“In The Public Interest,” a nonpartisan organization that supports a healthy public sector, has identified eleven warning signs that privatizers are targeting your school district.

Read them and be prepared to defend your public schools from privatizers and profiteers!

Here are the first six. Open the link and learn about the other five:

As students, parents, educators, and school districts struggle to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic, others see the crisis as an opportunity to escalate their efforts to further privatize public education. For years, “education reformers,” private companies that want to profit from public education dollars, and others have worked to undermine public education by privatizing all aspects of it—from charter schools, to contracted out bus services and cafeterias, to private testing companies, to software and hardware providers touting the benefits of virtual/online education.

With the current need for districts to rapidly switch to distance learning, many of these same privatization advocates and corporations are using the crisis and the resulting confusion as an opportunity to greatly expand their privatization agenda by offering to help solve some of the problems that the crisis is creating.

The pandemic is creating a fiscal crisis for state, local, and school district budgets and these same forces are also offering up privatization as the solution to these longer-term economic problems. Consequently, we are seeing a major push now by online (virtual) charter schools to greatly increase their number of enrolled students. We are also seeing a major push by “EdTech” companies (education software providers, online pre-packaged classes and tests, computer hardware, cloud computing companies, and others) to peddle their goods and services. These companies seek to offer their services as a way to radically reshape education and education budgets for the long term by dramatically cutting back on qualified classroom teachers and overhead expenses of brick-and-mortar schools.

What to watch for:

Public education advocates need to be vigilant to ensure that during this crisis no long-term commitments are made that increase the privatization of public education.

Below are eleven warning signs and some follow-up questions to help advocates determine whether and how privateers may be trying to make inroads in your school district.

1. Emergency powers have been requested, given, or exercised by superintendents that circumvent normal oversight rules.

• Have emergency powers been granted to district or state superintendents of education? What, if any, are the limits to those powers? When will the emergency powers end?
• How are school boards informed of decisions being made, contracts being entered into, etc., under those powers? Does the board have the authority to review or overturn those decisions?
• Are other emergency orders being put in place? What do they waive or change?
• Are there efforts to suspend open meetings and public records laws?

2. Procurement rules and processes are being suspended, overruled, or ignored.

• In response to the crisis, has your district, locality, or state suspended normal procurement rules?
• Are procurements being made outside the normal process?
• Are there guarantees ensuring that the district isn’t entering into long-term contracts?
• What, if any, transparency is there in the procurement and contracting process?
• Who is responsible for the contracting process and what monitoring and oversight is

3. Virtual/online charter companies are expanding their outreach and recruitment of students.

• Have online charters increased their advertising and recruitment activity in your area?

4. Charter schools and their advocates are pushing to change or ignore authorization and oversight rules.

• Are charter schools attempting to change or relax authorization, oversight, and renewal guidelines?
• Are charter schools requesting or being granted increased funding or extensions on funding or renewal periods?
• Are existing charter schools seeking to expand enrollment caps?
• Are districts providing additional services or technology to charter schools?
• Are there efforts to suspend or disregard open meetings and public records laws for
charter schools?
• Are there efforts to create long-term distance learning contracts with charters?
• Who is monitoring charter schools for compliance with all legal requirements? Are all
the services being delivered?
• Are charter schools ignoring requests for information?

5. Existing charter schools and new charter schools are pushing for immediate charter expansion.

• Are charter school chains or management organizations seeking expansive contracts to provide larger scale education services or replace schools struggling before the crisis?
• Are charter schools advocating for new or additional facilities, or changes in rules regarding facilities?
• Are homeschool charters aggressively marketing payments to families to be used to pay for educational and enrichment programs or services?

6. Education technology companies (hardware and software companies, online testing and lesson planning companies, etc.) are aggressively soliciting the district offering immediate solutions.

• Are education technology companies approaching the district to provide services during the crisis? Which companies? What services? Will those services be needed after the crisis has passed?
• Are companies that already have contracts with the district being allowed to expand those contracts?
• Are companies offering free introductory contracts that are tied to long term obligations?
• Are educational technology companies offering free hardware that requires the district to purchase or lease software or other services?
• All students do not have equal access to the Internet. What—if anything—is being done to ensure equal access?
• Who evaluates education technology software for cost and effectiveness? Are new contracts for education technology being executed? What are the durations and terms, and who is providing oversight?
• Is there a protocol for ensuring that student and educator data is secure? What is the policy for responding in the event of a data breach?