school choice

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Wed Mar 17 08:23:20 PST 1999

> may be BK-ization in this instance, Burger King was operating
high schools (called 'BK Academies') in 14 cities in the early 1990s... haven't kept up with the literature, but Apple, IBM, and Johnson Controls were among corporations considering going into the 'education' business...the NEA had plans to operate schools in several cities as well (as part of a campaign to reinvent itself from labor-management antagonism to education reform, professionalism, & collaboration)... >

Johnson Controls has already begun participating. They specialize in the maintenance functions and are the bigger threat to unionized workers. Arrangements tend to be more accommodative, relatively speaking, of unionized teachers. I believe the NEA already runs some charter schools. They are definitely on record in support of the idea. At least one contractor -- the Edison Project -- has begun lobbying the teachers' unions, trying to soften them up on the private management front (where they have been critical, thus far).

> . . .
> ...mantra is 'autonomy for accountability' - . . .

In my view, this is the greatest vulnerability of the entire privatization enterprise: autonomy prevents accountability, and lack of accountability permits sub-standard performance, if not outright graft and malfeasance of other sorts.

It's true that some of these projects were targeted on low-income minorities. One reason is that there is extra Federal and state money involved which is passed through to the contractor/charter (school lunch program, disability subsidies, etc). These subsidies often come with conditions, but under privatization the government is less able to verify that such conditions are met. A second is a political 'loss leader' aspect -- the whole project is less able to be characterized as a ripoff of low-income persons. You will typically have minority parents supporting the deal, for one reason or another (including deep dissatisfaction with their public school). From a political standpoint, if not short-term profit, the greatest vulnerability of the public system is in the worst-performing urban schools.


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