Archives for category: Privatization

You will find this publication of great interest at this time. It is titled “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class.” It was written by a group called “In the Public Interest.”

The full PDF file is available for free.

Here is the executive summary:

“As state and local governments outsource important public functions to for-profit and other private entities, what happens to the quality of life for the workers who provide these services, and the communities in which they live? A growing body of evidence and industry wage data suggest an alarming trend: outsourcing public services sets off a downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits can hurt the local economy and overall stability of middle and
working class communities. By paying family-supporting wages
and providing important benefits such as health insurance and
sick leave, governments historically created intentional “ladders
of opportunity” to allow workers and their families to reach the middle class. This is especially true for women and African Americans for whom the public sector has been a source of stable middle-class careers. Low-road government contracts reverse this dynamic. While corporations rake in increasing profits through taxpayer dollars and CEO compensation continues to soar, numerous examples in this report show that workers employed by state and local government contractors receive low wages and few benefits.”

EduShyster here interviews Ken Zeichner of the University of Washington about teacher education.

They talk about the NCTQ report, whose findings were predetermined by its political agenda (I.e., university-based teacher preparation bad, alternative preparation good).

Zeichner says that no other country–certainly no high-performing country–has gone full-throttle for alternative teacher preparation.

He describes a phenomenon that he calls “knowledge ventriloquism:”

“Basically what you have is an echo chamber effect where think tanks and other advocacy groups just keep repeating each other’s claims until they become true. There’s a research component too, except that the research isn’t independent. In fact, you can usually predict what the findings are going to be be based on who is doing the research. Cherry picking is another essential component of *knowledge ventriloquism.* Advocates a particular position or program will selectively choose certain findings and ignore others. The problem is that by the time any of this reaches the mainstream media and the headlines, any nuance or complexity is lost.”

In another era, this was known as the Big Lie, repeated again and again in authoritative circles until the public assumed it must be true despite the lack of evidence.

Zeichner and colleagues recently published a study of the movement to privatize teacher education. The NCTQ ratings are a part of that movement.

Carol Burris has been one of the leading voices in opposition to corporate education reform in New York state. Whenever anyone tries to imply that opposition to the Common Core comes only from the Tea Party, there is Carol Burris–a progressive high school principal–as a counter-example.


Burris has led the principals’ revolt against high-stakes testing and against evaluating educators according to student test scores.


In this article, she describes the progressive revulsion to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is more attuned to the interests of major corporations and big-money donors than to parents and educators.


Burris sees Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout as the progressive who is likeliest to challenge Governor Cuomo in a Democratic primary, running against him on his left flank, where he has big vulnerabilities.


Given the upset defeat of Eric Cantor in Virginia, no politician can rest easy as they approach an election. In many states and districts, voters are angry and feel cheated.


Cantor was surprised. Let’s see if Cuomo coasts to victory, as he expects, and as Cantor expected.

This article in Salon tries to understand education from an economic perspective. It says that the great expansion of public education occurred when our factories were expanding and we needed more workers. Now, with outsourcing and autation, society and our elites are less willing to invest in education, and so we live in an era of austerity and privatization.

Eric Levitz writes of the Obama administration’s reluctance to address glaring inequality:

“We have an economy in which 46.5 million Americans live in poverty, the real unemployment rate is above 12 percent, and our 400 wealthiest citizens enjoy as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population. But a political system designed for gridlock, the grossly disproportionate influence of the rich, and Americans’ ideological aversion to class politics conspire to make it politically inadvisable for a Democratic president to even speak the words “income inequality” before a national audience. Absent the political will to explore redistributive structural reforms, we’re left with “ladders of opportunity,” and a vision of economic salvation through higher test scores.”

Levitz interviews philosophy of education professor David Blacker. He asks him about how charter schools fit into the current era, and Blacker replies:

“I think the logic there is a kind of marketization logic. It’s an ideal of privatization which I think is ultimately tied to… I think privatization is the twin of austerity. Austerity being withdrawal of public commitment and public expenditure. I see those things as hand in hand, and they are symptomatic, from my point of view, of this decrease in commitment to that project of universal public education. Because the market logic sort of implies that education is this contingent matter for individuals. It’s less of a social good. It’s less of something we ought to worry about collectively, and more a commodity that individuals need to seize or take advantage of on their own. Invest in yourself. Or parents, invest in your children.”

