Repeated polls show the American public feels that corporations certainly have no place in one area of the economy – public schools. People understand that corporations exist primarily to make a private profit. When public school budgets are cut, the profit comes by providing less and pocketing the difference. The result, across the board, is that the quality of education is systematically reduced by corporations.
There is abundant evidence for this. After Katrina, New Orleans established a massive system of charters to replace almost every public school. The state of Louisiana is hardly noted for defending public education, but this year it gave the charters an “F.”
In Oakland, the privatizers and corporatizers have decreed that kindergarten lasts all day. There is no longer any time for naps for the 5 year-olds. They must spend their afternoons developing their “test-taking skills.”
It is standard today in every industry to use various metrics to measure progress towards “outcomes” that corporations value. These measures are used to systematize performance and almost always lead to reducing the workforce. In nursing, such quantitative measures have been used to reduce the quality of care by prescribing exactly how nurses can “legitimately” interact with patients.
What happens in public schools is no different. Standardized testing is used to shift the emphasis of education towards a drill-and-kill regime that focuses on test results. No serious educator would state that a single number, produced by a multiple choice test, is a complete measure of what a child can achieve. Yet these tests are used to close schools, get rid of experienced teachers and break up teaching teams that have long worked together to achieve authentic educational results. All of this reduces the quality of education.
Isn't education so much more than just getting a job? Education should be about developing the full and very different potentials of every human being. Education is the bedrock of democracy, teaching people to make critical and analytical choices. This is what real quality education should look like.
Corporations have penetrated public education in many ways. Charter schools are run by corporations that outsource their management to other corporations. Corporations provide the tests and the material that must be studied to pass the tests. Corporations provide training for teachers so that they can “deliver the program” that allows children to “pass” the tests.
All of these corporations are financed by loans and credit. This is determined by how well corporations do in the speculative investment market – the same financial industry that destroyed the economy for all of us in 2008. The investments, in turn, are based on data that ultimately come from test scores. This is a system that has been deformed to suit the profit-making needs of corporations, not reformed to meet the needs of parents and students.
In 1955, the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools could never be equal. Charter schools across the country today are more segregated that urban schools were 50 years ago. This was the result of the political failure of our system to guarantee equal, quality education for every student. Stanford University has estimated that public education in minority areas of California has been underfunded by $1 trillion dollars in this time.
Corporations and their political allies have played on the legitimate concern of families that public education in the central cities has never really been allowed to improve. But it is impossible to achieve quality education, not to mention equality, by making a social right into a commercial relationship. By definition, private corporations cannot guarantee our public rights.