Home > Uncategorized > Laura Chapman’s Analysis of Trojan Horse Organizations Funded By Billionaires Raises a Question

Laura Chapman’s Analysis of Trojan Horse Organizations Funded By Billionaires Raises a Question

December 30, 2017

Yesterday’s posts by Diane Ravitch included a recounting of an analysis done by blogger Laura Chapman that described how billionaire reformers create faux grassroots organizations or “partnerships” in cities where the reformers want to offer or expand for-profit charter schools. These organizations all have high-minded mission statements and often have catchy names like “Boston Schools Fund, Empower Schools” or “Accelerate Great Schools” Cincinnati, OH) or “Great Public Schools Now (LA)”, but their ultimate goal, in Ms. Chapman’s concise terms, is “to eliminate democratically elected school boards and fold public schools into a portfolio of contract schools that receive public funds but are privately operated.

As I read this post, it raised one question that has been troubling me for months: Why don’t progressives fund at least one “think tank” that espouses the benefits public funding for public projects? Where is the pushback against the neo-liberals who ceded ground on government programs when Bill Clinton and Al Gore “reinvented government” in the 1990s? Where is the coordinated pushback against the charter movement  launched by NCLB and reinforced by RTTT? Where is the Progressive’s analog to the Powell Memorandum that laid out the case for less government and offered a blueprint to make it happen? Instead of pushing back against the anti-government and pro-business positions taken by the right wing of the GOP, the Democrats moved the “center” by embracing the privatization ideas put forth in Osborne and Gaebler’s book Reinventing Government.

Here’s a message that I believe progressives need to broadcast: incompetence and corruption occurs in all organizations but is less likely to occur in organizations whose books are open to the public and whose actions are reasonably regulated. By transferring public projects and the operation of public enterprises like education to the private sector, the government is eliminating the opportunity for public scrutiny. By passing legislation that deregulates the private sector in the name of supporting free enterprise, the government is compromising the safety of workers and the general public. By enabling businesses to place a higher value on shareholders than employees, the government is suppressing wages, withholding benefits, and diminishing the well-being of citizens.

Democracy operates at a much slower pace than business and the flaws of public enterprise are widely known because public enterprise operates in the sunshine. The movement to “reinvent” government by privatizing inefficient operations or introducing competition to seek lower costs is a movement away from democracy and a movement away from fair treatment of employees. When the operation of school lunches, for example, are turned over to the private sector, those businesses are answerable to shareholders. Those businesses turn a profit by lowering wages and benefits, cutting as many corners as possible in portion sizes, and eliminating “inefficiencies” like home made soups and breads. The taxpayers love the lower costs, the shareholders love the higher profits, and the administrators who oversee the program love the reduction in headaches. The only losers are the children and the employees.

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  1. Laura H. Chapman
    December 30, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Your last paragraph captures one of the major and unrecognized problems with the takeover of public institutions by enthusiasts for “corporate and entrepreneurial “solutions to social problems.

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