A cautionary tale:: Governor Cuomo and the effort to destroy public education in New York

To be published in The Australian Educators Union journal the “Professional Voice” June, 2014. Please visit their website for the current and past issues:

David Hursh
Warner Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester
Rochester, New York

As a long-time activist in educational policy, I have observed in New York the continual ratcheting up of high-stakes testing requirements, beginning in the 1990s with the graduation requirement of passing five standardized tests, then, under No Child Left Behind, requiring standardized tests in math and reading in grades three through eight as a means of assessing students, schools and school districts, and finally, with the institution of the Common Core State Standards, requiring standardized tests in every subject to not only assess students, but to determine teacher effectiveness and potentially removing teachers whose students do poorly on the tests (see Hursh, 2007, 2008, 2013) Furthermore, teachers are increasingly blamed not only for the failings of our educational system but also for the increasingly economic inequalities in society and the decline of the middle class, a tactic that Michael Apple describes as “exporting the blame” (Apple, 1996).

However, the increasing use of standardized tests to hold accountable and punish students and teachers tell only part of the story. Standardized testing is increasingly used as part of the rationale for privatizing education by increasing the number of privately administered but publicly funded charter schools. Consequently, public education and teachers face the greatest threat yet, one that may mean the demise of public education in New York’s cities and teaching as a profession.

As I write this, Governor Cuomo, a Democrat but not a progressive, is chairing a three-day event on educational reform called “Camp Philos” at Whiteface Lodge in the Adirondack Mountains. Many of the invitees are sponsored by a group called Education Reform Now, a non-profit advocacy group that lobbies state and federal public officials to support charter schools (publically funded but privately operated elementary and secondary schools), evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and eliminating tenure for teachers. Many of the remaining invitees are hedge fund managers, who see charter schools as investment opportunities. Admission to the retreat costs $1,000 per person, an amount teachers can little afford. But, no matter, when some teachers attempted to register, they were told “no thank you.”

Cuomo’s support for charter schools was made blatantly clear a few months ago when he led a rally at the state capitol promoting charter schools. At the rally he stated that, “education is not about the districts and not about the pensions and not about the unions
and not about the lobbyists and not about the PR firms – education is about the students, and the students come first.” He then continued to misrepresent the evidence regarding the effectiveness of charter schools, ignoring the fact that charter schools cream off the more capable students, often denying admission to students who are English Language Learners or students with disabilities. He also seemed to forget that charter schools have more funding per student because they do not have to pay for the space they use in public school buildings, pay lower salaries to their teachers who are typically young and work under year-to-year contracts, and receive extra funding from corporations and philanthropic foundations who support privatizing schooling. He also forgot to mention that he has received $400,000 for his upcoming re-election campaign from one charter school operator and another $400,000 this year from bankers, hedge fund managers, real estate executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have flocked to charter schools and other privatization efforts.

Cuomo often describes New York’s schools and teachers as failing. While as I have consistently argued throughout my career that public schools could do better, especially if teachers were supported in developing culturally appropriate and challenging curriculum, to place all the blame on teachers ignores four major issues. First, test scores are manipulated to yield whatever result current and past commissioners of education desire. As I have detailed elsewhere, results on the standardized tests are entirely unreliable because commissioners have raised and lowered the cut score on tests to portray students as failing or improving, depending on what suited their political interests (Hursh, 2007, 2008, 2013). For example, on the newly instituted Common Core exams, the cut score was set so high as to result in failing 69% of students state-wide and 95% of students in the city of Rochester. Such low passing rates have been used to denigrate public schools and teachers, and as evidence for why education needs to be privatized. Further, because the current commissioner, John King, wants to take credit for improving student learning in the state, he has already guaranteed that the scores on this year’s tests will improve, which he can ensure simply by lowering the cut score.

Second, Cuomo and other corporate reformers ignore that data show that New York’s public schools are highly racially and economically segregated; indeed, we have separate and unequal schools. A new study (Kucsera, 2014) by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA confirms what many of us always suspected: New York State has the most segregated schools in the United States. Sixty years after Brown versus Board of Education supposedly ended segregation, New York’s schools are more segregated than in the past. In “2009,” writes Kucsera, “black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools” (p. 1).

Third, Rochester has the fifth highest poverty rate of all the cities in the United States and the second highest of mid-sized cities. Ninety percent of the students in the Rochester City School District come from families who live in economic poverty. Yet Cuomo, who regularly makes public announcements on many issues, from urging us to shop locally for Easter presents and how to avoid ticks while hiking, has remained silent on the issue of segregation (Bryant, 2014, April 26).

