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“Disaster Capitalism” Nothing New in Public Education… Test Scores Lead to “Failing Schools” that Privatization can “Fix”

January 24, 2018

An article by Common Dreams staff writer Julia Conley titled “Disaster Capitalism in Action as Puerto Rico Governor Announces Plan to Privatize Electrical Services” immediately struck a nerve and raised a question:

  • How is the Puerto Rico Governor’s decision to privatize the electrical services after a hurricane any different than any State Governor’s or city mayor’s decision to privatize public schools after standardized tests indicate they are “failing”?

And these two paragraphs made me even more on edge and raised two more questions:

Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch called the decision “catastrophic” and indicative of the same pattern of the Trump administration prioritizing wealthy companies that aim to take over public services.

“The decision to privatize Puerto Rico’s state-owned power company follows the same dangerous path mapped out in the Trump administration’s draft infrastructure plan,” said Hauter. “Whether it’s water or energy, privatization helps Wall Street at the expense of the wellbeing and health of communities, particularly low-income families and people of color.”

I am far from a fan of the Trump administration, but I do have a two questions for Ms. Hauter:

  • Do you see any difference between “the decision to privatize Puerto Rico’s state-owned power company” and Arne Duncan’s decision to privatize Chicago’s city owned schools because they were “failing” based on standardized test scores? Or Governor Cuomo’s decision to expand Eva Moskovitz’s empire? Or ANY mayor or Governor who decides that privatized deregulated charter schools will solve the problems of “failing government schools” that “everyone knows” are a “disaster”?
  • Do you see either party backing away from Wall Street’s privatizers and advocating more money for State and local governments? Or, stated slightly differently, how is the neoliberal Democratic Party different from the GOP when it comes to advocating for greater role for state and local government, particularly when it comes to their treatment of low income families and people of color?

The drive to privatize public services is a feature of both parties and has been for over two decades. This isn’t a “Trump” issue or a GOP issue. It’s baked into our politics and will be hard to undo as long as corporations are citizens.

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