The Charter School Scam

Many Conservative activists and Bluedog Democrats are pushing to bring the “magic of the marketplace” to education.  The scam here blames all the world’s ills on teachers’ unions and bureaucratic public schools and asserts that by converting to a “free enterprise” model, schools can become productive profit centers generating bright new graduates like shiny widgets from the factory floors of Shanghai.

Ain’t true. The market ideology in education, much like the market ideology in the rest of human endeavor is but a rationalization, a hype for making money.

The good people of Oregon learned this lesson to their discomfort. Two fast-talking snake-oil salesmen, Tom King and Norm Donohoe persuaded the State Education Department that they could spin gold out of straw for the right price. They bounced around the State creating 10 so-called charter schools which were in reality only sham fronts for their nefarious activities.

The State dazzled by the promises of productivity, managerial excellence and flow charts handed out $ 450,000 in start-up grants per school and then entered into contracts supporting these castles in the air. The entrepreneurs sucked down $ 17 MILLION in public funds until the house of cards collapsed. The State was scammed. The parents hoodwinked. The kids were left un-educated. But all was not lost, the “businessmen” were made millionaires.

Meanwhile in scams across the country in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and California 53 Federal investigations into charter schools resulted in 21 indictments and 17 convictions.

States and School Districts have fallen for the chimera of Schools-for-Profit. Fact is the traditional model is still the best — publicly owned and operated schools where students are taught by licensed professionals subject to democratic accountability.

How many more will have to suffer, and how many dollars will be wasted, in this country’s silly worship of the Marketplace in all matters. The Market works OK for consumer goods and services but not for the core functions of Society, not for education, not for healthcare, not for corrections and not for government. If we need to change we should look to the precepts of Democracy and not Capitalism for guidance.

SOURCE: “Charter School Moguls Scam Oregon Out of Millions”,  COMMON DREAMS, Lauren McCauley (January 7, 2013)

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