Jennifer Berkshire pointed Peter Greene to a paper published by the libertarian Heartland Institute in 2002, nearly 18 years ago. It lays out the goals of the privatization movement very clearly. The main goal was nothing less than the elimination of public schools in America, replaced by a free-market system. The paper was written by Joseph Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute.

Whenever you hear someone refer to public schools as “government schools,” you can be sure you are in the presence of a free-market zealot.

“Bast expresses a childlike faith in the magic of the marketplace. “Privatization is so effective it typically costs a private firm half as much as the government to produce a product or service of similar (often superior) quality.” It’s a cute notion, for which he offers zero evidence. What was clear even in 2002, but what Bast never acknowledges, is that privatization allows private operators to hoover up a big pile of tax dollars that would otherwise have gone to the public sector. But Bast belonged to the Cult of Competition, believing that competing schools would reward schools that please parents, stimulate parent involvement, be more efficient, and penalize failure. None of these things are related to the goal of providing a high quality education for every single child in America, but then, that’s not his goal.

“Bast had some clever (if not reality-based) ideas about how vouchers would satisfy many reformy constituencies. For instance, by setting voucher amounts below current per-students spending levels, vouchers would lessen the taxpayer cost. Because, I guess, the private schools would accept the low voucher amount. Because when I tell the dealer that I can’t afford a Porsche, he just says, “Well, then, I’ll just lower the price to what you would like to pay.” Because that’s how free market competition works…

“His big vision?

Pilot voucher programs for the urban poor will lead the way to statewide universal voucher plans. Soon, most government schools will be converted into private schools or simply close their doors. Eventually, middle- and upper-income families will not longer expect or need tax-financed assistance to pay for the education of their children, leading to further steps toward complete privatization. Vouchers could remain to help the truly needy.

“Use the poor to get vouchers started. Shut down public education entirely. Let the wealthy go back to their exclusive top-tier schools, and set up some cheap ones for everyone else. Boom. No public education, and no forcing taxpayers to pay a bunch of money to educate Those People’s children…

“If you take nothing else from this piece, remember this– for many of the most ardent voucher supporters, school vouchers are not a destination, but just a stop-gap, something that will have to do until they can finally move on their real goal– the complete dismantling of public education in this country, replaced with a loose system of unaccountable, unregulated private schools. That fully privatized system, not a voucher system, is the goal. Keep your eye on the ball.”

Heartland Institute is supported by the DeVos family, the Koch brothers, and all the usual rightwing foundations.