Privatizing Public Education, part two

private public park

As a technology corporation you have long been aware of Rupert Murdoch’s suggestion to invest in the education sector that is worth trillions of dollars. Unfortunately, as you are also aware, investment in this sector is particularly tricky and requires much patience.

By following the previous suggestions on how to lay the groundwork for investment, you will be ready for the implementation phase.  This phase too requires subtlety and a soft approach.

Priming

There are a few ways you can prime parents and the public into accepting privatization in schools.  One way is for corporations to provide resources either in the form of textbooks and other learning materials or in the form of cash that students and their parents earn when they purchase particular products.  Chevron’s Fuel your School is an excellent example of the latter.

Another way is to have teacher-run cafeterias replaced by those run by corporations such as Chartwells,  although profit is not always assured as was the case in New Brunswick.

A third way is to encourage corporations to support charitable handouts to schools as in the case of Postmedia’s Adopt-a-School program.

Of course vending machines in schools have long been a source of revenue for both the corporation and the school, and provide a good example of the kind of private-public partnership you want to encourage.

Framing

It’s necessary to have a public relations firm work with the politicians you are funding to ensure that they use language that frames the discussion of public education in a way that is favourable to the privatization project.

When your politician reduces the education budget, it’s important that she refer to members of the public as taxpayers.  Her message should be that she is concerned about taxpayer resources, that she wants to ensure that taxpayer money is not wasted.

However, in the event that the teacher union engages in strike action to force a settlement of their working conditions, it’s critically important that your politician speak of her concern for the inconveniences suffered by parents when schools are closed.

Budgeting

It’s useful to have your politicians enshrine balanced budgets into law.  The general public is law-abiding and intolerant of those who break the law. This is helpful when a rebellious group of school board trustees refuses to submit a balanced budget.  A media campaign that frames them as lawbreakers will distract the public from funding cuts.

Because all households are aware of the need to balance their budgets, it’s easy to convince the public that school districts need to do this as well.  Your politician should  be seen to be acting on behalf of the taxpayer and protecting their “resources” when she insists on a balanced budget.

Dividing

One can’t stress enough the necessity to ensure that groups of parents and teachers do not join forces.  This is why it’s critical that school rankings such as those provided by the Fraser Institute are vigorously defended. It’s unfortunate that in BC a school in Bountiful, where polygamy is practiced, was ranked highly when schools that provide breakfast programs and other social supports for students were not.

When the rankings get a lot of attention in the media, they are legitimized. Another benefit is that there is a spotlight focused on schools that are “failing” to meet the needs of students.  With the right media in place, this failure will be seen to be the fault of teachers and school boards.

Remember that the foundation of all business models is the provision of a service. It’s in the best interests of corporations that schools are seen to be failing. After all this was the reason given by Milton Friedman himself when he promoted the privatization of schools as a way to save public education.

Cautionary Note

You may encounter criticisms of your privatization project especially from those members of the public familiar with the failures of privatization in places such as Chile and in many parts of the United States.  The good news is that by the time the public cottons on to the flaws of privatization, your corporation will have already benefitted from government contracts and can then move on to new projects in other parts of the world.

Word is that Africa may be ripe for reaping should projects in North America fail.

Softly Selling the Privatization of Public Education

school_choice

When there’s news every day of yet another school district budget shortfall and yet another school being closed, it’s difficult to see what’s really been happening to public education in British Columbia for almost two decades now. But within the seeming chaos there is a clear pattern that emerges. It’s a pattern that can be clearly seen in many countries around the world as corporations turn their profit-hungry eyes toward the $5.5 trillion that is being spent on education worldwide.

Over a century ago public education was a radical idea in Britain. It was considered an utter waste of taxpayer’s money and was strongly resisted by many politicians. Nevertheless, arguments about public education being a public good won the day.

The big idea was that public education would provide an equal playing field for all society’s children.  Children from poor homes could work their way up the social ladder through a free education and this in turn would ensure that the state would benefit from having a well-educated workforce and citizenry.  Sounds all very democratic, doesn’t it?

Fast forward to the 1970s and a new idea began to spread from a group of economists at the Chicago School of Economics. One of them, Milton Friedman, wrote a seminal paper suggesting that public education be privatized.  For most people in North America this was an outrageous idea akin to suggesting that we should sell motherhood.  Because of the strong resistance to privatization of public education, it has to be sold to the public in a way that is subtle, is soft, is slick.  

HOW TO PRIVATIZE A PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM

You will need the help of politicians. This is easy to obtain since they are always looking for donations for their election campaigns. Spending a few million will reap rewards ten times over. Once you have politicians on board, direct them thus: 

Competition

Erode the collaborative and co-operative foundations of public education by introducing competition between schools. As an example, in B.C.  the Fraser Institute began to rank schools in 1998 in a way that completely ignored multiple variables that made each school unique but that made sense to a public used to hockey team rankings.

Choice

Create a two-tier education system, one public and one private, both supported by public funds.  Keep increasing the amount of public funds that go to private schools while decreasing the funds that go to public schools. Watch while private schools advertise everything that public schools are accused of not having: small class sizes, new technology, support for students with learning disabilities.

Costs

Promote the idea that funding public education is too expensive and outside of the “affordability zone” for taxpayers. Keep changing the formula used to fund schools while you repeatedly tell the public that you’re increasing funding. They won’t realize that you’re spending less and less each year as you no longer fund things you used to fund in the past.

Count 

Insist that public schools be accountable. Insist that students be subjected to standardized tests like the FSA so that taxpayers can see whether they’re getting what they pay for. Ignore all the protests about standardized tests being invalid and that they don’t reveal anything of value regarding a student’s learning experiences.

Create Divisions

Implementing these steps needs to happen over a long period so that the pattern is not too obvious.  While you are waiting for the public to accept that privatization is good and is inevitable, it is also important to ensure that groups that may be natural allies, do not unite. It is therefore necessary to divide parents from teachers.  Use every opportunity to increase any dissension that may arise.

For example, when Parent Teacher Associations in BC were replaced by Parent Advisory Councils, teachers and parents moved to separate camps, so to speak, and this was good for the privatization agenda.  When the provincial body of PACs, the BCCPAC,  was led by those in support of accountability, this was also good for the privatization agenda since the perception was that the parents of 500 000 students were in support of the BC Liberal government’s education policies.

Speaking of perceptions, another important project is to change public perception of teachers.  There should be no limit on the budget spent on public relations in this regard. Painting teachers as greedy and lazy will turn public sentiment against them.

Also, support and encourage attacks on the teachers’ union. In BC, the attacks on the British Columbia Teachers Federation took the form of newspaper articles and editorials and also social media comments made by  digital influencers.  

You should also try to weaken teacher unions by other means. For example,  court cases that take over a decade to resolve.

Be Patient

Finally, patience is required for the privatization project since most people in society value public education and strongly believe that it’s a public good.

It’s the soft sell that will win them over.

Remember there is a big reward: a piece of that $5.5 Trillion pie.

Let’s make some money!

CC

You know we really don’t understand what all you parents and teachers are upset about! You’re complaining all over social media, being so critical of all the wonderful changes we have planned for the education system in B.C. You make it seem so personal! We wish you could see that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Let us just tell you a bit about how business works. It’s all quite simple, you see.

We all participate in a capitalist economy, the kind of economy that thrives when corporations make profits. Now, profits are based on economic growth which comes from investing in places that yield profits.

Unfortunately, since the 2008 recession, growth worldwide has slowed down… you must have heard about this on the news? But the good news is that one of the “sectors” that is still ripe for investment/growth/profit is the “education sector” as the billionaire Rupert Murdoch calls it.

What’s so annoying and frustrating though is that standing in the way of corporations making profits in this “sector” are old fashioned institutions like unions! The BCTF has for many years been fighting the privatization of education in the province. So annoying!

And, by the way, we really don’t understand why people think that public education should be free in the first place! Why should public funds be used for public education? That’s such a stupid idea! We need public funds to stimulate the economy.  It’s public funds we use to bail out corporations that stop making profits. We need to keep helping them! Can’t you see that?

If you could just do your own research, you will come to see that what we’re doing is the best thing for our province.

One corporation that studied how much money could be made in the education sector was Cisco Systems. They came up with this very helpful document. In fact Cisco’s document was so helpful, we incorporated a lot of ideas from it into our BC ED Plan.  No one seems grateful for all the taxpayer money we saved by doing that! We didn’t have to do all that research and writing ourselves! That would have taken so much more time!

Apart from looking to corporations for guidance on how to re-design our education system, we’ve been working really hard to try to save taxpayers money by cutting funding for expensive things like school  librarians and school psychologists.  We’ve saved about $4billion from the education budget since 2002. It was so helpful to have that extra money for the 2010 Olympics! That was fun, wasn’t it?

Oh! And, can we please get some gratitude for our  BC Jobs Blueprint,  our plan to re-engineer education in the province? People should be so happy that we will be ensuring that children are thinking about careers right from kindergarten! Children will no longer have to waste time in classrooms learning about things like visual arts or poetry, or music or anything that will not directly train them for working in industries like LNG. Isn’t that great?

Teachers like to go on about how they educate the “whole” child, intellectually and socially, But, with our plan, it will be parents who will be teaching their children about things like healthy lifestyles and media literacy. We’ve been tweaking all curricula so that complicated things like the environment have been taken out and we’ve put in lots of stuff relevant only to working in industries like LNG!

With all the courses that will be only available online (thanks Cisco!) parents will be spending a lot more time with their children! That’s so good for families!  All parents will need is a really good computer and reliable access to the Internet.

And, can you see how the need to regularly upgrade your computer to keep up with new technologies will provide lots of profit for corporations? Another good thing for our economy! And don’t worry about the cost of all that software – we’ve negotiated with corporations for great deals …

So please, stop the hysteria! It’s not a conspiracy! We actually really like children…we just think that turning children in public schools into pre-workers, starting in kindergarten, is the best thing for our economy.

After all, the real worth of a child is in their potential to buy stuff so that corporations make more profits, but we should not forget their potential also to pay taxes too so that there can be more public funds to ensure that corporations keep making lots of profits.

Of course we don’t want corporations to pay a lot of taxes and that’s why we’ve been cutting corporate taxes over the past decade so that all the profit they make will trickle down to everyone. You’ve all benefitted from that trickle, haven’t you? We certainly have with all those donations to our election campaigns!

So why don’t you just stop all that whining! We really are doing what’s best for the economy. Forget all that stuff about free access to public education being important for democracy. Forget all that stuff about a citizen’s duty to contribute to the common good. Forget all that complaining about Charter Rights! Let’s just make some money!

Kind regards,

Your BC Neo-Liberals,

Working hard to put Families First!