Scam Goes Education | Charter Schools & "Choice": A Closer Look |

By James Hoover

"What can be more important to save in a viable democracy than education and the assurance that it is easily accessible for all, whatever your skin color or financial means? Unfortunately the best vehicle for that endeavor, public education, has figured prominently in quick-profit schemes of private investors, some stemming from honest attempts to improve education, but many motivated by pure greed.

For the latter, it’s beginning to take the character of the Wall Street frenzy that passed off toxic securities as AAA rated, and sold them full price to unsuspecting buyers. For the most part, Wall Streeters, having a culture of entitlement, gave no apology for their greed.

On the other hand, for-profit education defenders tend to peddle what they call education reform in the guise of superior for-profit charter schools using public money. They tend to obfuscate the “for-profit” motives in the process. While corporate-run schools do provide somewhat comparable student success rates, it’s usually at a higher cost, even though they pay lower salaries to inexperienced teachers, who have a higher turnover. Furthermore, they cherry-pick students, teach to tests, winnow out the most intractable students, and provide little accountability to the community.

In states like Arizona, some of the same investors run state prison systems whose lobbyists work overtime to augment prison populations, even supporting harsh imprisonment laws to boost their prison profits and keep penitentiaries full. Public records, for example, show that the so-called “war on drugs” aggressive policing, supported and exploited by corporate interest running privatized prisons, quickly drove up the percentage in state prisons for drug offenses from 6.4% in 1980 to 22% in 1990, with that higher percentage only now declining nationwide.

Somehow, the taxpayers seem to pick up the tab for profit-driven enterprises, whether new sports stadiums, privatized prisons, for-profit health care costing double that of other advanced countries, bailed-out banks, and now education.

Education Reform Only for the Poor

Wisconsin is another state taken over by Republicans. Scott Walker was elected governor in 2010, intrinsically connected with Koch brother funding and programs. He oversees the usual regimen of cutting spending in education, privatizing so-called low-performing schools and dismantling public unions.

Granted a contract by a GOP majority, Rocketship Education has a contract to open schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of several other large cities. Its model has four principles: 1. Cut costs by eliminating teachers and computerize instruction; 2. Hire inexperienced low-cost teachers; 3. Focus on math and reading; 4. Teach to the test. These are the schools for poor kids.

Rich people send their kids to the top ten elementary schools in Milwaukee. These schools look nothing like Rocketship Education schools. They have twice as many licensed teachers per student; offer music, art, libraries, foreign languages and guidance counselors. Students are taught by experienced teachers, not through programmed learning on computers.

Rocketship has contracts in several large cities, and like other charters pushes teaching-to-tests in its schools, seeing it as reform. Charter advocates promote themselves as education reformers, civil-rights crusaders, who challenge failed traditional schooling. They blame teachers, teacher unions, bureaucracy, and bloated budgets for claimed failures. They promise to empower parents in low-income minority communities, citing teachers and administrators as the heavies. These promises and claims turned out to be bogus, and the reforms self-serving."...

For full post, click on title above or here: