Education: A Profit Making Endeavor for Some

Posted on April 29, 2011

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OPINION PIECE:

I have become increasingly concerned with the trend in education of privatizing services and for-profit companies entering education with the sole purpose of making a profit. Profits by themselves are not bad, but often the goal of the company or organization is to maximize profits rather than to do what is best for the “customer”–in this case, students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

This is one reason I am uneasy about Charter schools. We have too many examples of charter schools in Texas reaping large incomes for those running the charters with absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any educational benefits to the students. Remember the charter school that falsified enrollment data and absconded with all the money without actually educating any children?

Here is the latest! Education Week is reporting that the Gates Foundation and Pearson (Yes, the company that makes and scores the TAKS), is now offering complete curricula and professional development for teachers that is aligned with the common core standards. So, the Gates Foundation uses its money and influence to push through Common Core Standards and testing, then within a year, partners with Pearson so that Pearson can make a profit off of the Common Core Standards.

Now, districts will not be FORCED to purchase the products. But,  since many districts  had to cut their central office curriculum specialists as part of the budget crises around the country, districts will essentially be forced to purchase this new curriculum since it will be cheaper than employing curriculum specialists who, you know, actually interact and collaborate with real live teachers..

Now, the Gates Foundation has enough money to provide the curricula and PD to every school in the nation for free. If they are such a strong believer in Common Core Standards, why don’t they provide it for free? Why should ANY school have to pay for curricula?

Is this all a coincidence? I’ll let the readers be the judge of that.

Curricula and PD should be provided for free since education is the ULTIMATE COMMON GOOD IN THIS COUNTRY.  I think we, as a country, have forgotten that. We are increasingly segregating schools based on race, class, and ability. We have very different enacted curriculum, resources, and teacher quality across schools, with the wealthy having a more robust and rigorous curriculum, greater resources (including lower class sizes), and teachers that are more experienced, educated, and stable. Common Core Standards could theoretically be a good step in ensuring every student has access to a rigorous curriculum, yet many of us were wary of the very announcement described above. Others did not like federal interference. Not participating in Common Core Standards was likely a good decision on the part of TEA and Governor Perry even though I disagreed with their rationale for not participating. The entire Common Core effort now all looks like a scheme to make money.

Education should not become a for-profit enterprise that places profits above children or educators.

UPDATE: Diane Ravitch, a friend of mine since we both were presenting at the Brookings Institute in 2000, also has a terrific blog entry on this at

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/05/the_outrage_of_the_week.html

(A future post will describe how private alternative certification programs in Texas place profits ahead of children with the blessing of many politicians who receive campaign donations from the for-profit enterprises.)

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