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Opinion

November 5, 2013

Privatizing education doesn't work

High-stakes testing has recently made headlines here. I encountered the stress level in local schools last spring when, as a school volunteer, I found teachers spending long hours overburdened with paperwork and constant preparations for computerized testing. 

I’ve recently attended information sessions about testing regimens and in mid-October participated in a national telephone conference with Diane Ravitch — educational policy analyst and researcher at NYU — and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education. She’s followed American education for years and just published “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” She’s become so alarmed that she now travels the country speaking about it.

What I learned on this call was surprising. Despite what we’ve been hearing for years about America’s dreadful education system, the opposite is actually true. Until this privatization binge, test scores were higher than they’ve ever been and dropout rates lower. Ms. Ravitch asserts that the biggest problem is well-heeled large foundations spreading misinformation about our schools for years. They’ve funded an organized national campaign to privatize education, eyeing the billions they’d reap.

And, she says, the policies they’ve been pushing are failing. Example: the Milwaukee school system has operated with charters and vouchers since 1990 and is one of the lowest-performing in the country.

There was far more in this brief conference. Unfortunately, Obama’s “Race to the Top” supports privatization — and NYS has bought into it. Diane Ravitch sees people around the country waking up to what’s happening and resisting. The whole charter/voucher system is unsustainable and will eventually collapse. Most important, she feels, is to educate ourselves and fight to save this most important bulwark of democracy. Read her book, check out the Network for Public Education, and join others pressing for a democratic, creative teaching process. Do this for our children.

Paddy Lane

New Berlin

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