Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2010

PRIVATIZING PUBLIC EDUCATION, TOO.... In the months leading up to the midterm elections, we heard prominent far-right candidates talk up a lot of privatization schemes. Republicans endorsed proposals on privatizing everything from Social Security to V.A. hospitals, Medicare to the Centers for Disease Control.

But in Florida, which for some reason elected a criminal to be the state's chief executive, Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R) has begun pushing the idea of privatizing public education, too.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott told about 900 voucher students in St. Petersburg Thursday that he wanted to "give every child in the state every opportunity that you've had, to make sure that you go to whatever school you want to." In an interview later with the St. Petersburg Times, he said he wants a program that allows parents to use state education dollars at the school of their choice.

"The parent should figure out where the dollars for that student are spent," Scott said. He added, "So if the parents want to spend it on virtual school, then spend it on virtual school. If they want to spend it on, you know, whatever education system they believe in, whether it's this public school or that public school or this private school or that private school, that's what ought to happen."

The incoming governor probably realizes this, but his approach is a model that would effectively end public education. Florida would effectively take its education budget, figure out how many students there are, and start cutting checks in the form of vouchers. Schools' budgets would be determined by how many vouchers they collected.

The St. Petersburg Times called it "one of the most radical education ideas that [Florida] -- or arguably any state -- has ever considered."

That's true. Traditionally, voucher proponents maintained a pretense about trying to help low-income students "escape" from struggling public schools, getting vouchers through small, targeted programs to pay the tuition at private schools. I've always considered the approach something of a crock -- when right-wing activists are trying to "help" low-income families, it's best to be suspicious -- but at least it had a credible veneer.

But Scott's plan in Florida drops the pretense and privatizes education. A Republican state representative conceded that if such a plan were approved, "public education as we know it ceases to exist."

As recently as a couple of years ago, it looked as if even ardent voucher boosters were prepared to move on to other ideas. The public generally doesn't like these schemes, and conservatives were getting tired of fighting a losing battle.

I guess the break is over, and it's time for another round.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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If it's "public" they want to end it. If it benefits society as a whole, they want it gone. We're no longer talking about politics here. This is the social contract. And they're against it.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on December 10, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I get that Republicans hate public education. I don't know exactly why. I think that it can't just be because the gum'mint is involved.

I do have to wonder if they really think the private sector would step in. What is more likely is that a whole lot of children just wouldn't being going to school at all because there wouldn't be enough schools.

Posted by: ET on December 10, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is Florida right now.Scott was essentially voted in by a large republican turnout in the Redneck central and northern ( mugwump redneck ) counties. If you want to see us slide into the morass that has enveloped Arizona , just watch us . Republican legislature Republican crook Governor , we got it all. This State will be sold to the highest bidder , come get your piece of the pie now.

Posted by: John R on December 10, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

An entire society destroyed by an overabundance of faith in the wisdom of their own greed.

Posted by: Jamie on December 10, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The govenor has a great point! Almost!

There should be NO FUNDING of public education. If we need educated persons, we will select them and provide that education. The rest of the miserable little peons should be out picking crops or doing labor in a factory, where they can provide some value to us.

And NO, we wealthy republicans do not hate the 'middle class'. We hate everyone who is not one of us, who thru hard work and intelligence (or inheritance) has made themselves into multimillionares. We tolerate some of the peons, but only those who can provide labor that increases our wealth or who provide services to us.

Almost everything should be privatized. Especially police and fire departments! The police should exist to protect OUR property. If you cannot afford to pay for privatized fire departments, your hovels should be allowed to burn to the ground.

No, we wealthy republicans are NOT HEARTLESS. We will contribute to charities (of our choice), as long as those contributions are worthwhile (for tax writeoffs).

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on December 10, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Scott proposal would require amending Florida's constitution to overrule Bush v. Holmes

Posted by: Michael Masinter on December 10, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The basis of vouchers is no different than all their other beliefs. Elitism. They dont want others to have what they have. Some politicians here in Georgia have kicked around this voucher idea for a while. They'll give every kid a voucher for a certain amount of money. For most kids, it wont begin to cover the cost of attending a decent prvate school. But for the wealthy, its a subsidy. The kids are already going to a private school anyway.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 10, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, privatize education. I'm sure the savings will be even less than the value of the education! Who will oversee this corporation?

Posted by: Trollop on December 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

In most states education is funded by a combination of state and local taxes (with a little federal money thrown in.) I take it that in Florida the state is the only source of funds?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

And what happens when Saudi Arabia funds hundreds of Islamic voucher schools that offer high quality education for just the state vouchers?

Posted by: mikeca on December 10, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why do Republicans hate America? What have we ever done to earn their hatred?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 10, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Keep an eye on Indiana.

It's happening here as well.

