DougJ linked to this NYTimes piece on for-profit colleges yesterday. Read the whole thing, or I’ll just give you my summary: the federal government attempted to regulate for-profit colleges, a huge army of lobbyists descended, and the federal government gutted the regulations.
Arne Duncan isn’t quoted in the piece, but I’ve been reading up on the deregulation and privatization of K-12 public schools since the Issue Two battle in Ohio began, and one of two things is true about Arne Duncan re: K-12 education. He is either unaware of the (unintended!) privatization now underway and made (partly) possible by his deregulatory education agenda in public school districts in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania, or he is aware it’s happening but has no problem with the deregulation and (then) privatization of public schools. In other words, I’m not confident the Department of Education fought these for-profit college lobbyists real hard, because Duncan is a knee-jerk cheerleader for deregulation and market-based reforms in K-12 public schools.
On the other hand, I do have respect for Cass Sunstein, and this is what Sunstein said about the lobbying effort:
“The haranguing had zero effect,” said Cass R. Sunstein, the White House official who oversees rule making.
Hmmm. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t know.
I wasn’t surprised that so many big-name Democrats are either working for or onboard with the for-profit college sector because Democrats are well represented in promotion and sales of the for-profit K-12 sector. This is an NBC News product, Education Nation, which was co-sponsored by the University of Phoenix, and is basically a long infomercial trashing traditional public schools and promoting corporate K-12 school reform. Both Arne Duncan and Bill Clinton were featured in several of the exciting episodes that I viewed.
Today, there is a piece in the NYtimes on for-profit, publicly funded K-12 online education:
Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.
The business taps into a formidable coalition of private groups and officials promoting nontraditional forms of public education. The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.
The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed. Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.
“Kids mean money”. Read it and weep. Market-based reform.
“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”
This is why I’m madly in love with teachers’ unions although I’m fully aware of the many flaws of unions. Unions are the only thing standing in the way.
The huge lobbying push by school reformers to sell K-12 online for-profit schools is particularly cruel, because school reform was (supposedly) premised on how we needed great teachers, but had lousy teachers, which is why we had to deregulate in the first place. The problem was those lousy teachers, we were told. If we just had great teachers, and we could innovate and get around all these pesky regulations and democratically elected school boards, all our education problems would disappear.
That’s why it’s a tad disconcerting that reformers are now pushing a school model that replaces teachers and schools with an over-priced computer program. The level of deception there just makes my head spin. We were told we needed to deregulate because we needed excellent teachers and schools and now it turns out we don’t really need teachers and schools at all! Instead, we simply need to ship public funding for schools out of our states and districts, and to one of these national education corporations, where it goes to shareholders and executives and…excellence! That was easy. Must be that market-based reform again, working its voodoo market magic.
Finally, I bitch about pundits all the time here, but Gail Collins is the one and only top-tier pundit who’s writing about privatization and the conversion of public schools to for-profits. It’s not polite or fashionable to ask questions about for-profits and school reform (although it’s perfectly okay, and very fashionable, to delve into minute detail when talking about the salaries of unionized teachers) and Collins is asking anyway. I’m grateful to her, because I don’t believe the public were informed they were buying for-profit K-12 education when they were sold school reform. I think they should have been told. And you know what? They’re going to find out. Good. It’s about time. This is why I buy newspapers, for information like this.