Saturday, April 26, 2014

Walton Family Foundation Spent $1 Billion On The Privatization Of Public Education

Everyone knows that the super-rich spend a lot of money funding the political campaigns of their supporters.  This article describes the influence of the Walton Family Foundation on the public education system.  There are two popular ways in which public education is being privatized.  The original concept for privatizing public education came from the conservative economist Milton Friedman.  He advocated the use of vouchers to privatize the system.  Public funds would be used to issue vouchers to families so that they could purchase education from private schools.  That movement didn't take off but the Walton foundation is supporting that concept as well as charter schools which have been growing fast in some areas of the country.  Local school districts fund charter schools by providing a share of the local school budget to private schools.  The charter schools usually have the option of admitting selected students for enrollment.  This strategy is most effective in poor school districts because it gives parents an option to remove their child from public schools that must accept all students for attendance, and place them in a charter school that has the option of selecting the better students.  In effect this creates a two tier system of education.  Motivated parents send their children to the charter schools, while less motivated parents keep their children in the regular schools.

The Walton Foundation also funds efforts to measure school performance and to evaluate teacher performance.  The measurement programs support the privatization effort by providing information to parents about school performance is typically below average in poor school districts.

As one might imagine this movement has been very controversial. By and large, the research on charter schools shows mixed performance outcomes.  Some schools perform above average and some do not achieve better than the publically operated schools. 

The important point in this article is not about the relative performance of privatized schools.  The article shows how an ideologically motivated family of billionaires can sprinkle a billion dollars around in the vast public school system and have an enormous effect on the education system.  The Walton's have obtained a huge bang from the billion dollars that they have invested for the purpose of siphoning public funds into for profit private schools.

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