The best way to stop Trump’s plan to privatize public schools is to say no to vouchers, writes Frank Adamson of Stanford University.

 

“Vouchers violate the American ideal of democracy because they transfer educational decisions from the public domain (through school boards and elections) to private management companies and organizations. This has already occurred in charter schools run by private charter management organizations that refuse public input into teaching and curriculum decisions. Furthermore, these organizations often prioritize profits over learning, using public tax dollars to hire inexperienced, cheaper teachers and pocketing the difference. By permitting entirely private schools, vouchers would further decrease public accountability and create a wall between the public and the education sector, thereby diminishing democracy and the role of education as a public good.

 

“Finally, it is critical to understand that the debate about education vouchers is nested within a larger battle over labor. Vouchers can disenfranchise teacher unions because they disperse teachers across many types of institutions and constrain their capacity to collectively bargain. In Chile, teacher unions were dissolved, teacher salaries decreased by over half, and teaching became deprofessionalized based on non-competitive salaries and working conditions. In the U.S., the push for education privatization comes from foundations of wealthy companies and families, such as the heirs of Walmart, a company notorious for its anti-labor policies and practices.

 

“Trump and DeVos’s proposed voucher system promises to concurrently segregate students by class, ethnicity, and ability level while socially ostracizing individual students based on their ethnicities and identities. This system—driven by underlying agendas of marginalizing labor and generating private profit—will violate three core American principles: the separation of church and state, meritocracy, and democratic participation. In Chile, hundreds of thousands of people have marched in the streets to recapture public education after the vouchers decimated their system; U.S. citizens would do well to protest a national voucher policy before losing public education as a foundation of and for democracy.”