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This Just In: Privatizers Emphasize Profit Over All Else

May 9, 2016

Nation reporter Michelle Chen’s recent article “Citizens Are Not Consumers” offers a lengthy list of failed privatization efforts drawn from a report of In the Public Interest’s(ITPI) analysis of failed privatization projects. While Ms. Chen’s article touches on failed privatization in the provision of janitorial services, fire hydrant maintenance, prison oversight, and cafeterias, her primary focus is on schools— especially the virtual schools and charter chains.

This blog is littered with articles on this topic, but Ms. Chen’s overview is a reminder that even though there is no evidence that deregulated privatized schools can deliver a service more effectively than “government” schools, the myth that the profit motive will result in efficient and effective operations persists. As she notes in her concluding paragraphs:

For schools, perhaps expectations should go beyond fiscal input versus academic output and broach children’s development more holistically.

But the basic principle can often get lost here: Why is it taboo to suggest that effective government will cost money? Corporate contractors will always bill themselves as the most efficient way to provide a service on the cheap, but the costs of gambling on children, people with disabilities and mental-health problems, and other vulnerable groups are just too high—costs without refunds.

Alas, there are no refunds when charter schools fail just as there are no refunds when public schools fail… and there are no refunds when we have social policies in place that deny opportunities to the children who are raised in poverty. There are no refunds… but there are added costs and inherent inefficiencies. If we really wanted to operate an efficient and effective system we would examine the part of the system that is failing and invest our resources in fixing it… and the part of our system that is failing us most is the par that is supposed to provide opportunities for all children. Let’s fix THAT with effective government services.

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