School Privatization and Meaningful Student Involvement

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School privatization is any effort to remove the public, democratic controls within an education system by making them private. If you understand that Meaningful Student Involvement focuses on increasing students’ commitment to democracy, community and education, then you’ll see how school privatization directly intersects.

What It Is

There are many different ways that public education has been and is continuing to be privatized. They include:

  • Implementing mandatory testing for students, and mandating those tests be made by private companies
  • Promoting vouchers to send students to private schools
  • Making sure private schools aren’t overseen by public school systems
  • Mandating the purchase of privately developed curriculum
  • Giving tax credits to parents who send their kids to private schools
  • Giving tax breaks to companies that donate money specifically to private schools
  • Painting public schools as ineffective in order to build public support for private schools
  • Ensuring local school boards can’t control charter schools by creating statewide committees controlled by a governor
  • Encouraging districts to hire teachers based on academic-proven performance rather than tenure
  • Undermining the effect and impact of teacher unions

There are many ways school privatization happens. However, its not often a straightforward conversation where someone says, “We should privatize schools,” and everyone else says “Yes!” Instead, privatizations hides inside other arguments against public education.

What It Does

Some of the arguments for privatization hide inside of arguments made around the following issues:

  • “The quality of public schools is declining.”
  • “Our schools used to be the best in the world but aren’t anymore.”
  • “Public schools used to have real standards but don’t anymore.”
  • “Schools used to have discipline, but have lost control of kids today.”
  • “School boards are ignorant,” “Teachers are incompetent,” “Schools are failing.”
  • “Public education has never been worse.”
  • “Students need to be able to escape,” and “Parents need choices!”
  • “Public schools need competition to make them better.”
  • “We need to prepare our students for global competition.”
  • “We’re falling behind in international rankings.”
  • “Teachers need to be held accountable,” “Students need to be accountable,” and “Schools need to be accountable.”

All of these are arguments that hold school privatization at their hearts. They reduce public education in every way, demean and belittle students and educators, and indicate no hope for public, democratic schooling. Many communities know that public schools are the most visible lever of democracy in the lives of individual families. Without them democratic society is weakened. There are alternatives though.

What Can Be Done

There are alternatives to school privatization. Moving every student from being a passive recipient in schools towards becoming active partners throughout the entire education system is vital to that effort. Infusing Meaningful Student Involvement throughout the public education experience of every learner will empower their sense of ownership, belonging and agency within schools, and enhance their commitment to community, education and democracy. Research and experience show that Meaningful Student Involvement can…

  • Increase student ownership in learning, teaching and leadership throughout education
  • Improve student mindsets and in turn build student agency and their sense of powerful, purposeful and positive impact throughout the world
  • Increase school community among students and between students and educators
  • Propel school improvement efforts forward through increased investment in their processes and ownership of their outcomes.

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