Fourth, even though charter schools on average do not perform better than the publicly administered schools (a fact Cuomo distorts), charter schools have several advantages that should lead to better results. As mentioned earlier, charter schools are not required to admit students who are English Language Learners or who have learning disabilities. Since charter schools have the advantage of accepting only the more capable learners, leaving the others behind in the public schools, and, in many cases have space provided free by the public schools, and receive additional financial support from the Walton Family and other foundations (Rich, 2014), charter schools should have much better results than they do.

Given the weakness of the corporate reformers’ arguments, how to we explain their ability to move their agenda forward? From what I have said above, I want to expand on two things. First, the corporate reformers aim to control the discourse of public education, portraying themselves and their reform agenda as the only one that aims to improve education for all students, particularly for children living in our urban areas. While Cuomo ignores the more intractable issues of school segregation and child poverty, he claims that he is supporting charter schools because “children come first.”
In the past he has used observances marking Dr. Martin Luther. King, Jr.’s birthday to assail teachers as the primary cause for the failures of New York’s educational system and assert that high-stakes standardized testing responds to King’s vision. To be specific, Cuomo claims that, “we have to realize that our schools are not an employment program…. It is this simple: It is not about the adults; it is about the children” (Kaplan & Taylor 2012, A-17). Oddly enough, given his silence on New York’s status as the state with the most segregated schools, at the same event he cited the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, lamenting that because of failing public schools, “the great equalizer that was supposed to be the public education system can now be the great discriminator.” Perhaps he has forgotten that the Supreme Court case declared that children cannot overcome the harm caused by segregated schools. Instead, he portrays teachers’ unions as special interests and unionized teachers only caring about their pensions and contracts, while only he and others like him are for the children.

Similarly, he states that “education is not about the lobbyists,” portraying himself as above special interests and defying the efforts of lobbyists. Perhaps for Cuomo, because Camp Philos brings together the corporate and political elite who are unified in holding teachers and students accountable through standardized tests, ending tenure, decreasing the power of unions, and privatizing education, and because most importantly they are not educators, he imagines them as not the lobbyists they are but merely advocates for equality.

Which leads to the second explanation for the corporate reform success: they have money and lots of it, which not only provides supporters of charter schools and other forms of privatization access to politicians, such as in the Camp Philos retreat (no teachers wanted!), but also supports projects that help them achieve their goals. The Walton Family Foundation, who support charter schools and voucher programs that use public funds to send children to private schools, and despise unions, has given, since 2000, approximately $1 billion to charter schools and charter school advocates (Rich, 2014, April 25). Likewise, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured billions into privatization efforts and reforms including the Common Core State Standards and exams. On the Common Core alone, “research by Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus at Georgia State, shows compelling evidence that Gates” has provided $2.3 billion in support of the Common Core, with “more than 1800 grants to organizations running from teachers unions to state departments of education to political groups like the National Governor’s Association [that] have pushed the Common Core into 45 states, with little transparency and next to no public review” (Schneider, 2014, March 17, p. 1).

Money buys influence. In March Bill Gates and David Brooks (2014), New York Times editorialist and outspoken supporter of the Common Core, had dinner with 80 U.S. Senators. Similarly, the Walton Family Foundation not only provides funds, according to their own website, to one out of every four charter schools in the United States but also funds advocacy groups like Students First, led by Michelle A. Rhee, the former Washington D.C. schools chancellor who oversaw many of the policy changes funded by Walton. As Rich (2014) notes in his article on the Walton Family Foundation, “Students First pushes for the extension of many of those same policies in states across the country, contributing to the campaigns of lawmakers who support the group’s agenda” (p. A-1). The influence of wealthy families such as Bill and Melinda Gates and the Walton family confirm the recent findings of a study by Martin Gilens (2013) on Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America that reveals how policy makers enact the preferences of the rich.

All of the above suggests that the corporate reformers have used their wealth and power to dominate the education reform agenda and promote the privatization of public education, increased standardized testing, and the demise of teaching as a profession. Consequently, what hope is there for resisting and reversing the corporate agenda?

In New York and across the country there is increasing resistance to the corporate reform movement as teachers, parents, students, and community members have formed alliances to combat corporate reforms. Last August, I was one of twelve educators and community members to create the New York State Allies for Public Education, which has a website ( and offers critical analysis of the corporate reform movement in New York. The number of organizations making up the allies now numbers 50.

