The Corporate Takeover of Public Education is Alive and Well!

Dear Commons Community,

Diann Woodard, President of the American Federation of School Administrators, has a post today exposing the philanthropic priorities of corporate-affiliated foundations. Her major point is that 64 percent of major foundation K-12 giving was directed to private groups rather than public education.  Here is an excerpt:

“Independent research in recent months has documented that the nation’s wealthiest philanthropic foundations are steering funding away from public school systems, attended by 90 percent of American students, and toward “challengers” to public education, especially charter schools.

Education Week recently reported that at the start of the decade, less than a quarter of K-12 giving from top foundations was given to groups supporting charter schools and privatization, about $90 million in all.

By 2010, $540 million — fully 64 percent of major foundation giving — was directed to these private groups, including KIPP, Teach for America, the NewSchools Venture Fund, the Charter School Growth Fund, and the D.C. Public Education Fund.

The best-known alumni of groups now getting the lion’s share of funding from the nation’s eight largest foundations are Michelle Rhee, John White of Louisiana, and Kevin Huffman of Tennessee, all of whom support vouchers and charters.

The extent to which these groups will go to supplant the public school system is deeply disturbing. In Louisiana, for example, the scheme to redirect public funds to private groups through a voucher system under emergency circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was especially egregious. As a result of legal action taken by our union, the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), Louisiana’s Supreme Court last month ruled 6-1 that the funding scheme violated the state’s constitution.

The foundations reshaping America’s education landscape are less devious than Louisiana privateers, but no less troubling in their commitment to dictating policy without regard to demonstrable performance outcomes. As New York University Professor and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch points out: “None of the main recipients of foundation funding are models for American education.”

In 2009, Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, which tracks student performance in 25 states conducted a large-scale study showing that only 17 percent of charter schools provided a better education than traditional schools, and 37 percent actually offered children a worse education.

Despite the growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and are often worse — than their public school counterparts, “the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters,” The New York Times reports, “have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end.”

This disconnect between the claims of “reformers” bent on privatization and demonstrable outcomes in student performance has been enabled, in large part, by the nation’s mainstream media, which has been sold a bill of goods about so-called “school reform.” As a result, the agenda of the nation’s public school system is at risk of being bought out by a relatively small number of corporate billionaires and their tax-sheltered foundations whose privatization models do more to raise profits than student performance.”

The education-industrial complex continues to thrive at the  expense of public school students, their parents, and American taxpayers.


P.S.  If interested in this topic, consider reading The Great American Education-Industrial Complex:  Ideology, Technology and Profits by myself and Joel Spring (Routledge, 2012).

Comments are closed.