Posted by: jharp on December 10, 2010 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I get that Republicans hate public education. I don't know exactly why.

I can think of a few reasons:

The government runs it.

They don't have mandatory Christian prayer.

They don't allow corporal punishment.

They have Harry Potter books in their libraries.

They teach facts, not superstition.

I'm sure there are more.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on December 10, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

All sane people know the voucher system is another form of welfare to our rich neighbors who are already sending their kids to private school!

The $ allocated for each school student won't by itself purchase any education other than what already exists within our public system! Rich folk merely want to "privatize" education so they can get taxpayer monies to help keep their kids in the private schools they are already attending!

Any hard working, wage-earning Americans who fall for Scott's ploy need a better education because they are allowing themselves to be jacked! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 10, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus people, perhaps the guy isn't evil incarnate and has some ideas worth discussing seriously?

The Dutch have a system where schools receive funds based on how many students enroll. Parents and students have the flexibility to find out the school they want based on their needs and its performance, and attempt to get into. This rewards the schools that are recognized as of quality or meeting the needs of smaller niche groups. I don't know if it has its own problems or if it would work here, but for how badly most of our schools are performing perhaps we should consider a different model.

Steve, this post was awful demagoguing. You just went from choice -> privatization -> end of the current system -> bad. You follow it up with a reference to someone random person saying it was radical, nevermind that most people agree that radical change in our education is needed. You then conclude with the idea that right-wing activists are suggesting it, so one shouldn't consider its merits if any.

This isn't reasoned analysis, it's a shallow rejection based on who the speaker is. It's post like this that make me wonder why I continue to read this blog.

Posted by: Sojourner on December 10, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

There is a lot of corruption involved in charter schools in almost every state where they have a foothold, and many of the states wind up picking up the tab doe that corruption.

Charter schools do not perform as well as public schools overall.
Studies have proven that to be the case.

There is also a tax dodge involved in charter schools.

Posted by: ghostcommander on December 10, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, he's stealing Arne Duncan's ideas!

Posted by: DevilDog on December 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"In most states education is funded by a combination of state and local taxes (with a little federal money thrown in.) I take it that in Florida the state is the only source of funds?"
Florida School districts in 2008-09 received 35.68 percent of their financial support from state sources
The school systems are funded locally through taxes
The state funding for schools used to be funded the same way but they pulled a fast one. Florida voters approved the lottery on the promise that its revenue would be used to enhance education. In reality,the lottery has simply replaced funding that the state was providing to school districts from other sources. Please buy a Florida Lottery ticket.

Most of his talking points are bullshit. He probably wants to spend the Lottery money on something else.

Posted by: John R on December 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

When are they going to do something about all those dadgum socialized roads? You know, it's because of government-funded roads, that we don't have flying cars. It's a subsidy for surface vehicles, and it killed the flying car industry. Unfair competition. It's all that commie Dwight Eisenhower's fault.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 10, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

How about vouchers for invasions of other countries? Why should taxpayers who do not want to pay to conquer and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have to pay. Those that do can send their vouchers in to the Pentagon, who can then size forces accordingly.

Posted by: vhh on December 10, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The new 'governor'of Kansas, Sam Bownback, has slipped with the idea as well.

Can't wait til he gets into office and shows his real colors. It'll be ugly, but he'll be out in the open.

Posted by: k l m on December 10, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

This conservative says no to private school vouchers. It's the first step towards government intervention in private schools. I prefer to pay the higher costs and know that the private school can run itself pretty much free from government educational and societal rules and regulations.

No thanks.

Posted by: Schlocky Balboa on December 10, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Which part of the private sector should the schools be run like -- the mortgage banking industry, the airlines, or Florida real estate developers?

Posted by: jpeckjr on December 10, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth highlighting one of the key mechanisms being used in many of the crazy right-wing 'reform' proposals: A presumption, never justified, that current parents should get to decide how schools are run while non-parents get no voice at all. It's never enunciated because the idea is preposterous. A small coterie of parents can't be trusted by itself to make micro or macro level decisions. They're no substitute for the collective wisdom of all citizens or for the expertise of teachers and administrators...much less a panacea for all the ills of a school system. They are, however, much more easily manipulated by the school 'reform' crowd.

Posted by: smintheus on December 10, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Which part of the private sector should the schools be run like?

The illegal drug industry, most likely. Do bales of marijuana still wash up on the beach?

Posted by: dr2chase on December 10, 2010 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sojourner, could you please let us know how the government of the Netherlands provides schooling? Is it provided by the individual provinces or is it run by the national government? I ask because control over funding is the basic question.
If the schools are run, and paid for by the provinces, then the situation is exactly the same as here in the US where states/localities fund and control the schools. If the national government runs the schools, then we are speaking about a completely different concept and one that, most likely, wouldn't be accepted here.
While there MAY be some value in a limited voucher system, the general theme of the posters - that it's just another way to further subsidize the wealthy, is accurate.
That the man pushing the idea is well-known for committing massive fraud only reinforces already well-founded doubts about Governor-elect Scott's intentions...