Furthermore, critics of corporate reform have influenced the dominant discourse, in particular making economic and racial inequality part of the agenda. For example, critics are using the research revealing the failure to integrate schools sixty years after Brown V. Board of Education to make racial inequality an issue. They are also using the fortieth anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty to ask why there is more economic inequality now than at any time since the Great Depression. And they are using the increasing efforts by Pearson to other corporations to turn schools into centers of profit to question the purpose of schooling. Recent hearings held by Commissioner King regarding the implementation of the Common Core curriculum and exams have conceptualized and implemented have been completely dominated by critics. Critics have called for the resignation of the current commissioner. Lastly the New York State United Teachers organized four hundred teachers to “picket in the pines” at Camp Philos in upstate New York to protest that Cuomo’s education retreat is excluding teachers. The New York State Regents, who make education policy, and the New York State legislature have both acted to implement moratoriums on state initiatives to increase testing of students and teachers. Teachers, parents, and community members are becoming increasing knowledgeable, outspoken and allied regarding the corporate reform movement. The battle is on.

Note: For nine weeks from mid January to mid March I visited with teachers, union officials, and university faculty in Australia and New Zealand to learn more about the education reform initiatives in both countries. I also gave numerous presentations on the corporate led education reform movement in the United States and, in particular, my home state of New York (see the youtube video of my keynote talk to New Zealand primary school teachers and administrators at


Apple, M. (1996). Cultural politics and education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dobbin, S. I2-13, December 10). New study: Rochester is fifth poorest city in country. Democrat and Chronicle.

Brooks, D. (2014, April 18). When the circus descends. New York Times. A-23.

Bryant, E. (2014, April 26). Governor silent on school segregation. Democrat and Chronicle.

Gilens. M. (2013) Affluence and influence: Economic inequality and political power in America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Hursh, D. (2007). “Assessing the impact of No Child Left Behind and other neoliberal reforms in education,” American Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 493-518.

Hursh, D. (2013). Raising the stakes: High-stakes testing and the attack on public education in New York. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5). 574-588. DOI:10.1080/02680939.2012.758829

Hursh, D. (2008). High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Kaplan, T. and Taylor, K. (2012, January 17). Invoking King, Cuomo and Bloomberg stoke fight on teacher review impasse. The New York Times: A-17.

Rich, M. (2014, April 25). A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools. New York Times. A-1. Accessed at

Schneider, M. (2014, March 17). Gates Dined on March 13, 2014, with 80 Senators

David Hursh, PhD
Teaching and Curriculum
Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
452 LeChase Hall
RC Box 270425
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0425
Phone: 585.275.3947
Fax: 585.486.1159
Mobile: 585.406.1258

Associate Region Editor- Americas- Journal of Education Policy.
Associate Editor- Policy Futures in Education

New Orleans will soon be the first urban district in the nation that is all-charter, the first district where public education has been completely extinguished.

Because so much money has been invested in the privatization of the schools in New Orleans, there is a media machine that cranks out favorable stories about it. The state board of education, the state department of education, and the Governor are determined to prove that privatization was successful.

But there is another side to the story. Read it here. Read about a district that has low rankings on state measures, a district that has depended on fluctuating state standards, a district that depends on Teach for America, where charter leaders are paid handsomely.

Raynard Sanders, a professional educator and critic of the Recovery School District, says that New Orleans is a great case study:

“It’s a system where many of the schools take in only the most desirable students and then “create an economic opportunity for the people who operate the school,” he said. And many have been hurt in the process of experimentation, Sanders said, “because the rights of students and the sanctity of public education have been trampled on and forgotten about….”

“In New Orleans, the privateers got everything they wanted and more, and still failed, Sanders said. “It is a great case study, and also one of the biggest scams done on public education – and parents and students — in the history of the country.”

One day, perhaps, the nationaledia might admit that they were taken in by the purveyors of the Néw Orleans story. Or maybe they will keep saying the same things again and again, without regard to facts.

Mike Deshotels, veteran educator, blows up the carefully manufactured tale of success by privatization. What a lesson for the nation: close down every public school; turn every school into a privately managed charter school; fire every experienced teacher and replace with a fresh college graduate with give weeks of training. Is this the formula for success in any other nation? No.

Deshotels writes that:

“The Louisiana Department of education has just released the results of the state accountability testing called LEAP and ILEAP. The report includes a percentile ranking of each of the public school systems in the state according to the performance of their students in math, and english language arts. The latest student testing results and these percentile rankings demonstrate the appalling academic performance of the Louisiana Recovery District (The RSD results are given near the bottom of the chart). After more than eight years of state takeover and conversion of public schools in Louisiana into privately run charter schools, even the most ardent promoters of this radical privatization experiment can no longer hide its spectacular failure.”

