Public Schools: From the People Who Brought You Blackwater
What happens when you privatize a major piece of public infrastructure and shovel piles of money to unelected and unaccountable figures in the private sector? Pro-Publica has the answer,
Since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain and reports that it has about 20,000 students across the country. But now 10 of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing, and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.
The dispute between White Hat and Ohio, which is unfolding in state court in Franklin County, provides a glimpse at a larger trend: the growing role of private management companies in publicly funded charter schools.
To say that this was a predictable outcome is, sadly, a tremendous understatement. For years well intentioned liberals have found common cause with the right on the idea of Charter schools as the saviors of the American public education system. Many of us on the left, myself included, argued that the right-wing never actually cared about saving public education and it appears that we’re finally beginning to see the unvarnished truth. The Republican Party looks at public education just like they look at our military, Social Security, Medicare, transportation infrastructure and our utility systems – a giant pool of money that can be shoveled to well connected business interests.
The concern for the quality of our public education system is little more than a fig-leaf, the real concern has been finding a politically palatable mechanism to transfer public money into private hands with the least amount of accountability possible.
If you think this is hyperbole I would simply point you to Ohio where the GOP controlled legislature and Tea-Billy Governor John Kasich are laying it all out there for you to see. Here’s what the GOP backed annual budget proposal has to say about Charters,
Empowers for-profit corporations to start up and run charter schools – without the oversight of a sponsor, which is required for all charter schools now.
Permits a charter school’s board to give up all its rights and responsibilities to a for-profit or nonprofit operator, who would employ the teachers and other staffers.
Provides that once taxpayer money is given to a charter school operator, it is no longer considered public money and anything the operator buys with it becomes the operator’s property.
Got that? Enterprising individuals will be able to operate a Charter without oversight and all of the tax dollars they receive will be converted to private property.
What could possibly go wrong? We need simply to look at the experience with privatization of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,
Contractors are nothing new to the military, however. They’ve been around since the days of the American Revolution. The combat services have always required them for their expertise, “bending metal,” as the Pentagon describes it: manufacturing tanks, planes and ships. Until the Iraq war, however, there was no doubt as to who called the shots, or who fired them. Over the Iraq decade, that distinction has blurred.
Congressional attempts to rein in contractors have met with mixed and sometimes bitter results. At a hearing in late February, former Congressman Chris Shays voiced his frustration. “For the 200,000 people employed by contractors to provide support and capability in Iraq and Afghanistan, accountability is too often absent, diluted, delayed or avoided.”…
And many contractors resemble war profiteers: From 2007 to 2009, more than 200 contractors had made settlements over fraud charges while still being awarded $280 billion in new DOD contracts. To put that sum into perspective: $280 billion is roughly equal to the national gross domestic product of Denmark, and just behind that of Saudi Arabia…
What most rankles the colonels is that contractors have only one obligation: to fulfill their contract. They answer to no chain of command; they are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they are not required to have U.S. military training; and they are not subject to the Law of Land Warfare or the Geneva Conventions. Contractors decide on their own rules of engagement. Those security contractors who work for “U.S. agencies” or the State Department, which will soon be taking over control of security in Iraq, are immunized from Iraqi laws, and potentially U.S. law as well. Put another way, they have license to kill.
[Shays] charged that 90 percent of the private contracts awarded by the Pentagon had gone ahead without scrutiny. At a minimum, the Pentagon had failed to inquire about the capabilities and performance of the contractors it was hiring.
Military policy and education policy are worlds apart on a policy level but the interests who support the privatization of the military and public education aren’t concerned with policy at all. They are simply seeking the next pool of capital, conveniently collected by the civilian government with all losses and liability to be absorbed by the taxpayers.
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