DougJ linked to this NYTimes piece on for-profit colleges yesterday. Read the whole thing, or I’ll just give you my summary: the federal government attempted to regulate for-profit colleges, a huge army of lobbyists descended, and the federal government gutted the regulations.
Arne Duncan isn’t quoted in the piece, but I’ve been reading up on the deregulation and privatization of K-12 public schools since the Issue Two battle in Ohio began, and one of two things is true about Arne Duncan re: K-12 education. He is either unaware of the (unintended!) privatization now underway and made (partly) possible by his deregulatory education agenda in public school districts in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania, or he is aware it’s happening but has no problem with the deregulation and (then) privatization of public schools. In other words, I’m not confident the Department of Education fought these for-profit college lobbyists real hard, because Duncan is a knee-jerk cheerleader for deregulation and market-based reforms in K-12 public schools.
On the other hand, I do have respect for Cass Sunstein, and this is what Sunstein said about the lobbying effort:
“The haranguing had zero effect,” said Cass R. Sunstein, the White House official who oversees rule making.
Hmmm. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t know.
I wasn’t surprised that so many big-name Democrats are either working for or onboard with the for-profit college sector because Democrats are well represented in promotion and sales of the for-profit K-12 sector. This is an NBC News product, Education Nation, which was co-sponsored by the University of Phoenix, and is basically a long infomercial trashing traditional public schools and promoting corporate K-12 school reform. Both Arne Duncan and Bill Clinton were featured in several of the exciting episodes that I viewed.
Today, there is a piece in the NYtimes on for-profit, publicly funded K-12 online education:
Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.
The business taps into a formidable coalition of private groups and officials promoting nontraditional forms of public education. The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.
The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed. Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.
“Kids mean money”. Read it and weep. Market-based reform.
“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”
This is why I’m madly in love with teachers’ unions although I’m fully aware of the many flaws of unions. Unions are the only thing standing in the way.
The huge lobbying push by school reformers to sell K-12 online for-profit schools is particularly cruel, because school reform was (supposedly) premised on how we needed great teachers, but had lousy teachers, which is why we had to deregulate in the first place. The problem was those lousy teachers, we were told. If we just had great teachers, and we could innovate and get around all these pesky regulations and democratically elected school boards, all our education problems would disappear.
That’s why it’s a tad disconcerting that reformers are now pushing a school model that replaces teachers and schools with an over-priced computer program. The level of deception there just makes my head spin. We were told we needed to deregulate because we needed excellent teachers and schools and now it turns out we don’t really need teachers and schools at all! Instead, we simply need to ship public funding for schools out of our states and districts, and to one of these national education corporations, where it goes to shareholders and executives and…excellence! That was easy. Must be that market-based reform again, working its voodoo market magic.
Finally, I bitch about pundits all the time here, but Gail Collins is the one and only top-tier pundit who’s writing about privatization and the conversion of public schools to for-profits. It’s not polite or fashionable to ask questions about for-profits and school reform (although it’s perfectly okay, and very fashionable, to delve into minute detail when talking about the salaries of unionized teachers) and Collins is asking anyway. I’m grateful to her, because I don’t believe the public were informed they were buying for-profit K-12 education when they were sold school reform. I think they should have been told. And you know what? They’re going to find out. Good. It’s about time. This is why I buy newspapers, for information like this.
Gail Collins and Krugman are my favorite columnists at the NYT.
c u n d gulag
1. Privatize all of the schools.
2. To save money and teach good work habits, have kids be the janitors, eliminating union cleaning jobs.
3. To make education even less expensive, eliminate union teachers, and replace them with children.
The 18 year-old’s can teach the 17 year-old’s, the 17 year-old’s the 16 year-old’s, and so on.
They’ll make excellent teachers since they just went through the material a year ago and it must still be fresh in their minds.
Ok, to start them off, we’ll have adults as Kindergarten teachers. BUT NO UNIONS!
The kids get educated at little cost, but maximum profit for the corporations!
This is GOP Heaven.
Are these the same type of “corporate efficiencies” that led to shipping all the manufacturing jobs overseas so we can can get cheap, poorly-made stuff? Cause if so, then I am not sure I want to be alive to see how that eventually plays out in the “education industry.”
Sadly many who believe in this have no idea how business actually work because if they did they would laugh their heads off.
Yay! Where are we racing to again?
I admit to originally being mildly enthusiastic about some of the Race to the Top reforms I was seeing from Arne Duncan. But the more I learn, the more I appreciate the air of skepticism that was emanating from those experienced in the field. So naive.
@ET: Are these the same type of “corporate efficiencies” that led to shipping all the manufacturing jobs overseas so we can can get cheap, poorly-made stuff?
