Privatization is about making a profit, whether it's utilities, war or education. In states where access to public water has been privatized, the average cost of water to the public is 30 percent higher. The cost of handling waste water is on average 60 percent higher in those states. No bid contracts with private enterprises during the Iraq war with little or no oversight by the government caused cost overruns to soar. We have so little money for education in this country that I wonder sometimes what private companies are thinking when they establish charter schools. Do they honestly believe that there is a profit margin in public education to be garnered?
Schools are underfunded as are other institutions and agencies that are under the umbrella of the Federal government with the exception of the military/industrial/corporate complex. See the table to see where tax dollars go. Funding for Federally mandated programs such as our public schools have dwindled over the last sixty years due to the fact that in the 1950's, 80 percent of all taxes were paid by large corporations. That number dwindled in 2009 to 12-15 percent. For example, in 2008 Goldman Sachs paid an effective tax rate of one percent, $14M, and yet $40M was paid in bonuses to the CEO.
The balance of public school funding is paid by the middle class and we can only pay so much. With every tax cut and credit provided to large corporations and wealthy individuals, we lose, our children lose, valuable dollars that are desperately needed.
When I was attending public school in Los Angeles, we had new books every year, pleasant buildings that were clean, well-lit and safe, playgrounds with all of the equipment that one would need, physical education classes to keep us fit, art, music and well maintained grounds. This is similar to what a private school offers today. A student during that time received a good education and could go from a public school into any university. You didn't need to attend a private school to gain access into the best schools in the United States. You were on equal footing with your counterparts. That is not the case now and it has to do with money.
As Federal dollars have dwindled, municipalities and states have had to rely on property taxes, bonds and levies to fund education. Unfortunately, levies often do not pass. I saw this happen in California several times. Because of the state of public schools, many parents who can afford to, place their children in private schools which depletes the school districts of funds that would otherwise be allocated to those students therefore increasing the gap.
We have strangled our school system. There is overcrowding in the classrooms and there is also less time spent in class. Because of the decreased budgets, class time has decreased. There are now partial school days and more days off. What is left in our school system are valiant and valued teachers and school staff who keep their schools together with small budgets, a vision and a lot of hope.
Then we have Arne Duncan waving a carrot in front of a very hungry populace. What he wants for a relatively small amount of money is to have all states allow charter schools, but charter schools are not the answer. Charter schools do not provide equality of access to all as is the mandate of public schools, See: Report Explains that Charter Schools' Political Success is a Civil Rights Failure.
Will charter schools meet the needs of the poor and the marginalized as is mandated by the Federal government for all public schools? No, not when a charter school can expel a student if they do not perform well on a test. See: Special Ed Problems Continue in District. These are public funds that are to be used to provide for all, not just a select few.
See also: Schools Without Diversity, a study by EPIC at the College of Education at the University of Colorado.
The answer to the question as to where do we go from here is two tiered. First, there is the overall picture. The idea of a trickle down economy is a myth. It is apparent that the idea that people who have wealth will provide opportunities for others to also prosper is absurd and I would dare to say, manufactured by those with the greatest wealth. The accumulated wealth of a few that has nowhere to go at the top needs to be reinvested in our country and in our future. Our future is our children. Good business practice is that you reinvest part of your profits.
Corporations have made billions of dollars from the opportunities afforded to them by simply being in the United States. That money now needs to be reinvested in our children through the reinstatement of a tax structure that is equitable and no longer allows tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies and other large corporate businesses, a financial structure that demands an end to the tax breaks for the wealthy as instituted by our previous president. Because there has not been a significant investment in education over the last 50 years, businesses have looked to other countries for talent. The shock for many was that they had to import talent. Microsoft is an example of this. Because of their awareness of the problem, the Gates Foundation has tried, unsuccessfully, to come up with an answer to the problem. Unfortunately, there is no quick solution and actually they don't need to reinvent the wheel.
The answer is before their eyes and in their own backyards. There are successful schools and programs around the country that have a proven track record. The public educational system can work but it requires money to function well as it did 50 years ago.
What we already have in many places around the country are successful programs that are tried and true. The basic tenets of these programs can be used in developing new schools that can provide an even greater diversity for our students and an opportunity for all students to succeed.
In following posts, I will be examining some of these programs. The first school that will be described is The Nova Project in Seattle, Washington.