2017-02-08 08:44 am

So Devos is education secretary...

One thing that a lot of folks may not know is why "charter schools" are such a big deal. Couldn't it be a good thing to have people with fresh ideas opening up schools, and competing with public schools, and, if they have really good ideas, maybe the public schools can copy some of them?

Well, the thing you need to remember is that this is corporate America. The reason charter schools are a big deal is that education is one of the top line items in state budgets. There's a lot of money being spent! And charter schools are a way to skim some of that money off.

Okay, but how can a charter school compete with public schools, if they don't have better ideas and methods?

Well, they may not have to compete in the standard sense, by providing an equal, or better, education - it can be hard for a parent to know if their child is getting a good education. And there's more, of course.

First, public schools have to educate everyone - every student is entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Charters don't necessarily have to follow this.

Second, public education usually includes public employee unions that demand decent pay for the work they do, and reasonable working conditions. Charter schools work well when they skip out on all union requirements. Face it, jobs are getting plentiful, but good jobs are still scarce! So it's a buyers market for labor - there are enough people who want a job, just a bit better than their last, or at least better than their other offers, that one can wring some savings out of employee salaries and benefits. Without union protections, people can be fired if they want annual cost-of-living increases in their salary.

Third, Republicans are big on privatization and deregulation. In some school districts, charter schools are given free reign over spending, and operate without transparency. A connected business with good contacts in the educational community can make a killing.

Hm? What's that? Rather than say "well connected," as in, knows lots of legislators and local officials, I said "connected" which is used to describe someone who's in the mob? Why, yes, yes, I did say that. I certainly didn't want to imply mob ties, though... just the legislative/executive equivalent. Just because a business says that they're interested in children and education doesn't mean that they actually care about anything other than the bottom line!

In a just society, where charter schools had to compete on an even footing with public schools, I'd certainly be in favor of experimenting a bit. But I have a feeling it'd be like Medicare Advantage - if you have to provide the same services as the government, and still bring in extra money to satisfy stakeholders, you'd probably find that it's not economical - then you'd have to wait for the Republicans to find a way to make things work better for you.

With Devos as education secretary, there's a better than even chance that will happen - except for the part about charters competing on an even footing, of course! That would be bad for business.
2017-02-08 06:08 pm

Really good points....

For me, the word "regulation" is neither good nor bad - but George Lakoff points out that there is a better way to look at them:

And it is true; while the Republicans love to talk about "slashing regulation" that is precisely what they mean - cutting protections for the people, the labor force, the environment (which, remember, includes stuff like fresh air and clean drinking water), and more. Without regulations, drugs can be unsafe and tainted with potentially toxic impurities; without regulation, the food you buy can make you sick or kill you, and we might not even be able to track the source of the food to recall it; without regulations, your boss can steal your paycheck and fire you for complaining about it (which, okay, yes who wants to work for a thief? Ans: someone desperate - and desperate people deserve protection too!).