist; billionaires committed to free-market solutions—and certain they know what is best because they are so rich; entrepreneurs hoping to make money from school privatization or by selling technology to replace teachers; the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has drafted model legislation to promote corporate interests and to expand the privatization of almost all government services, including education; and numerous governors and legislators (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) who want schools to operate in a free-market system of school choice.
The privatization movement pretends that it is bravely fighting "the status quo," but having captured policymakers at both the federal and state levels, as well as think tanks, the nation's wealthiest foundations, a coterie of billionaires, and major editorial boards, this movement is the status quo. It is stealthily advancing an undemocratic agenda, cloaked in deceptive rhetoric, that the public is not aware of and does not understand.
This combination of money and political power has been potent in advancing school vouchers, which were once considered a cranky right wing extremist idea, but have recently been enacted in a score of states. Vouchers are seldom now called vouchers, because voters have consistently rejected them: in 2007, vouchers were defeated by a margin of 62-38 in the red state of Utah, and Florida turned them down in 2012 by 58-42. Thus, the promoters of vouchers How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education—and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea | Alternet: