We’re constantly told that our money is better managed by the private sector: Why trust faceless bureaucrats instead of simply contracting out services to fiscally disciplined corporate managers? Political branding reflects the melding of the commercial and the civic. We don’t receive benefits; we instead transact with public service providers. Hardworking taxpayers deserve a “return on investment.”
While this approach could work for certain state functions, like constructing public works and collecting tolls, perhaps, some operations may be too sensitive to outsource to the lowest bidder, according to In the Public Interest’s (ITPI) analysis of failed privatization projects across the country.
One case study is California controversial “partnership” with the charter network California Virtual Academies (CAVA), where, according to ITPI’s investigation, staffing imbalances necessitated that “one in four teachers spent 80 percent of their time on clerical work, which severely limited the time they spent teaching students.” The charter movement’s goal of “efficiency” evidently means forcing a quarter of teachers to spend more time doing office tasks than interacting with kids.
Despite CAVA’s marketing spiel about “virtual” education enabling “individualized” learning, both the pedagogy and student experience felt dehumanizing to many, ITPI reports:
Most of the teachers we interviewed reported that the quality of the computers, the education software and other materials used by teachers and parents is poor and that this impedes their ability to teach.
Some teachers complained of unmet needs for students with disabilities, ranging from lack of classroom support for basic life skills to excessive caseloads for special education teachers.
CAVA schools also reportedly underpaid instructors, compared to standard local district salaries, according to ITPI, contributing to extremely high turnover among teachers and student turnover rates many times higher than the statewide rate.
Meanwhile, thanks to “aggressive” recruitment campaigns, enrollment boomed from 10,800 in 2009 to 14,500 in 2013 across California.