“The latest state testing results in this official LDOE report now ranks the New Orleans Recovery District at the 17th percentile among all Louisiana public school districts in student performance. By the state’s own calculations, this means that 83 percent of the state’s school districts provide their students a better opportunity for learning than do the schools in New Orleans that were taken over and converted into charter schools. Considering the fact that a special law was passed for New Orleans that allowed the state to take over, not just failing schools, but any school performing below the state average at that time, this 17th percentile ranking places the New Orleans takeover schools just about where they were before the takeover. But in addition, the schools taken over by the Recovery District in Baton Rouge and other areas are now ranked at the 2 percentile and 0 percentile levels respectively, after 6 years of state and charter school control. That means that these two portions of the Louisiana Recovery District are absolutely the poorest performers on the state accountability testing. In two of the schools run by the RSD, the academic results and the enrollments had deteriorated so much that the Recovery District has recently given them back to the local school school board systems. This latest move apparently violates the whole premise behind the RSD.”

Despite these facts, why does the media continue to praise this failed experiment?

Teachers College Press has published a major study of venture philanthropy and its efforts to introduce market forces into teacher education. It was written by Kenneth Zeichner and Cesar Pena-Sandoval of the University of Washington in Seattle.

The article focuses on the key role of the NewSchools Venture Fund in promoting legislation to authorize charter academies to train teachers and principals. This close examination of the NSVF is especially pertinent now that its most recent CEO, Ted Mitchell, was named as Undersecretary of Education, and will play a large role in shaping higher education policy.

The strategy of the venture philanthropists is by now familiar: first, proclaim that traditional institutions are failing; second, declare a crisis; third, propose market-based solutions accompanied by grandiose promises.

Here is a summary of the study:

“Background & Purpose:

“This article focuses on the growing role of venture philanthropy in shaping policy and practice in teacher education in the United States. Our goal is to bring a greater level of transparency to private influences on public policy and to promote greater discussion and debate in the public arena about alternative solutions to current problems. In this article, we focus on the role of one of the most influential private groups in the United States that invests in education, the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), in promoting deregulation and market-based policies.

“Research Design:

“We examine the changing role of philanthropy in education and the role of the NSVF in developing and promoting a bill in the U.S. Congress (the GREAT Act) that would create a system throughout the nation of charter teacher and principal preparation programs called academies. In assessing the wisdom of the GREAT Act, we examine the warrant for claims that education schools have failed in their mission to educate teachers well and the corresponding narrative that entrepreneurial programs emanating from the private sector are the solution.


“We reject both the position that the status quo in teacher education is acceptable (a position held by what we term “defenders”) and the position that the current system needs to be “blown up” and replaced by a market economy (“reformers”). We suggest a third position (“transformers”) that we believe will strengthen the U.S. system of public teacher education and provide everyone’s children with high-quality teachers. We conclude with a call for more trenchant dialogue about the policy options before us and for greater transparency about the ways that private interests are influencing public policy and practice in teacher education…

“This article examines the increasing role of venture philanthropy (Reckhow, 2013; Saltman, 2010; Scott, 2006) and the ideas of educational entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation in influencing the course of federal and state policies and practices in teacher education in the United States.”

Bill Boyle writes that it is time to get over the illusion that privatization is “for the kids.” That privatization will “save poor kids from failing schools.”

After reading Ruth Conniff’s writing about the Economic Policy Institute’s study of privatization in Milwaukee, Boyle says we are “sacrificing our kids,” not saving them.

Boyle asks:

“Can we finally be honest about that fact that for profit charters simply move money from that which is set aside for the common good to corporate profits at the expense of children, particularly those in poverty and of color?”

A reader left this comment:




I worked in the front office of a charter school for two years. We marketed heavily in the neighborhood and would get hundreds of applications for a school that had anywhere from 30-40 seats available in Kindergarten and 0-2 seats per class available in grades 1 and up. I remember the crestfallen looks on parents’ faces when it was announced at the admissions lottery that there were no seats open in a class and that the lottery would determine the order of the waiting list.

I once recommended to the principal that we stop taking applications after a certain point. I had two reasons for suggesting this: 1) We were giving families false hope, as anyone other than the first five to ten on the waiting list had no realistic chance of getting in, and 2) We could make better use of the time and money being spent on processing applications for students we knew would never be accepted, and on marketing to more families when we were already at capacity. His response was that we needed to keep adding as many names as possible to the waiting list, so that we would have numbers to back up our organization’s efforts to demonstrate the need for more charter schools.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105,892 other followers