Bruce Baker of Rutgers University here dissects the fundamental flaws at the heart of the corporate reform agenda.

This is the set of policy prescriptions that he reviews:

What I have found most intriguing over time is that the central messaging of these reformy template policy prescriptions is that they will necessarily improve accountability and transparency of education systems, and that they will do so largely by improving the responsiveness of those intractable systems through altered governance and finance, including but not limited to “market” based choice mechanisms.

The standard list of strategies that are supposedly designed to increase accountability and transparency of our education system include, among other things:

  1. Expansion of charter schools, coupled with multiple charter authorizers (including private entities) and minimized charter regulation
  2. Adoption of tuition tax credit programs providing individuals and corporations the option to forgo paying a portion of taxes by contributing that amount to a privately governed entity (or entities) that manages tuition scholarships to privately governed/managed schools.
  3. Parent trigger policies that permit a simple majority of parents of children currently attending any school within a district to mandate that the local board of education displace the entire staff of the school and potentially turn over governance and management of school’s operations (and physical/capital assets?) to a private management company to be operated as a charter school.

It is argued that current large bureaucratic public education systems are simply intractable, non-responsive and can’t be improved – That they are simply not accountable to anyone because they are run by corrupt self-interested public officials elected by less than 2% of eligible voters (turnout for board elections) and that they have no incentive to be responsive because they are guaranteed a constantly growing pot of revenue regardless of performance/quality/responsiveness.

Whatever problems do exist with the design of our public bureaucracies, I would argue that we should exercise extreme caution in accepting uncritically the belief that we could not possibly do worse, and that large scale privatization and contracting of private entities to provide the public good is necessarily a better and more responsive, more efficient, transparent and accountable option.

Read the entire post. He shows, step by step, why each of these claims are misleading; and why they do not lead to greater accountability or transparency, or even to better outcomes for students.

In his analysis of “parent trigger,” he writes:

Parent trigger is quite possibly the most ludicrous corruption of public governance and accountability on the education reformy education policy table. Put simply, parent trigger is the most ill-conceived subversion of governance I’ve seen out there in the reformy playbook.

And he explains why.

It is an important read.