There has been a concerted attack on public education for some time now. Business interests have recognized that the total public education budget is huge and, especially in the K-12 sector, is under the control of local school boards. They have seen the opportunity for making huge amounts of profits if they could only siphon that money away into for-profit entities.
They have sought to do this by various techniques. One is to undermine confidence in the public school system by issuing ‘report cards’ and the like that seem to show that the schools are failing and failing badly, thus spurring demand by anxious parents for alternatives like charter schools that can be run by for-profit agencies. This move has been aided by politicians, especially Republicans, who have provided legislation for these profitable entities to move in more easily and lax oversight to hide their many shortcomings. Many Republicans hate the public school system because it can be a great equalizer and promotes ideals of working together for the common good, as opposed to the selfishness of the capitalist system.
The same thing is happening in higher education. State governments have steadily decreased funding for public universities, forcing them to charge higher tuition that reduces access to poorer people. This in turn has spawned for-profit institutions that promise degrees and certifications for lower tuition, often in the form of online courses taught by people who lack the proper credentials, that leave students with debt and poor employment prospects. The burgeoning scandal over Trump University is just a symptom of this rot. (Kevin Kisner looks in more depth at the for-profit college system.)
So I was glad to se that the Department of Education is taking steps to shut down Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an the accreditor of the for-profit college system, for doing a lousy job.
“ACICS has had extensive and pervasive deficiencies in a wide range of accreditation standards over the previous five years,” an Education Department official requesting not to be named said earlier today in a call with reporters.
“These were not narrow misses,” said the department official. “These were quite severe, quite egregious, irreparable mistakes that they had been making over a long period of time.”
ACICS has faced heightened scrutiny over the past few months for the strikingly poor outcomes of the colleges it accredits.
The issue is not that all public schools are good. Some of them are shockingly badly run. But continually cutting their funding and giving money to education profiteers is not the solution. Also, not all K-12 charter schools are bad and a few actually provide some good, innovative education. But there are a lot of bad charter schools that should have been shut down a long time ago. The problem is that politicians are quick to criticize any shortcomings of the public schools while turning a blind eye to the massive failures of the for-profit sector.
The state Superintendent of Education in Ohio was forced to resign because of a scandal involving covering up the failures of charter schools, a classic example of the cronyism that is rampant.
Ohio school Superintendent Richard A. Ross is retiring. Again.
Ross, 65, told The Dispatch he will step down on Dec. 31 after nearly two years of overseeing Ohio’s public-schools system.
“This was planned to happen earlier, but we had something come up this summer,” he said. “I just couldn’t do it during that. We had to get that settled.”
Ross was referring to the firestorm touched off by revelations that school-choice chief David Hansen rigged evaluations of charter-school sponsors to boost their ratings. Hansen, the husband of Gov. John Kasich’s presidential-campaign manager, Beth Hansen, promptly resigned. A few Democratic lawmakers said Ross also should step down, and some on the 19-member state Board of Education demanded an independent investigation.
Colleges have to share the blame for their plight too. There has been a real expansion in the number of highly paid university administrators as a result of an increasingly corporate mentality in the governing boards of colleges and this has not only increased costs but also led to a shift in focus away from the educational mission.
Whatever their faults, a free (or very low cost) system of good K-16 public education is an essential element of democracy and egalitarianism. That is why the reactionaries want to destroy it and why we must support it.