Yes indeed. The myth of “corporate efficiencies” needs to be dungheaped and soon.
Some of those schools barely try to hide their venality. They enroll students in criminal justice programs who have felony convictions. You can argue all day about recidivism and second chances, but the simple fact is, a felony on your record is going to bar you from about 95% of law enforcement and security jobs. Taking money from such a person and promising him or her a career in the field is thievery.
As for K-12 for-profit education, I recall that being touted about a dozen years ago and flopping big-time.
Take it a step further and consider who is getting the bulk of enrollment $$$ from the military.
Me too. Now I can’t even listen to him. It’s all marketing-speak to me.
“Excellence! Merit! Choice!” And grifters. Lots and lots of grifters.
PBS has a really heartbreaking series on that.
Watch it. You’ll be bawling. Especially you, with your background.
I think Cass Sunstein is on record that it is OK for our VSP betters to engage in heavy manners ‘nudging’ of the lesser people in order to facilitate the greater good.
So, to put it crudely, he might be lying to somebody, himself or us, whenever he says aomething about public policy.
Our little 2000-student public school district is, evidently, an anachronism. Years of funding cuts from state and federal sources have put more and more burden on local taxpayers.
The levies pass.
The teachers union negotiates in good faith with the administration.
The graduation rates remain firmly in the +90% range.
The curse of No Child Left Unpunished is leveraged to steer the curriculum to the kids in that grade years after the stupid tests.
The bible thumpers have been held at bay and sent packing by a school board that brooks no bullshit, and is decidely conservative in its makeup in a moderately conservative community.
Go ahead and try to sell something to these people, they ain’t buying it. They know better, because they’ve seen it first-hand how well it can work.
Thank you Kay and Gail Collins.
Yes, good on Gail Collins, because the unsigned editorals across the page from her are always gushing about NCLB and RTTT.
I have one measurement for all these great, new improvements to education: would a wealthy parent choose, fill in the blank — large classes, 21 yr-old teachers who’ve had all of six weeks of ed training (aka, Teach for America), year-round school (I know you are no longer with us, but looking at ya, Steve Jobs), constant high-stakes testing, or completely computerized classwork — for THEIR child?
Or, to put it another way, when private prep schools start using any of these highly-touted educational innovations, instead of using their tried-and-true small classes, etc., I’ll reconsider.
Totally! It really bothers me to realize how susceptible I was to it too.
And this! I was talking to my neighbor a while back and she had mentioned Waiting for Superman and what a crime it was that teachers supposedly aren’t subjected to performance reviews. I asked her about the performance review process at her work and whether she saw the best people rising to the top. She said that, in her experience, the people who were good at getting out of doing the hard work often got promoted while the people she liked working with the most because they really dug in often got fired. And I responded, “Sooooo…”. She then squirmed a little and said, “But at least we have performance reviews”.
Personally, I blame Thomas Friedman for this state of affairs. And the fact that his goddamned books pass for high art in some circles.
Right. I stopped buying the WSJ when the editorials got too far from the news stories. Many days, the WSJ editorials would directly contradict the news stories. The NYTimes is like that on education reform. Just la-la land.
Plus, she’s syndicated and she writes about this in a breezy, non-threatening way that is a good way to introduce a brand-new horror. Slowly. Carefully.
I used to argue regularly during the W years, “We survived Reagan, we can survive this.” Now, with the grifters running both parties, reading this post on education, and Pierce’s post on energy’s potential takeover in PA, I’m not so sure.
Time to cancel my WP subscription but I’m not sure whether NYT is the answer. I am in a relatively safe enclave, Arlington (VA), but with the GOP takeover of our legislature what are they going to do to us since we make too much sense for these morons?
The energy companies in PA want to be sure to lock in profits now before the slow process of the EPA winds it way through the halls of DC and possibly issues a ruling because clearly history has shown it is easier to profit now and pay for the lower caste’s dead kids later, at bargain basement government-negotiated pay outs, than it is to actually pay the real cost of doing business.
And I have an 8 y.o. at home, a wife in desperate need of a job, trying to pay down all the years we spent taking care of extended family… what the hell kind of world am I bring my son into?
i’m a special ed teacher in the chicago public schools. arne duncan was — ultimately — my boss.
arne duncan knows dick about education.
(but i was glad to see him get his current job… because it got him out of our hair.)
There’s push-back, but it’s up from the bottom. There are 20 people running for the legislature in Ohio specifically to protect public, non-profit education. That’s where it’s going to come from.
@BruceFromOhio: Your district sounds similar to mine, so I’m guessing upper-middle class bedroom community?
