Public schools should be for all children. The country should get behind and invest in public education and be careful about partners or those that call themselves stakeholders.
These are business words that usually mean that public education must rely on outside companies to fund education. This means public schools are no longer under the authority of the local community. They are no longer public schools. They are like a charter school. This is a sly way to privatize public education.
Partners or stakeholders might positively invest in schools, with little or no strings attached. This is a good thing.
They could also take charge of the curriculum and the management of the school. The school is then similar to a charter school.
We learn about how this attempt to transform public schools to privatization started in the 1980s by an example in the book The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America, by William Kleinknecht.
In 1985, Dixon High School in Dixon, Illinois, the school President Reagan had attended, was a school in crisis. Funding was so sparse they were in danger of shutting down their sports program. If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest you know, ending school football, basketball, and track programs is drastic.
One of President Reagan’s high school friends Helen Lawton contacted the President to plead that he do something to help his alma mater. More specifically, she wanted him to support their fund-raising efforts for the school.
Reagan had played football in his high school, and the high school band had performed at his inauguration. As an actor and President of the United States, one could say that his high school had served him well. Whether you agreed with him or not, most of us would say that President Reagan was an intelligent man.
But President Reagan, quite tellingly, laid out what would become the future disinvestment of America with public schools. He told Lawton there was nothing he could do at the federal level for his school.
He also expressed his approval that the school had received a donation from the Kiwanis Club for the school newspaper. “I am always pleased to see the private sector step in and help out,” he said (p.6).
This is how our public schools have changed. Think about how the arts have been removed from public schools, or how our school libraries have disappeared. When leaders at the local, state, and federal level look to private partners to fund public education, American students are at their mercy for their education.
Parents and teachers have been working for years to keep their public schools running well. Wealthier schools are usually better able to do this. Many schools work to raise their own funds for special programs.
How many have worked on fund raising for their children’s schools? These aren’t always for add-on activities or materials but funding to keep programs alive. How many cereal box tops have you collected to keep your high school band playing? How much time has your child put in selling merchandise so their teachers can keep extra-curricular programs in your school?
When parents struggle to pay for school programs, they might out of desperation welcome those who will partner with them to help out. The key is to determine what kind of power those partners will have over the school. Will it lead to school privatization?
This lack of American investment in public education will hurt us terribly and collectively. We can already see the damage in a teacher shortage that sees no end in sight and a growing schism in how citizens treat each other. Our children our stressed and in debt, they can’t afford college, because, with privatization, money rules!
This is not the America that I believe most of us want or which we need. I hope the next President will ensure that public education is adequately funded so that parents and educators won’t have to rely on partners and stakeholders.
William Kleinknecht, The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Perseus Books Club, 2009) 6.
Brian DeGonzague says
Nancy, first off, I love reading your perspective. I typically agree when it comes to the arts and special education students, I always agree when it comes to doing what is best for our students. This piece, in my opinion, is flawed. First off, charter schools are public schools. We need to stop attempting to create a divide.
Second off, I attended grade school prior to charter schools and there were ALWAYS fundraisers. I had to raise or pay over $400 to play high school baseball at a public district school.
It is a stretch to try and align all our educational woes with the development of charter schools. Our educational system started to struggle well before charter schools came into existence.
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Brian, I appreciate that you read my blog and for the comment. We simply disagree about charter schools being public schools.
Charters are usually run by outside management groups. They are run by their own rules, The only thing public about them is public funding that should go to public schools!
The divide is that corporations want to privatize public schooling.
My post isn’t about fundraisers for the extra fun stuff in public schools. It’s about a school needing partners and stakeholders to stay afloat.
I believe we need one strong system. Put the charters that are running well under the oversight of the public school district. Like alternative schools.
I too am seeing strange buzzwords in education related material. I support government funding of secular private schools because we fund some private universities by pell grants and such other financial aid anyway. Charter schools though very similar are a fraud ridden endeavour. I should know I have been to a few charter schools as a child and they both shut down. Constellation middle school in Long Beach California is what I am refering to. People should not get the two confused.
Nancy Bailey says
You point to what I have noticed recently…that charter schools no longer use the word charter in their title. This is deceptive.
Thanks for commenting, Will. I appreciate this information.
“Charters are usually run by outside management groups. They are run by their own rules, The only thing public about them is public funding that should go to public schools! ”
Charters also get to pick and choose who they will educate unlike the public schools that have to take all children. The public has no voice in their governance nor in the diversion of funds from the public schools. My children are grown and raising their own families now, but I still pay taxes for the education of all the children in my community. The board of education is elected by the community and serves at the pleasure of the community.
Brian DeGonzague says
I’m not sure what state you are referring to, as there are differing charter laws from state to state. In Florida, there is no “pick and choose” in charter schools. Districts have Magnet Schools, they pick and choose. Charter schools in Florida are bound to enrollment structures just as the neighboring traditional district schools. Charter schools in Florida operate under the auspices of the school district. There is oversight and accountability from the district and the state.
In regards to public voice, there is more public voice than ANY district schools! District schools have students funneled to them. If charter schools are not fulfilling what the parents are looking for, then the families will leave. Without students, there is no school.
Nancy Bailey says
Magnet schools are not charter schools, though they may pick and choose, which is controversial. Magnets have oversight by the school district and can be a way to address integration.
As of last June, 40% of Florida’s charters had closed. I have seen no legitimate research to indicate they are better than public schools. It is disruptive to a student to have their school close.
And there’s no way to know if they do all that you say when there’s no oversight.
Nancy Bailey says
And that! Thanks again, speduktr.
Good article. I do not like my superintendent or other school officials partnering with vendors via ERDI or ERDI look a likes. Nor do I like my district’s foundation letting anonymous donors fund ed tech curriculum. I further don’t like all of these education partners popping up like the chamber of commerce or testing companies. They are not our friends. It’s also wrong that the FERPA was weakened to allow our children to work for free as research subjects in schools for outside businesses.
Finally, we need to stand against making children’s data interoperable because then the so called “partners” will have information they don’t need to have about our children.
Thanks for writing.