Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Privatization is definitely on the menu in Texas

More evidence from the Austin Statesman:

Groups who for years have fought to limit the role of private companies in Texas public schools see some of their fiercest battles yet looming over the next nine weeks.

The major education bill passed by the Texas House and now being considered in the Senate would allow outside entities, including for-profit companies, to manage the state's worst-performing schools.

A House committee also is considering a bill that would allow public schools to contract with private companies to create virtual classes where students, including those who go to private or home schools, would take classes over the Internet.

"We know we need to find funding for our neighborhood schools," said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors social conservatism in government. "They're struggling to find the money they need to barely keep pace with enrollment growth and inflation. At the same time, (lawmakers) want to carve out pieces of those dollars to give to private companies."

...Several lawmakers also have filed bills to create voucher programs that would give students public money to attend private schools. Those bills have not yet been heard in committees, but they're likely to receive heavy consideration in the GOP-run Legislature.

House Bill 2 calls for the state education commissioner to hire an outside entity to take control of a school if, for two years in a row, it does not meet federal guidelines and lands in the bottom 5 percent of the Texas Education Agency's ratings. Both the state and federal requirements are largely based on standardized test scores.

Five percent of the campuses translates to nearly 400 of the state's 7,800 schools.

I posted about this last Friday, but I know from reading blogs that many public school advocates think the talk of privatization is, as one member of the House Public Education Committee said, the educational equivalent of "black helicopters." It's not. This is real.

The multi-billion dollar question ($64,000 seems so quaint, doesn't it?): Where's the evidence that shows that for-profit companies do a better, or even equal, job as our "failing" schools?


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