Investors Resist Idea of Society as Stakeholder in Public Education

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An Algebra II class at New Orleans’ Sci Academy in October 2010. The school has been a part of the Recovery School District, the first all-charter district in the nation. Credit: John McCusker, The Times-Picayune

Parents are key stakeholders in any child’s education. Does that mean that they are the only stakeholders? One upon a time in America most people would say “no”. They would say that it’s all of society. But not anymore. Investors are what has changed that equation.

Reformster propaganda is having its effect

Most of the people who I know would agree that the whole of society benefits from mandatory public education. However, reformsters and too many state school chiefs have been pushing for a different understanding. They speak, issue administrative directives, and lobby the legislatures as though parents are the ultimate stakeholder in a child’s education.

It’s given as the justification for massive, high-stakes testing, value-added measurement (VAM) of teachers, and A-F “report cards”.

Isn’t that concept of parents being the only stakeholder convenient for investors who want a nation-wide industry of literally selling education? Once the general public, big media, politicians, and school boards start accepting that notion, then it will be easier to sell education to those who can pay. The investors will come out way ahead.

But big-money reformsters have to convince more of us that education is a product to be sold to parents for this to happen. That’s why there has been millions spent for right-wing think tanks to promote the idea of the parent as the sole stakeholder in public education.

“Parent trigger” laws open the way for private interests

So how do they do that? “Parent trigger” laws have been passed in several states now by using the argument that parents are just stuck with awful public education and need a way out.

Notice the whole framework of this: Parents, if your school is not meeting up to your expectations, just vote for our parent trigger law as a way to pull your kid out of that school and shop for a better school product.

A part of class warfare against democracy

These big investors are a part of the very rich class, and do not want those parents to do things that might threaten minority rule of the rich like organizing, engaging in collective protest, exercising their democratic power to elect new school boards and demanding change in their publicly-owned schools.

For the very rich investors, they want to sell education to parents as shoppers at taxpayer expense while cutting out those very taxpayers from the decisions and input into just what kind of education the current generation of children are getting.

The bait-and-switch of pretending to rescue the children of the poor by these methods is a ruse to make us believe that there is something noble about the very rich trying to create new investment opportunities at taxpayer expense.

Some are realizing this for what it is as reports from those parent trigger states start coming to light such as in California where some charters have taken taxpayer money, shortchanged the students and teachers, and sent tax money up the line to administrators and investors. It is a money grab at the public’s expense.

We have allowed radical experimentation on the poor

In a series of three posts that I have written about New Orleans, Detroitand Newark, I have shown that in fact, investor-owned charters that have taken over whole districts of those cities have not shown extraordinary compassion for the poor.

Instead, management companies lead by non-educators make penny-pinching decisions to find as many ways that they can of keeping money from actually getting to the classroom and siphoning it off to their investors. When they go broke, they simply leave and the public is left to pick up the pieces as has happened recently in New Orleans.

They are also very deliberately putting their focus not on a truly rigorous education that will allow students to think, reason, and become active members of a democracy. The investors only want democracy when it benefits them.

As I have shown in those three posts, there is a shocking consistency in the dominance of compliance training in those schools that openly represses any kind of individual expression even of dress.

Investors and corporate chieftains may not believe in collective, communist government, but they do believe in collective corporatism where standardization is the way to profit.

Standardizing compliant behavior of the poor also has its societal benefits for the very wealthy, since they are the ones who are fearful of too much democracy especially among the poor.

Double benefit for the rich

If they can just eliminate those public schools and establish charter-only districts, like in New Orleans and Newark, then they get a double benefit: Tax money that we are compelled to pay goes directly to investors and management corporations with little account being made. And, the poor are trained to be compliant and silent in a system that emphasizes their behavior over their knowledge and ability to think.

And all of this happens if they can only cause us to believe that parents are the only stakeholders.

They aren’t. You know that. Insist that we operate with that truth.

Here is one of my favorite YouTube commentators, John Green, who did this bit for the start of school in 2012. While the pitch was to students to understand what school is and isn’t, he closes by giving an excellent statement about why we ALL pay taxes for public schools.