These days, U.S. education is beginning to look like a slow-motion train wreck. In some places, it is fast motion, not slow motion.
One of the places where the train seems to be speeding rapidly towards a wreck is Philadelphia. The wreck will
There, the schools have been under state control for a decade, and the state legislature has underfunded the public schools to the extent possible, even though (or because) the school system has a large proportion of poor black and Hispanic students.
The city leaders, in their wisdom (or lack thereof), brought in one of those ubiquitous management consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group, to devise a “turnaround” plan for the public schools. Of course, this is treating public schools as if they were just any old business, selling auto parts or paper products, which they are not. Public education is not a product; it is not even a service. It is an essential part of our social fabric, a democratic institution that must be preserved and strengthened.
Business consultants don’t understand this. They look at public schools, and they don’t see teachers and children. They see an investment opportunity. They see a cash flow. They make calculations about return on investment. They see a deficit, and they think bankruptcy, reorganization, sell off the healthy parts, and kill the weak ones.
When you bring in business consultants, you can count on them to recommend that the “business” should be downsized and right-sized. It should be privatized. That’s the way they think. When you have a superintendent who was trained by the Broad Superintendents’ Academy, you can expect to get the same perspective.
The irony in Philadelphia is that the district tried privatization on a large scale a decade ago and it failed. The district has a sizable number of charters, a number of which are under investigation for corruption and financial malfeasance.
I guess the moral of the story is: If at first you fail, do the same thing over and over and over until public education has been completely eliminated.
I just came across this excellent summary of privatization in Philadelphia, which contains excellent links to sources: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/2012521114853681761.html
The article says: “As in other cities, public money was extensively abused in real estate profiteering schemes, as charter school operators used schools as tenants, paying money to themselves to rent their own property. In one particularly classy instance, the charter operator was running a private parking lot on school property. Exorbitant salaries were common for the charter school operators, and some implausibly held fully salaried jobs in multiple schools, billing the city for more than 365 days in a year.”
This is what Philadelphia’s leaders want more of.
And for anyone wanting another story about the dismantling of public education in Philadelphia:
I cited this story before. It deserves to be cited whenever the Philadelphia situation is up for discussion.