Susan Ochshorn founded ECE PolicyWorks to advocate for high-quality education for young children.

In this post, she analyzes the pernicious influence of financiers and hedge fund managers on decisions about the fate of young children, as they figure out how to make a profit with “Social impact bonds.”

Everyone loves the idea of early childhoood education. But unfortunately the financiers have figured out how to make it pay—for them.

Ochshorn shows how Goldman Sachs and other investors saw a path to profit and how public officials fell in love with metrics. The children? Not so much.

She gives the background of the social impact bond.

And she concludes that commodifying children is a very bad idea:

“By last summer, the U.S. Department of Education had gotten on board. Under the aegis of John King, former education commissioner of New York, they launched a Pay for Success grant competition, $2.8 million available for state, local, and tribal governments interested in exploring the investment vehicle’s feasibility. Early this year, as Betsy DeVos replaced King in the top job, the department distributed funding ranging from $300 to $400 million to 8 recipients. Rigorous evaluation, as the Urban Institute’s “Pay for Success Early Childhood Education Toolkit,” makes clear, is the sine qua non of the transaction, precise metrics and data collection essential for determining the venture’s outcome.

“To quantify is to have the illusion of mastery over all that defies our control, yet the metrics fall short, the ends perverted: they cannot capture children’s unique capacities, or the uneven trajectory of their development—as messy and challenging as it gets.

“Three- and four-year-olds are not commodities. They have had the grave misfortune of entering the academic arena in a period of measurement gone berserk. What young children need most is time, and sustained support for experiences that nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits—their due, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S has not yet ratified more than 25 years after the resolution was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly.

“The benchmarks and assessments of the Common Core violate this right—especially for our youngest students. So do social impact bonds. If the payback is contingent upon a particular timetable, and the desired outcomes are not forthcoming, where does that leave the kids?

“Those who have made their millions and billions in private equity, investment banking, and hedge funds see themselves as the saviors of our most vulnerable children. Yet their fancy models are putting our youngest learners at greater risk—along with democracy and the public good.”