NY Times columnist Paul Krugman is one of my favorites. After Obama was elected he was a noted critic of the administration’s economic policy. Lately he's focused his lens on the Republicans and the right wing backers of the tea party. Clearly he has shifted to making it clear that there is a stark difference between the two parties. Not so fast. Certainly not when it comes to education.
For quite some time many of us have been hoping Krugman would address the ed deform privatization movement. In his March 26 column he does so for the first time but in the broader sense of the right wing Koch Brothers control of organizations such as ALEC, which would privatize your teeth if it could. He even ties their influence to the Florida Stand Your Ground Law which is getting so much attention in the Trayvon Martin murder.
Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.Ahhhhh! Finally he mentions schools and the K12 online scam.
ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.
And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.
Yes, we do get that most charters perform worse than comparable public schools. But why does Krugman ignore the role Obama and the Democrats have played in the push for privatizing public education along with Arne Duncan, Cuomo and Rhambo Emanuel (who makes Bloomberg look benign)? With all the right wing attacks on everything Obama does or says you will not see many negatives on his ed policy – unless from Ron Paul and other state righters. Republicans and the Koch Bros. won't attack Obama's ed policies, because they not only agree with most of them but actually formulated many of them.
There is an interesting anomaly when Obamacare comes under such attacks but the removal of local power from running their own school systems and the forced expenditure of enormous funds on unnecessary testing and teacher evaluations and down your throat curriculum materials is ignored and even praised. Both the Obama administration and the right wing privatizers want to eliminate elected school boards, especially in urban areas and hand dictatorial power over to the mayors – a perfect scenario for the privatizers to use their billions to gain control over the schools.
Sadly, Krugman lets the Democrats as perpetrators of school privatization and the charter school movement off the hook.