I ask because districts like ours have not yet been targeted, but I believe our time will come. We will be harder sells, so the easy ones, the inner-city schools, were the first for the various privitization efforts.
I used to think rural schools were protected because they are by definition, remote and scattered (and thereby offer no economies of scale for profiteers) but I didn’t take the possibility of on-line schooling into account.
Unless you can send your kids to prep school — meaning, you have the money and your kid doesn’t have any sort of special need that private schools don’t want to deal with — I don’t think any of us can feel safe until our kids finish high school.
“They’re going to find out”? And then what? Actually do something?
“They’re going to find out”? And then what? Actually do something?
@LGRooney: Listening to TAL’s story on Pennsylvania’s natural gas infestation made me want to blow up every single one of our institutions. There are few better examples of the dangers of corporate influence over education than what has happened with Penn State and the natural gas industry. And then, how that goes on to influence government…
Holy shit. They should have just titled that show “Here’s Where We Make You Feel Perfectly, Utterly, Devastatingly Hopeless”.
@kay: Who are these people running for the Ohio Legislature to protect public schools? Are any of them from my neck of the woods (Cincinnati area)?
Well, as I said I think they don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I assume your’re saying “nothing”? Okay, then!
I don’t know. I read the header of the email only. I will get it for you.
They’re already here. What happens is this: schools make low-performing high school students with low-status parents feel..unwelcome (numerous ways) and those low-performing students give up and “homeschool”, which means they sit home alone and work on a computer. We have a juvenile judge here who won’t allow it. He says go to school when they threaten to go on-line, which I love, because I’m telling them the same thing.
It’s a disaster, basically, and everyone knows it. They’re really the last people in the world who need to be isolated and home alone.
Would you care to elaborate on why you find Cass Sunstein credible or have respect for him? He comes across as a paternalistic creep to me.
I was hoping someone would post this today — the NYT article is just sickening. Just accelerating our headlong race to the bottom.
I don’t think that’s quite a fair analysis of Sunstein’s work. As far as I know, he has not advocated for being dishonest. His whole thing is that if you there is empirical data that suggests that one choice is likely to lead to better outcomes, policymakers should arrange things so that the default position is the better choice. The classic example is to set up payroll so that deductions are automatically placed in savings, but allowing employees the opportunity to opt out of the automatic savings at any time. People are more likely to stick with whatever the default position is, unless they feel very strongly about it. It may be paternalistic in some respects, but it’s not dishonest and, for Sunstein anyway, it’s typically based on extensive empirical data – not just a vague “daddy knows best” view of the world.
That being said, I certainly respect Sunstein as an academic, but I don’t necessarily know that he has the self-awareness or political integrity to trust what he says about the haranguing of lobbyists having no effect.
@Raven: DIck Durbin talked a lot about this being a big problem when I saw him in person a couple of months ago. Please tell me he didn’t cave on this, too. BIg sigh.
I really believe that Obama really cares about education as one of the keys to our future. Given that, in what way does all this make sense?
Oh, sure. Here’s why:
He has some really unusual ideas, many of which are quite progressive. I didn’t mean “like” him personally. I do respect him, though. I would accept what he said here until shown otherwise.
I shudder to think of the petty cruelty, to which kids at that age are especially vulnerable, which is implied in that little word “unwelcome”.
Thanks for keeping a spotlight on education issues, kay.
Can you imagine? I just think that’s wild.
It’s funny, NPR did a story on Cass Sunstein a couple weeks ago, and according to that report OMB meets with industry representatives far more frequently than health, safety, and environmental advocates.
This also happens in Congress – lobbyists buy access and everyone swears the money and face time have no effect on the final bills Congress decides to pass. Yet Congress passes generally industry-friendly bills.
OMB, if you look at their record under Sunstein, virtually always casts a more skeptical eye on claims of health, safety, environmental, or public interest benefits than on the claims of industry – they’re focussed on watering down the benefits and making sure costs are not in any way underestimated, which stacks the deck against regulations that would improve public health, safety, etc.
I guess this is a long way of saying that Cass Sunstein sounds like a Congressional rep – he also claims that all those meetings with lobbyists have no impact on their decision making when the evidence seems to point to the contrary. Me, I think he’s deluding himself so he doesn’t have to face the fact that he has been co-opted by the monied interests.
I think, when you see education in primarily economic terms, it can make sense, on a theoretical level, to hand education over to private industry. After all, who knows better what skills private industry needs? Not that Obama necessarily sees education in those terms (I have no idea what’s in the man’s head), but if he does see it that way, the transition to publicly-supported privatized schools (gag! Just saying it makes me want to kick something) can make total sense.
