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Yet Another Study Shows that Deregulated For-Profit Schools Loot Taxpayers

October 22, 2015

Common Dreams staff writer Diedre Fulton wrote a post yesterday describing a “Landmark Study” that found that deregulated for-profit charter industry was looting taxpayers for billions of dollars…. and why anyone would be surprised is beyond me given all the articles I’ve read on this topic. The Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy examines the mismanagement of for profit schools by focussing on the “…severe dearth of public information about how federal and state taxes are being spent to fuel the charter school industry in the U.S.” and after filing nearly 50 FOIA requests learned that state and federal governments have spent $3,700,000,000 on the Federal program to boost charter schools. They’ve done this while cutting back on Title programs, short-changing special education, and effectively compelling local budgets to either backfill those cuts or cut their own budgets to make up for the federal dollars lost. But Fulton notes the real kicker in this: no one knows how the money got spent!

“What is even more troubling is how difficult it is to find essential information on how some charters have spent federal and state tax dollars, even as governments continue to increase funding for charters while slashing funds for traditional public schools,” reads the report. “Unlike truly public schools that have to account for prospective and past spending in public budgets provided to democratically elected school boards, charter spending of tax monies is too often a black hole.”

The study attributes this lack of accountability “to the way the charter industry has been built by proponents, favoring ‘flexibility’ over rules.”

“That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools,” CMD states, noting that charters “are often policed—if they are really policed at all—by charter proponents, both within government agencies and within private entities tasked with oversight.”

If this cozy means of auditing sounds familiar, you’ve read up on Wall Street pre 2008 (and maybe even now). Yet rule-averse American voters seem to think that regulations are costly and “government is the problem” while placing their faith in the free markets to bring them low cost high quality products. We should know better. Unless we offshore instruction the way we’ve off shored the manufacture of flat screen TVs and computers… or get economies of scale by ceding the operation of schools to national chains the way we’ve ceded the sales of merchandise to Walmart… or do some kind of medicating or genetic intervention with children the way we’ve tried to provide relatively inexpensive food-like materials to grocery stores by modifying seeds… we need to face the fact that schooling is a labor intensive and highly personalized “industry” that cannot be made cheaper by deregulation… and by now we should realize that when it is deregulated the money goes into the pockets of shareholders and the owners who, in turn, prevail on legislators to write rules that favor them and NOT the taxpayers or, in this case, the children enrolled in school.

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