Iveta Silova is Professor and Director of the Center for the Advances Studies in Global Education at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. She was a Professor and Director of Comparative and International Education program at the College of Education, Lehigh University between the fall of 2007 and fall 2015. Her research and publications cover a range of issues critical to understanding post-socialist education transformation processes in the context of globalization, including intersections of post-colonialism and post-socialism after the Cold War. She is the co-editor (with Noah W. Sobe) of a quarterly peer-reviewed journal "European Education: Issues and Studies."
“Contrary to the right to education, the Education for All goals, and years of civil society campaigning — including that of RESULTS volunteers — to abolish school fees, the practice and acceptance of charging fees for primary school has crept back into the global education landscape. This trend has largely been driven by corporate providers, with some governments and donors now diverting funds towards fee-charging private schools rather than to quality improvements of free, public education systems.
In this context, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and its members, including RESULTS, are calling on governments to effectively and responsibly take up their roles as the primary duty-bearers in education. This week at the GCE World Assembly, a global event that saw the gathering of 190 education advocates from 91 countries gather in Johannesburg, the GCE movement passed a motion demanding governments to protect education from for-profit private companies, cease the channeling of public funds to private entities, and regulate private sector involvement in education.”
Here is a 2014 annual report for our blog! Many thanks to everyone who contributed – both the bloggers and all of our readers to shared their feedback and comments! Enjoy and here is to another productive year!
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The latest issue of European Education addresses a heatedly debated topic of privatization of public education in post-socialist Eastern Europe and Eurasia. This region is of particular interest because of the rapid transition from central to market economies, and the lack of subsequent systematic research on privatization in education either in the global literature on education or the regionally focused literature on privatization and its extension into marketization and public–private partnerships. This special issue aims to bridge this gap by stimulating further research and debate about the effects of privatization on education across the former socialist region. Drawing on case studies from Romania, Ukraine, Russia, and Tajikistan, the articles in this issue raise questions about the incentives and potential for structural discrimination that are created as private funds for education are directed into school systems through a variety of mechanisms that include school choice, private schools, parent payments to public schools, not-for-profit private providers, and supplementary tutoring courses.
If you would like to read the entire paper or any other content from our journal, you can find out more about subscriptions here. We will also be featuring video interviews with the authors about their articles published in this special issue!
Table of Contents
Editorial Introduction: (Re)Examining Privatization and Public Education in Eastern Europe and Eurasia
Kate Lapham, Daniel Pop, and Iveta Silova
Private Pre-University Education in Romania: Mixing Control with Lack of Strategy
Reworking of School Principals’ Roles in the Context of Educational Privatization: A view from Ukraine
Serhiy Kovalchuk and Svitlana Shchudlo
Parental Choices in the Primary and Secondary School Market in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
The “Language Barrier” in Private Online Tutoring: From an Innocuous Concept to a Neoliberal Marketing Tool
In the interest of full disclosure, I know the author of this article personally. His older daughter is good friends with my girlfriend, as they graduated the alternative-option The Delta Program, affiliated with State College Area High School (PA) together in 2011. I actually got to know the Heller family quite well as I celebrated my first Hanukkah in their East Lansing home last year. I have had only a few education-based discussions with Dr. Heller, mostly trying to convince him to apply for the Presidency at my alma mater, Penn State University. However, I know he is a brilliant man, incredibly highly respected in the education field and is very simply, a “good guy”.
So why would the Dean of Education from Michigan State University allow his daughter who, by all accounts is incredibly smart, leave high school without earning her degree. Is this an example of professional hypocrisy?…
Last month, public schools across Pennsylvania received a report card. Their grades made the news. In Lehigh Valley, most public schools failed the grade, with Allentown schools ranking 486 out of 490 (and receiving an F overall) and Bethlehem schools ranking 377 (and receiving a D). More affluent Parkland school district fared better, receiving A for its middle schools and B- for high schools.
The local media picked up these “news” very enthusiastically. Their message was loud and clear: our public schools are failing and need to be urgently reformed. Yet, most media spread the “news” without any critical analysis of either the idea of school “report cards” itself, the organization spearheading this initiative, the methodology used to grade schools, or the motives behind school grading. So here is some of the missing analysis.
Let’s first have a quick look at the organization issuing “report cards” to public schools and districts across Pennsylvania – a K-12 education advocacy nonprofit “The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now” (or PennCAN). Formally launched in 2012, PennCAN is a part of a broader CAN network – The 50CAN – which currently operates in five states (Minnesota, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) and plans to reach half of the country by 2015. The 50CAN aims to “to restore the American dream one school at a time” through the implementation of the following three policy principles:
In other words, the 50CAN’s solution to “reforming” public education is to promote school choice, link teacher evaluation to student academic outcomes, expand alternative mechanisms of serving in the teaching profession, and provide school principals with greater control over school staffing and budget. The 50CAN message is straightforward:
“Close chronically failing schools” and turn them into charters.
The PennCAN’s most recent “achievements” include the support of the Educational Improvement Scholarship Credit and an attempt to reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law. The enactment of the Scholarship Credit brought a $50 million tax credit for businesses that give scholarships to low-income students (from failing schools) to attend private or out-of-district public schools. Simultaneously, the PennCAN has lobbied for “creating an independent charter school authorizer, increasing fiscal and academic accountability for charter schools, and studying problems with charter funding.” While the attempt to reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law has been unsuccessful so far, the PennCAN says it will continue to press lawmakers to reform the charter school law.
With this clear privatization logic driving the 50CAN’s reform campaign, it is not surprising that the organization has turned to school grading as its main advocacy tool. Using student achievement scores, the 50CAN assigns letter grades (A through F) to each public school and district in a state in four categories (including performance gains, overall student performance, student subgroup performance, and achievement gap). While the official rationale is to “provide families and communities with a clear benchmark for how their child’s school or district performs,” school report cards do much more. They (de)grade public schools, thus contributing to the rhetoric of crisis and generating reform pressure to turn public schools into private charters. This is a common strategy of “naming, shaming, and blaming” public schools (e.g., see also an Australian case) without addressing the broader systemic problems such as tax policies favoring the wealthy, residential segregation, immigration policies, lack of health insurance, and many others. As Larry Cuban notes,
“Directing attention to only fixing schools [is] a strategy that is both politically attractive and economically inexpensive compared to the uproar that would occur from attacking those who enjoy privileges from leaving those policies and structures untouched.”
Finally, the 50CAN’s engagement in the business of fixing private schools is driven by important financial motives. Given that education is now the second largest market in the U.S. – valued at US$1.3 trillion – it is not surprising to see the massive mobilization of education entrepreneurs, investors, and private donors around federal funds for education. The 50CAN’s supporters include the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and William Penn Foundation, among others. For many of these supporters, education is simply a commodity and schools represent new investment opportunities. At the end of the day, it is about advantageous “market deals,” “education transactions,” and “adding value to education portfolio companies.” It is not necessarily about preserving education as a public good.
Increasingly, investment schemes become successfully disguised as “idealized political activism” – an argument that David Sirota makes in a short video below. Perhaps, this is what the 50CAN’s political activism is all about. A scam. The 50CAN’s scam. Or, in the case of Pennsylvania, the PennCAN’s scam.
“Public education is predicated on the notion you are focused on other kids — you have to be concerned about all children….not any longer — all this privatizing profit obsession, this preoccupation with this short-term gain as opposed to long-term integrity, is being pushed to the side.” Watch him talk on C-SPAN: