Beware the Return of For-Profit Schools

Republicans in the New York State Senate have included, in their version of the budget, a provision allowing for-profit companies to establish charter schools.

Although, as “Report Card” has often described, our schools are deeply affected by market logic, and by the gonzo libertarian ideology of the financial class, there have been limits on outright profiteering. Since 2010, New York has had a law in place protecting our kids from schools run entirely by profit-making businesses. That law left existing relationships with for-profit companies in place, and still allows schools to contract with for-profit management companies. Those companies can provide many services as long as they are not actually “managing” the schools—a wide and murky gray area. But the legislation forbade for-profit companies from applying for new charters after the law’s 2010 passage. Now, it looks as if that crucial breakwater may be breached again.

In politics as in parenthood, if we cannot set limits, we are in deep trouble. Mona Davids of the New York Charter Parents Association, which opposes for-profit charters, explains that “even as nonprofits, so many charters are corrupt and mismanaged.” If the restrictions are lifted, she exclaims, “Can you imagine? It would be bananas. They would be nickel-and-diming our kids because they have to make a profit for investors.”

As Davids points out, the Senate Republicans are being “sneaky” by putting this provision into the budget rather than trying to overturn the law. If they went the legislative route, more people would notice and there would be a public outcry.

That outcry may still be forthcoming. On March 14, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents large chunks of Brooklyn, including Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene, and Red Hook, spoke against the provision on the Senate floor, calling it “a signal that we are opening up our education system for sale.” But most people outside of Albany haven’t noticed yet. Says Davids, “We have to mobilize.”


MAR 2012

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