Privatizers like to point to Sweden as their model (conveniently ignoring Chile, where the military dictator Pinochet’s advisors embraced Milton Friedman’s free-market policies). Since a conservative government came to power, Sweden has vouchers, publicly financed private schools, and for-profit schools. It is everything that ALEC, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Tom Corbett, and Rick Snyder could dream of.
But Swedish education just ran into a huge problem. Private equity firms are booming, as social and economic equity is growing.
And, oops, one of the biggest private firms went bankrupt earlier this year, causing many legislators to wonder if the nation is on the wrong path.
“STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – When one of the biggest private education firms in Sweden went bankrupt earlier this year, it left 11,000 students in the lurch and made Stockholm rethink its pioneering market reform of the state schools system.
School shutdowns and deteriorating results have taken the shine off an education model admired and emulated around the world, in Britain in particular.
“I think we have had too much blind faith in that more private schools would guarantee greater educational quality,” said Tomas Tobé, head of the parliament’s education committee and spokesman on education for the ruling Moderate party.
In a country with the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation, basic aspects of the deregulated school market are now being re-considered, raising questions over private sector involvement in other areas like health.
Two-decades into its free-market experiment, about a quarter of once staunchly Socialist Sweden’s secondary school students now attend publically-funded but privately run schools, almost twice the global average.
Nearly half of those study at schools fully or partly owned by private equity firms.
Ahead of elections next year, politicians of all stripes are questioning the role of such firms, accused of putting profits first with practices like letting students decide when they have learned enough and keeping no record of their grades…..”