Category Archives: big money in education

Big Money in Education Part IV

by Anita

About a year ago I met a young woman who had attended a for-profit culinary school (for -profit schools are very expensive). She had been living at home with her parents while attending the school. When her father lost his job and had to move the family out of state in order to find work, she did not have the resources to stay behind and finish culinary school. Without completing her course of study, she couldn’t get a job at a real restaurant; instead, she ended up working in fast food. She cried as she told of the burden of the heavy debt and wondered how she would ever be able to pay her loans back considering her low income.

Her story was my introduction to the potential problems of for-profit schools. However, as I found out, she is not alone in her debt problem. Many young people (and some older, as well) have taken on large amounts of debt in order to attend college and improve their chances of getting a good job. Continue reading

Big Money in Education Part III

by Anita

The issue of big money in education can be viewed in two ways: first, individuals and corporations use large contributions to legislators and other state officials to lobby for laws and statutes that will benefit themselves; and second, individuals and corporations find ways to take advantage of the large amounts of state and federal money tied up in education. The first post of this series on big money in education addressed the first issue, relationships between wealthy individuals, corporations and legislators. The second post, on charter schools, and this post on school vouchers examine the second type of money’s influence in education.

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Big Money in Education Part II

by Anita

Big money often means corruption or the appearance of corruption whether in elections, environmental policies, prisons, education or other areas of public life. The first post in our series on big money in education examined corruption that is derived from direct or nearly-direct relationships among corporations, nonprofits, and state and local education officials. This post will investigate charter schools, which privatize education, and the consequences of these plans.

Privatization of any governmental function is usually championed by business leaders who claim that performing that function – through privatization – “like a business” with free-market rules will provide better and cheaper results. Wealthy donors such as John Walton (Walmart), Dick DeVos (Amway), Richard Sharp (ex-CEO of Circuit City) and Don Fisher (founder of The Gap) have used their big bank accounts and other resources to determine the future of schools. They have bankrolled school voucher programs, scholarships to private schools, and charter schools. Continue reading

Big Money in Education Part 1

by Anita

It might seem that education in the US – where we have had an extensive public education system for many decades – would be one area untouched by the effects of big money. Unfortunately, it is easy to prove otherwise. The insidious corruption flowing from the power of money can be seen both directly and indirectly in our public school systems from the youngest preschoolers all the way to university level.

Corruption sometimes takes the form of state education officials working hand-in-glove with companies that produce school materials (such as textbooks, online courses, and standardized tests) and making secret decisions about these materials based on money and perks received by officials rather than open bidding. Although standardized testing has been around since the early 20th century, the concept of holding schools accountable based on their students’ test scores began in the 1980s and became a federal issue when George W. Bush started the “No Child Left Behind” program. On the surface, accountability based on testing seems reasonable. It is easy, though, for leaders to turn this process to their own benefit if they find ways to ensure their materials are chosen by each state.

The Tangled Web: Nonprofits, Corporations, and Public Officials

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