Beginning in the ’60’s, Milton Friedman began what came to be known as the “voucher,” or “school choice” movement. Friedman, as the leader of the Chicago school of economics (a decidedly market-based approach) applied this same thinking to the idea of education reform, and decided that only through free market choices could a parent secure a quality education for their child. Of course, what he left out were the words “white, affluent” before the word “parent.” Every single economic theory created or championed by Friedman had the exact same purpose—to shield the affluent from having to pay anything for the services used by the country as a whole.
“[Friedman] slipped all too easily into claiming both that markets always work and that only markets work. It’s extremely hard to find cases in which Friedman acknowledged the possibility that markets could go wrong, or that government intervention could serve a useful purpose.” —Paul Krugman
Today, much, if not most, of Friedman’s ideas have been discredited or outright abandoned by modern economists.
Except for those whack-jobs who follow Ayn Rand and her libertarian lunacy.
Or those who wish to bleed the public coffers and destroy public services in order to line their own pockets. These people are known as Republicans. Once Ronald Reagan latched onto the movement (which had all but died prior to his election as president) the right wing of the Republican party saw their chance to turn this issue to their economic advantage. This has become clear over the last 10 years as voucher proponents and charter school backers have pushed harder for legislation friendly to their cause. In both cases the people behind these plans, quietly pulling the strings, are the same people who are actively attempting to destroy the social safety net on which millions of Americans depend.
Follow closely now, because this is going to get technical. Vouchers siphon money from poor school districts, and charter schools perform no better than regular public schools.
At every stage the game is rigged, and always in favor of the affluent. Vouchers allow affluent parents to choose their own school (which most could do anyway) while using tax dollars formerly dedicated to public schools. But what about poor families, you might ask, can’t they also use vouchers? Yes, and no. As Ron White might say, “[They] have the right, but not the ability.” Most vouchers will amount only to what is normally spent by the state for a child’s yearly education—sometimes less—while the actual tuition at a good private school is usually double that amount, or more. Where, then, are poor families to get the remainder. The answer… they can’t. This is, of course, the point. Republicans have fought tooth and nail to keep private schools selective, while claiming that anyone can use the voucher—that doesn’t even cover the cost of tuition—effectively locking out poor families.
Charter Schools, on the other hand, are privately run options within the current public school system. I have yet to hear from an economist anywhere who can adequately explain how adding a layer of management and profit-taking makes public schools better and/or cheaper to operate. Again, that’s the point behind the for-profit charter schools—they are in a business solely to make a profit. Yes, there are non-profit charter schools, but other than being freed from some rules and regulations that regular public schools must adhere to (at great expense, I might add) they perform no better than their counterparts. Even when they have the ability to cherry-pick their students, they do no better statistically than a public school in the same community. Heck, some are in the same building.
So, why do we continue to be force-fed the idea that these options are the saviors of our educational system? Profit. Education is a major profit center, and a new source of wealth for the already wealthy. It is just one more way to bleed the poor and middle class to line the pockets of the rich. Don’t think so? Check out who is already profiting or championing them as profit centers:
- Tom Vander Ark
- Chris Whittle
- Dennis Bakke
- Tom Carroll
- JPMorgan Chase
- Entertainment Properties Trust
- Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
- Greenlight Capital
- Pershing Square Capital Management
- Anchorage Capital Partners
- Philip Anschutz
- Michael Bloomberg
- Canyon Capital Realty Advisors
- White Hat Management
- … too many to list…
Whenever a Republican uses the word “reform,” always remember to check your wallet. I’m just sayin’…
- Paul Krugman: Milton Friedman, Unperson
- Charter Schools and The Profit Motive
- School Choice and the Voucher Movement
- Jindal Says Charter Schools Are Path To American Dream
- America’s Charter Schools: Results From the NAEP 2003 Pilot Study
- Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine
- Charter Schools in Ohio: No Better than Public Schools (dianeravitch.net)
- Charter And Voucher Schools: Buyer Beware (crooksandliars.com)