Posted by: Doug on December 10, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Public education already had its death knell. You didn't hear it? It was heralded way back in 2001 with the singing of No Child Left Behind, a scheme to defund and delegitimize public education.
It works like this. Require public schools reach ever increasing proficiency levels of math and reading year after year,until 2014 when 100% of students reach 100% proficiency. Now the beauty of the scheme is that under no circumstance will schools ever achieve this mythical "100% no child left behind".
The plan is to hold schools accountable for test scores of students by holding the cudgel of funding cuts and forced reorganization over their heads. Because the requirements are progressive, the schools to be hit first are, of course, urban. Now that's where charter schools come in. Parents can send their kids to a privately operated charter school if the local public school fails to meat NCLB standards (out of compliance). The public school then loses its funding for those kids and the funding now goes to the charter school.
But guess what? The charter school doesn't have to meet any of the standards set by NCLB. They are also free to kick out any students they please. So you end up with a private school with public funding, cherry picked students, and little accountability. The inverse is true for the public schools with drained funding, less talented students, and ever increasing standards. Couple that with teachers running around teaching standardized tests rather then actually educating and schools that are in a constant state of crisis, forced staff turnover, and low morale ..... bake @ 400° for 12 years and voila. Privatization.

Pretty neat trick, huh?

Posted by: BetweenTheLines on December 10, 2010 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

There is a confusion about the government's education program. It is welfare. Why are families criticized for not depending on welfare schooling? Private schools save taxpayer's money. Any incentive that can get more students off government rolls will lower taxes. These parents who send their children to private schools are not only saving taxpayer's money, they are also supporting the other student's education through the taxes they pay. If there were any incentive at all for them, more students would move to private schools and stop depending on the government.

Posted by: grandma56 on December 11, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I am waiting for them to privatize the court system next. Don't think they can't. Right-wing legislatures in 31 states have already approved a second Constitutional convention, ostensibly to pass a balanced-budget amendment, but they could rewrite the whole ball of wax. We could wake up in a country we don't know. Watch out.

Posted by: Reynardine on December 12, 2010 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

"I am waiting for them to privatize the court system next."

Haven't you heard of binding arbitration? This is a private justice system which has taken over a large portion of civil court cases.

Ever read the small print on the contract you sign when you buy a home or car, apply for a credit card, or even apply for a job? Virtually every contract you sign where the other party is a corporation--large or small--now requires you to give up your right have a (real) court of law adjudicate any future disagreement.

The contract requires you to submit to a private arbitration judge whose fees are paid primarily by your opponent.

The privatized justice system is here.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on December 27, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

One you have a private school system then you will have a total class system and you will no longer have the concept stated in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal".

The better the school the more it will cost and those with the lesser incomes will not be able to afford to have their children go to better schools or even average schools. Casting these children into the lower econmic classes and job before they even get started.

If your parents can not afford to get you into the best pre-school then you will not get accepted in the good elementry schools then in turn you will not get into the a good middle school and if not in a good middle school you will not get into a good high school and that as we already know affects your college admission which affects your job prospects.

Bye, Bye Public schools then say bye, bye to any class mobility not their is much of that left anyway. But, then you can forget about freedom, the American dream and all those great concepts that we built this contry on....it will be gone for good.

All of you Redneck Republican supporting small business owning hard working people better fiqure out real quickly that the 400 most wealth Republican people who controll 50% of the wealth and assests in this country as well as the Republican party are no more friends than China. They have just brain washed you into to believing the Democrats are satan with their use of wedge issues that you care about in last several elections.

You have much more in common with the Democrats than your wealthy party leaders who came with the idea of the ultra conserative tea party to force moderates out of the Republican party to begin with.

We, moderate common sense middle class Americans, need to start a new moderate middle class Common Sense Party and then get moderate Independents, Republicans and Democrates to compromise on the issuse that will benifit the well being of the majority of middle class without fighting about wedge issues that need to be personal choice in a free society not government enforced laws.

This moderate middle class Common Sense Party needs to OUT VOTE the Reactionary Right-Wingnuts Republicans and the Radical Left Leaning Crazy Democrats of the extreme ends before we lose this country for good and the Conseratives fiqure out how to have a Constitiounal Convention that takes away our right to vote them out because votes will be based on wealth like in Corporations and Home Owner Associations. (which are controlled by the wealthy developers instead of the people who live in these communities)

WAKE UP middle class Americans and you better hurry up time is running out.

Posted by: cybear on March 10, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK
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