Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Efficiency is the Hallmark of Virtual Academies… But COVID is Showing America the Difference Between Efficiency and Effectiveness

February 21, 2021 Leave a comment

Efficiency is defined as by Wikipedia as follows:

Efficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, it is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.

The same source defines EFFECTIVENESS as:

Effectiveness is the capability of producing a desired result or the ability to produce desired output. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.

We’ve learned over the years that our current model of education is both inefficient and ineffective, assuming the “expected outcome” of funded education is a universal cohort students who are ready for work, ready for college, or ready for both. Many observers of our current model see it as a failure because it is not subject to “market forces”, believing that such forces will yield both efficiency and effectiveness. While there is no evidence whatsoever that this happens in the REAL marketplace, there is a massive amount of evidence that the marketplace CAN drive down costs by substituting lower wage employees for higher wage ones by outsourcing labor or diminishing the power of employee groups OR introducing technology. Those who value the marketplace model place a premium on EFFICIENCY over EFFECTIVENESS…. and far and away the most EFFICIENT means of educating children is replace sentient teachers with algorithmic models.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve often used the phrase “efficiency is the enemy” in blog posts to decry the practice of REPLACING live teaching with some form of computer instruction. At the same time, I am a big fan of flipped instruction, Khan Academy mini-lectures that explain complicated issues in clear language, and even entire units in Khan Academy where subjects like math lend themselves to algorithmic learning— learning that can replace the rote drills that teachers often oversee in large groups. When technology AUGMENTS learning in the form, it is, I believe, unarguably GOOD.

But when technology is the primary (if not exclusive) form of instruction, it is unarguably BAD.

All of this is a lead up to this Diane Ravitch post from last weekend that describes the boots-on-the-ground experience of a newly minted K12 teacher in California, an experience that included this observation:

Though it seems nauseatingly naive in retrospect, I had hoped and at one time believed that “free and fair education for all” could and logically should include our nation’s public schools having efficient access to the technologies and mass deployment systems for online education which our tax dollars have paid for.

Instead, I now realize that an otherwise logical process of voting tax payers receiving the public education they deserve has been perhaps irrevocably hijacked and perverted by the “double-speak” of “school choice” proponents and the contemporary scourge of insatiably greedy corporations.

The private for-profit enterprise K12 is notoriously efficient: they deliver a McDonald’s education at the price of a sit down restaurant. They do so by employing newly minted teachers instead of those with experience and assigning the teachers large numbers of students. It’s VERY inexpensive to deliver this instruction… and when K12 provides this at the same rate states pay for traditional schooling the taxes don’t need to go up to get the same results as before and the K12 shareholders are VERY happy.

After living through the past year, it should be abundantly clear to voters and taxpayers that online schooling is insufficient and ineffective even if it IS efficient in terms of cost. If that lesson hasn’t been learned, maybe it’s time for the voters to get some remedial education.

Diane Ravitch Flags Disheartening De Facto NC Voucher Bill That Pilfers Public Funds for Privatizers, Parochial Schools Under the Banner of “Equal Opportunity”

February 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Last week Diane Ravitch wrote a post describing HB 32, a North Caroline bill sponsored by GOP legislators that is designed to expand on an existing “Opportunity Scholarship Program” that is eerily similar to that under consideration in NH. I typically avoid “slippery slope” arguments… particularly when they are not supported by evidence. But this bill IS evidence that once s GOP legislature gets an opportunity to turn public funds over to religious and for-profit schools they will eagerly do so. As Ms. Ravistch notes her scathing opening paragraphs, the GOP legislators in NC prefer offering subsidies to “low-quality schools instead of improving their public schools.” Indeed, when bills like HB 32 are given serious consideration, the GOP legislators are not only avoiding the improvement of public schools, they are actively contributing to their demise.

If folks in states where concepts like “Opportunity Scholarships” are being proposed in the name of egalitarianism voters and taxpayers should clutch their wallets tightly or be prepared to pay for slick marketing in lieu of quality schools.

The Chester PA Experience SHOULD Prove that Privatizing Schools is Bad… After Flint MI it SHOULD be Clear that Privatizing Water is Worse… But PA Government Officials Never Learn

February 12, 2021 Comments off

In the Public Interest works tirelessly to inform voters and the general public about the hazards of privatization, but myths die hard— especially the myth that “running government like as business” is a good idea. The latest chapter in this misguided belief is about to unfold in York, PA, where the town fathers have come up with the brilliant idea of outsourcing the water supply management to a private company, which is touted in the local newspaper op ed by the Mayor and (ahem) the President of the private water company as a really good deal!

Pennsylvania American Water’s offer allows the city to strategically chart a path forward that increases economic opportunity for all York residents and businesses.

That mindset is a component of Pennsylvania American Water’s DNA. The company has a proven track record as a customer-centered and community-focused company with a deep commitment to corporate responsibility and the environment.

From McKeesport to Scranton, Fairview Township to Steelton — Pennsylvania American Water has brought financial stability to the communities it serves while also increasing reliability of wastewater treatment services.

The company has committed to not propose a rate increase for a minimum of three years. And it will invest millions of dollars to modernize and upgrade the York system to provide safe and reliable wastewater treatment services to the community for generations to come.

Meanwhile, the city’s proceeds from the asset sale will serve as a foundation for financial stability and a spark for economic growth.

Independent experts from the Pennsylvania Economy League agree the sale is York’s best hope of digging itself out of its perpetual and worsening budget hole. But we don’t need experts to tell us what we already know — that York is a great place to live, work and play. This opportunity will only make it better.

With this proposed public-private partnership, the future of York is looking brighter than ever.

The future is even brighter for shareholders of Pennsylvania Water, which received $168.8 million in government subsidies and made a profit of $621 million. It takes money to make money, I suppose… but all of their subsidies and all of their profit come from taxpayers! In a study ITPI completed, they came to these conclusions regarding water:

We reviewed the existing research and found that:

  • Many U.S. water systems are aging and need lots of work to ensure they meet health, safety, and environmental standards.
  • The federal government has dropped the ball. Federal support for water infrastructure has declined 77 percent in real terms since its peak in 1977.
  • Private water corporations often cut corners to reduce operating costs, harming water quality or service quality, or both.
  • Many of the systems that need the most investment serve marginalized, low-income communities, many of which are communities of color.

This is why the Biden administration and Congress must increase federal investment in local water systems. Luckily, legislation being discussed—the Water, Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act—would do just that.

After the Michigan Governor’s debacle with Flint’s water system and Chester PA’s debacle with outsourcing public education one would think that a mayor of a mid-size PA city would be cautious about engaging in a private-public partnership, especially with a corporation whose balance sheet is already fat. But the mayor believes the economic growth that will burgeon from this investment will cover the costs. Thirty years from now I doubt that will be true… but who will remember?