Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Short Comparison Of The Privatization Effort by Bill Worsham

This could probably be a book, but I wanted to get this information out there for anyone who is interested. It seems like these movements often share many of the same traits, so I am
going to list the traits I see comparing the privatization of schools and prisons.

Both efforts took place in response to supposed “failures” the federal government
bought in to.

Both efforts say they help ethnically diverse communities even when there is no evidence this happens.

Both use measures that are questionable or downright fraudulent to measure “success.”
Both wind up hurting the population they claim to help (while the jury is out on charter schools—I taught in one and found it no different, or worse, than the average public school—and the profit-motive built into charters makes it almost a certainty that the schools do not spend funds on students).

Both claim efficiencies that are questionable. For instance, the privatization of inmate meals resulted in claims that maggots were in the food. 

Yesterday, my wife brought home essays where the kids had to write both a for and against argument. The poor kid who did the essay saying not to change school lunch justified it by saying, “I know it is bad but at least we get to eat.” Please listen to me: I have been at three different public schools and a charter. 

I NEVER saw resistance to food like this from the public school
kids. The food is microwaved, so the kids told me, and sometimes still frozen! Seriously, the point is the efficiency creates this kind of thing. They also save on personnel, meaning the student to teacher ratio they advertise is actually just untrue. My wife regularly teaches 25-30 kids and her school advertises a 15:1 ratio. The efficiency isn’t there, partly because it never WAS there in the public school. There are studies where real spending on kids hasn’t changed much over the years. It could be the school districts are not efficient (and they aren’t…I can tell you stories about that) but at the teacher to pupil level, things are about as efficient as they can be. Point is, don’t believe the hype on this one.

Both eventually are exposed by horror stories. I admit the political will has not been there to understand the broader issue with for profit charter schools, but the stories are there. From Florida to Illinois to Ohio, the stories are there. One charter in Ohio recently closed after taking tax money even though no kids ever showed up! Somehow the political will doesn’t exist yet and I suspect it will take something truly harmful to get
people to understand. That is unfortunate.

Both claim to help a population they do not help (and I know that sound repetitive but there is a difference). My wife has a large Latino population, but no permanent ESOL instructor. She has to give ELL kids a 65% regardless of performance. I told her I understood this. She said, “Yeah, but they didn’t get the grades because they didn’t understand, they got them because they spent their time screwing around.” That’s not 
cool. Sets kids up to fail. Fails to set the expectations at a high level. But the charters are doing this. Without the additional helpful things public school actually does already. If you are Hispanic, you aren’t doing your son or daughter any favors with a charter. I am sorry. A recent study suggests that graduation rates and other factors like college attendance are no better for kids who went to a charter school. So much for the “private school paradigm” charters sought to repeat (without knowing why private schools send so many kids to college….I LOVE private schools but not charters).

Both wind up cutting money and pocketing the proceeds. As an employee, you never see any of this money, though there is sometimes a bonus if you move up the state “grade” ladder by some amount. That isn’t in writing, it just happens. The bonus isn’t anywhere near what the owners of the school make. Don’t fool yourself. I know what I am talking about. A friend of mine once had her probation job privatized. Bad medical, dental, life….and no retirement plan followed. I can assure you, however, that the party who owned the company lived very well. Charters are doing the same thing. It is possible if one is a non-profit that this dynamic does not exist, but c’mon—do you really think someone isn’t making a tremendous amount of money? Where does that money come from? Well if charters and public schools are both funded the same—DUH!

Both are supported by people who just don’t understand what they’re really about. No one cared about privatized prisons. After all, the people in them were prisoners. They
might have cared, though, if they saw that we were actually spending more and getting less from these facilities. The facilities justified this based on prison population, which
was increased due to bad law—let’s be honest, everyone admits that now. 

The truth, however, was worse. The owners of these facilities didn’t spend the windfall on the prisons, they spent it on two other things: lobbying politicians and, I suppose, having a good time. Human behavior norms existed. Some people got very rich but it wasn’t the prison guards. Same thing is happening with most charters, especially the expansionist corporatist types. Would that be enough for a “true believer” in “school choice”? I doubt it. But I also know it is all true. I have been in both charters and public schools. I know the difference. Listen: I don’t teach except as a sub for public school and I don’t know if I will while in Florida. I like private schooling and home school tutoring at this point. I don’t have a dog in the fight. All education has been so messed up in policy that I don’t know if my independent mind can take the shackles the present system imposes on me. What I do know is that charters are
not a real answer to any problems that do exists. 

Technology (which charters claim to use but really don’t….surprise! It surprised me too) may be a solution. In fact for older kids it probably is the solution if properly implemented. In fact, if all the schools that bought Pearson really bought the entire thing, along with the hardware to run it, they might change teaching and learning for the better. Yes, I know Pearson has bad curriculum, but that part can change when the schools stop demanding bad curriculum. The point is, Pearson is a supply and demand business and a change in policy would result in good stuff from them.

Still, they have the capability to do it, we just have to set policy that allows for it. That will not happen as long as the software and hardware is so scattered. Schools buy IPads on a
grant or something, but don’t really know how they might use them. The point is, if you let a guy like me who has been teaching for a little bit a chance, I might be able to inform your
decision-making so it is not so damned stupid. Our move to charters, like so many other things, is plain uninformed stupidity. The guy on the other end, who is very smart, is making a lot of money off this stupidity. Personally, I don’t want money, but I would like to see schools and the general population get smart and understand what is really in the best
interests of their kids.

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