Following the Dollars

Who benefits financially from the pro-market charter school movement?

The charter school reform emerged in part out of a progressive effort to promote innovation that could be used to improve all public schools, and to open up discus­sion on the relationship between school and community, particularly in urban areas. It was a movement initiated by Ray Budde, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and envisioned as a school that would gain freedom to try different methods of teaching that could be transferred to all public schools.

However, a funny thing happened along the way. Free-market zealots (with riches) realized that over $600 billion is spent in the U.S. on public schools. A whole new frontier leading to stable profits was recognized. Everyone knows "it takes money to make money,” and the faces behind the voucher/charter "reform” movement are not bashful in stepping up to the bar.

The economic and political consequences of abandoning public education in the US are grave. Education has always been the gateway of opportunity for working people in America, and that gate is slamming shut. With market-based schools, children from wealthy families are being educated, while those from poorer families are being denied the opportunity. While affluent customers may be satisfied with the outcome for their children, rebuilding the economy in post-imperial America will depend on a large, well-educated labor force that can only be supplied by a free and universal public education system.

But in basing schooling on consumerism the free-market zealots overlook the cultural role of schools in communities. Essential services such as the military, police protection, and schooling have been accepted for many generations of Americans as too essential to be subject to the whims of corporate interests distant from the community.

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