Private Money, Public Schools

Corporate power has deployed one tentacle to strangle public schools in the name of private profit. The power has several sources: “No Child Left Behind,” under President George W. Bush, which used test scores to identify “failing” public schools; “Race to the Top,” under President Obama, which grades teachers the same way; the gradual erosion, over several decades, of state funding for public schools; a steady pressure to transfer public funds to the support of private schools with no accountability to the public; and a growing political attack on the constitutional boundary between church and state. For the first time in U.S. history, public tax dollars are paying for private schools.

In Indiana, much of this began when school funding was divorced from property tax, whereupon control passed to the legislature and it became harder for locals to influence allocation of education funds. The subsequent growth of charter schools has taken place despite evidence that they underperform public schools that serve comparable students, and that poverty is the major cause of underachievement. Charter schools derive any apparent superiority from their ability to screen admissions.

Considerable PAC money, much from out of state, has helped to subject Indiana to wave after wave of legislation against teachers, unions, and public education. In the 2010 election cycle a pro-voucher Astroturf PAC called “Hoosiers for Economic Growth” spent nearly $1.3 million to produce a Republican majority in the Indiana Senate. Parents and educators have begun to fight back by creating scorecards for Indiana legislators. These efforts gave rise to the Indiana Coalition for Public Education: Monroe County and South Central Indiana a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of parents, teachers, and other members of the community.

Sources

Ravitch, Diane (2014). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Knopf.

JacKlink Productions (2014). Rise Above the Mark. A 65-minute DVD that documents the erosion of our public schools and the causes thereof.