That said, when he was a presidential candidate giving a speech in my neck of the woods, Obama was sure to toss in a few lines about the importance of language, music, and arts education as well. How much of that was pandering to the notoriously literary crowd at the time I don’t know.
I don’t know anything about him personally, but has some extremely reactionary ideas regarding regulation.
See here or here. And some interesting choices of hires.
I also find it distressing that he was involved with the AEI in any way at all (search for his name he was a member of the now defunct Center for Regulatory and Market Studies).
This is not even getting into his beliefs regarding the first amendment and the war on terrorism.
Since I’m stuck in moderation how about I just link to Froomkin.
Great. Because the for-profit prison system has worked so well. /sarcasm
Does Obama “care about education as one of the keys to our future?” The best I can come up with is that there are many more pressing issues for him (for starters, the wars, economy, re-election) and so he remains extremely un- and mis-informed on education.
At least, that’s what I tell myself, when I am not reminding myself not to be a one-issue voter — I can’t stop supporting him just because he completely, utterly stinks on education and there really is NO difference between him on education and the most reactionary of the right.
Joe Nocera also wrote a column on education reform in early November, specifically discussing how Steven Brill (author of “Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools”) came to view Randi Weingarten (head of the teacher’s union) as the person who has the most potential to help reform public school education.
It’s not specifically about for-profit schools but Brill did come to the conclusion that at the end of the day, charter schools, even if exceptional, will never be able to absorb more than a small fraction of school aged kids. And Brill and Weingarten are now apparently making appearances together to talk about educational reform, which is promising.
What I don’t get is why all that lobbying had an effect. If you wrote legislation that you wanted, and supported what it did, why would you buckle just because some people you knew working on behalf of Kaplan harangued you about it?
Again, the first principle to remember here is Milton Friedman’s article in the NY Times in September 1970, that the sole social responsibility of a CEO is to make money for his or her shareholders, (which is especially nice when he or she is oneself a large shareholder). In other words, in the debate between William Holden and Frederic March in “Executive Suite” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046963/ and you can catch it TCM youngsters), Frederic March’s character was the more ethically correct. So giving the actual kids an education is completely unimportant, if for far less money, one can invesst in lobbyests and campaign contributions to lock in Government sanctioned monopoly.
With the for profit secondary school scam, Current TV’s Young Turks report that the CEO of Kaplan (the WaPo’s own Mr. Graham) made $12,500,0000 himself on his stock appreciation after the new regs came out and John Sperling of Executive Boad Chairman and founder of Phoenix University made $59,000,000. DeVry’s chairman made $27.6 million. http://midcoastviews.blogspot.com/2011/07/for-profit-college-ceos-reap-rewards-of.html.
Hence, the collective $16 million dollars in lobbiests, including Anita Dunn, paid off handsomely. And this will be happening to public schools across the country, first to poor kids schools, but eventually all working class and middle class schools. And the “teacher” helping these kids will probably be in India or Russia answering to “Peggy.”
Rosie’s dad, that’s what I like about Collins.
It’s NEVER “about” the profit in school reform.
No one talks about it. That scares the shit out of me. I want to talk about the hedge fund managers and the billionaires. That’s what I want to talk about. Weve discussed teachers unions. Now lets talk about the people making a killing off of this.
How did the finance sector get so involved in this? Jesus. That’s crazy.
Okay I just want to highlight something
This is from the NYTimes article about reforming for-profit education:
as compared to this quote from the Froomkin piece I linked above.
Maybe Sunstein isn’t the most reliable narrator of events.
The subtext of the article was that the for-profit K12 companies have learned from what the for-profit higher education companies have done. They have learned that enrollment is the way to make money and have also learned that if your only educational options are terrible in the first place, you will not ask too many questions.
I think the article made clear that this is really glorified homeschooling and they are not trusting the program to do too much.
Theft. No other word for it. Simple transference of public dollars to private pockets; kids get stiffed.
Let’s turn over all govt function to private enterprise-parking meters, highways, prisons, schools etc. etc. obviously they are more efficient. Yea, right. lower wages, less benefits, why BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO MAKE A PROFIT. We have had 30 years of “government is the problem” and are now reaping the result. The yahoos are taking over and the public is entranced with football and their video games. Is there any hope?
Incredible omission by the NY Times: K12 is founded by, and directly profits, Michael Milken. Turns out you CAN steal a ton of money after being banned from Wall Street!
Tone In DC
Thanks for this post, Kay. And Emmy Lou, thanks for your info. These people aren’t just shameless, craven and greedy. They’re borderline sociopaths.
I need some coffee.