Sunday, January 23, 2005

How public education is being privatized in Massachusetts

Apparently happening until now with very little scrutiny, according to this Political Research Associates report highlighted by Frederick Clarkson. Involves the following ingredients and more:

*Double standards for schools: exemptions for charter schools, extremely high standards for public schools. Results in public schools which will most certainly fail meeting 'standards'.
While the institute claims to favor competition, three of its former executive directors, serving in the Weld Administration, ingeniously crafted the regulations not only to exempt charter schools from many of the mandates facing the public system (for instance, serving severely disabled students) but to accord them financial priority over public schools, largely insulating them from the uncertainties of the state budget process.

*A conservative state level thinktank, the Pioneer Institute, funded by the usual suspects, including Walton family money. (For background and details, consult Clarkson's extensive report dated 1999 on this at Political Research Associates: "Takin' It to the States"--pdf file)

*That ol' revolving door dynamic between people in state leadership positions and this well-funded conservative think tank

This concoction results in venal examples of corruption gone awry:
Meanwhile, millions of dollars in contracts between charter schools and for-profit management companies, one of which was founded by Pioneer associates, have been awarded with no competitive bidding whatsoever. This from the folks who claim that, "the public benefits from competition."

While praising the dynamics of the "free market," Pioneer operatives have steered huge private subsidies to charter schools enabling them to out spend the neighboring public system by hundreds of dollars per student, even as conservative groups continue to charge that public schools are "over-funded."

While pushing standardized testing as tough love for public school kids, Pioneer's people lead the call for vouchers to private and religious institutions that want nothing to do with MCAS.
It's a diabolically crafted self-sustaining system. Charter schools are the vehicles used to siphon public money into private hands.

Makes me wonder where else this is happening. Clarkson identifies this network of policy makers:
Struggles over school privatization are being waged all over the country, of course. But the impetus behind some of it, just as in Massachusetts, is a national network of state-level conservative think tanks that have sprung up, while national policy in many areas "devolved" to the states during the Reagan and Bush administrations.
More in his 1999 report(pdf).

Calling all investigative journalists: I do believe there is a state out there with your name on it. And while you're at it, maybe you could find out which education writers and commentators are on the payroll of these thinktanks.