New National Map Shows That Education Privatizers Have Burrowed into Almost All 50 States

Election '16

Only three states do not have some form of privatized K-12 education in their public schools, a new nationwide map and accompanying analysis has found, showing how much the charter school and school choice movement has grown in recent years.

Those states are North Dakota, Nebraska and West Virginia, the only states given an “A” grade by the Network for Public Education, a non-profit that opposes privatization, loss of local control, over-testing of students, and other non-governmental efforts that seek to commoditize public schools.       

All the other states and the District of Columbia have some mix of charter schools, charter authorizing authority outside local school districts, online charter school, voucher programs where taxpayers pay for private schools, tax credits for sending children to private schools or educational savings accounts, which is another form of a voucher program, according to the NPE State Report Card 2017.

“Our goal for the School Privatization Explained project was to arm public school advocates with the facts,” said Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE) and a former high school principal from New York. “Those who wish to turn our public education system into a private education system have been quite clever in disguising their intent. Our one-page fact sheets ‘rip off the mask.’”

The Network for Public Education was co-founded by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody, both longtime educators and advocates of traditional public schools. The group supports numerous policies that would improve public schools but is opposed to private sector efforts to infiltrate K-12 schools via various corporate management and marketing schemes.

“You know what we oppose,” Ravitch says on the website. “High-stakes testing; privatization of public education; mass school closures to save money or to facilitate privatization; demonization of teachers; lowering of standards for the education profession; for-profit management of schools.”

“We want advocates to have facts at their fingertips,” Burris said. “We want them to share those facts with the community at large. We also want them to use those fact sheets when they meet with public officials, many of whom do not understand the implications of school privatization. We are delighted that so many of our Grassroots Group members are actively using this Toolkit, which we will continue to promote.”

The NPE website has detailed summaries explaining what problems arise with the various forms of privatization and rebutting frequent advertising and public relations claims made by charter school proponents, such as “Are charter schools truly public schools?” “Do school vouchers help kids in struggling schools?” and “Are charter schools and vouchers a civil rights cause?

The gateway to these questions is a clickable national map where viewers can look for privatized education in their state.

“The School Privatization State Report Card is a rating system designed to let the public know what school privatization programs exist in the 50 states and the District of Columbia,” they explain. “In addition, we rate the states and DC on the extent to which each state has laws and policies that further school privatization.”

What follows are the categories that are mapped by NBE and its explanation of each:

• Charter Schools: Charter schools are privately owned and managed schools that are funded by the taxpayers. Some are directly funded by the state. Others receive “tuition” from the student’s home district in an amount similar to the district per pupil spending. The color red (1 point) means that the state has charter schools.

• Charter Authority Outside District: Some states permit only school districts to authorize charters. It is the district that identifies the need for the charter and supervises and monitors it. Other states grant authority outside of the district thus allowing district decisions to be overturned by a state or other governmental board. Some states allow other authorizers to grant and supervise charters anywhere in the state. The color red (1 point) means that charters can be authorized and managed outside of the district.

• Virtual Charter Schools are charter schools in which all or nearly all of the instruction is provided through the internet, and pupils and teachers are geographically remote from each other. The color red (1 point) means that virtual charter schools are allowed to provide instruction, grant credit and issue diplomas in the state.

• Vouchers are payments made to private schools to finance all or part of a K-12 student’s education. The color red (1 point) means that the state issues vouchers.

• Tax Credit Subsidies for Private Schools exist when the state allows taxpayers to pay into a fund specifically designed to issue money to a private school in order to reduce or eliminate a student’s tuition. That donation becomes a credit that reduces the state taxes paid by the donor. The fund is privately or publicly managed for a fee. Tax Credits are a way to avoid breaking state laws regarding taxpayer contributions to religious schools. The color red (1 point) means that the state has one or more tax credit programs. Tax credits are a voucher system in disguise.

ESA Voucher Programs: ESAs go by a variety of names including Education Savings Accounts, Educational Opportunity Scholarships, Gardiner Scholarship Programs and others. They are another form of voucher. Money is placed into a savings account or on a debit card for parents to spend on approved educational activities or settings, as long as the parent agrees to withdraw her child from the public school. Money can be spent on homeschooling costs, virtual schools, private schools or educational materials. The color red (1 point) means that the state has an ESA program.

What’s in Your State?

From a national perspective, almost every state has some form of privatized K-12 education where taxpayer funds subsidize a mix of corporate educational franchises and related operations. No one at NBE is trying to stop the financial benefactors of the “school choice” movement from supporting private schools. But that is not what they are doing. The privatization movement, led by some of the nation’s richest people and families (like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos), wants to turn public schools into a proving ground for their theory that deregulated schools run like private businesses can do a better job than traditional professional educators and locally elected school boards.

The organizers and small staff at NBE are seeking to alert communities that have been targeted by privateers that there is a track record to be examined, and that in most cases privatized K-12 school have failed to meet their founders' boasts and promises. To see what corners of this rapidly growing industry is in your state, take a look at NPE’s map.

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