Threats to Public Education

Today, even as the charter movement regroups, new threats to public education are emerging.

Donors with very deep pockets, including heirs to the Walmart fortune, continue to push for more charters by creating different ways to steer their money. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, long an advocate of putting public money into private hands, leads the Trump administration’s assault on public schools.

The privatization threat also extends into higher education.

With financially strapped public colleges and universities turning increasingly to private solutions for admissions, housing and student services, corporate interests are stepping in, clearly motivated by profit and the belief that educational institutions should operate more like businesses — or be run by them.

These developments require continuous scrutiny — and active opposition — from public education advocates.

Key information on these issues can be found in the Links to Related Materials below. Some require fees for access, but all are summarized in the accompanying descriptions.

State Takeover Zones

State Takeover Zones/Privatization

The MTA is pushing back against an accountability system that is based on sanctioning educators, schools and districts rather than providing them with support.

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LINKS to Related Materials
After a political rout, New York’s wealthiest charter group searches for an identity
Politico

The well-funded Families for Excellent Schools advocacy group is reeling after Massachusetts voters defeated a 2016 charter ballot initiative and state officials fined the group’s advocacy arm for violating campaign finance laws.

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Pro-charter school group pays state’s largest campaign finance penalty
The Boston Globe

Families for Excellent Schools — Advocacy is hit with a record fine after “officials found the group was illegally hiding the identities of its donors.” Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Paul Sagan was among those whose contributions were revealed by the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

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Massachusetts votes against expanding charter schools, saying no to Question 2
MassLive

Massachusetts voters resoundingly reject the 2016 ballot initiative that would have raised the cap on charter schools, siding with public schools and citing the high cost of charters.

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Betsy DeVos’ vision goes beyond privatizing education — and she’s alarmingly close to realizing it
Salon/AlterNet

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has used her personal fortune to accelerate attacks on unions and public schools — and as a member of the Trump Cabinet, she now has the policy influence to extend her ideological reach through a national agenda. 

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Hundreds protest visit by DeVos
MTA Today, Fall 2017

Educators, students and local advocates hold a large protest during a Harvard appearance by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Pro-public-education protesters challenge Trump administration plans to divert public funds to privately run schools and roll back Obama-era protections for sexual assault survivors on college campuses.

Massachusetts Parents United: Old wine in an empty bottle
WGBH

The former state director of the charter school group Families for Excellent Schools is back with a new Massachusetts privatization group that — like FES — relies on funding from heirs to the Walmart fortune.

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The ‘Walmartization’ of public education
The Washington Post

Heirs to the Walmart fortune are pumping more than $1 billion into private school and charter school options that threaten to destabilize public education. The author explains the problem with the rationale that closing schools that are suffering enrollment and funding declines is the same as closing retail stores for competitive reasons.

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Why the movement to privatize education is a very bad idea
The Washington Post

An interview with Samuel E. Abrams, the author of “Education and the Commercial Mindset.” Abrams writes that the Wall Street-inspired move toward more privately managed “public” schools creates a lack of transparency in public education, inspires labels such as “good schools” and “bad schools,” and diminishes school-centered community identities.

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When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants: What Happens?
New York Review of Books

Education researcher Diane Ravitch reviews two 2016 books on education privatization that show how students are shortchanged in the rush to profits.

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As Colleges Go Global, Recruiting Goes Private
University of Massachusetts Lowell reprint, The Boston Globe

UMass campuses turned to a private Australian company to find international students who can pay full tuition. Experts note that colleges cede some control over admissions in the process.

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UMass Partners with Private Company to Recruit International Students
WGBH

A private company signs with UMass Amherst to recruit students to pursue online graduate degrees.

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Bridge or Back Door?
Inside Higher Ed

“The continuing growth of pathway programs for international students reflects trends toward for-profit/nonprofit partnerships and raises questions about readiness and rigor.”

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