Why Privatizing Public Schools Threatens Education
The general public is often surprised by the desire of some educators to develop public schools into private schools or support “privatization.” We don’t usually consider handing over our education into the hands of private, for-profit corporations. So, the fact that there is a full-blown movement in progress to privatize the nation’s public K-12 school system fully is a shock.
As each attempt to improve public education over the years has failed, it is fair to assume that privatizing public schools would as well. The privatization movement does not offer a plan for fixing the true problems in our systems, like the pressure of standardized test scores, but instead makes blanket claims that our schools are failing, and this is the only way to save them.
The backbone of the movement is their ability to completely “reform” our public schools and save them from their failure. But what failure are they referring to? Public schools are improving. Over the past few years, dropout rates have decreased from 7.4% to 6.1% in the U.S. and are continuing to fall. While the rates varied by ethnicity, each dropped an average of 2% and the biggest difference being almost 4%.
There is improvement across the board rather than within only a singular ethnicity, gender, or social group. Nothing is ever perfect, but public schools are currently thriving. Students have the lowest dropout rates, highest graduation rates, and the highest test scores ever recorded. Where exactly do privatizers plan to improve our schools in a way that is not currently already happening?
Finding the truth behind privatizers is not hard and is rather easy. The truth is in the money. Privatizers seek to convert public schools over to private management, which is common amongst religious schools. The schools that lack public funding are those that center around a specific religion as taxpayer dollars cannot be given to them due to the separation of church and state.
Out of all students enrolled in private schools, 36% were enrolled in Catholic schools, while 39% were enrolled in another religiously affiliated school. With the number of families focused on religion-based learning along with the increase of pressure on the government to lift the bans preventing public funding of religiously affiliated schools, it is safe to say that these privatizers may be slightly influenced.
The government was created around the idea of religious freedom and the importance of separating church and state. If our religions do not receive government funding, why should religious education?
Facing the Harsh Truth of Privatization
Private schools, such as religious schools or charter schools work against inclusion. Public schools are open to everyone and provide a stable place for everyone to receive an education despite their affiliation, ethnicity, or background. 90% of the population received a public education. Would they have all received an education if all K-12 schools were privatized? Not likely.
Currently, our taxes contribute to the upkeep of public schools and the foundation of our public education system. Some states provide funding to charter schools (schools that are not obliged to follow education requirements) and have already set back public school development. Understanding what privatization means for our educational system is crucial before the movement takes off and destroys our public.