August 7, 2012

Education Profiteers Gather In New York To Cheer Privatization Of American Schools

Education Profiteers Gather In New York To Cheer Privatization Of American Schools
John Katzman wants to figure out how to make as much money off your kids' education as possible.

Reuters has the scoop on an event that took place earlier this week where nearly a hundred education profiteers — ranging from executives at testing companies to private equity moguls eager to invest in education technology — met at a swanky Manhattan club to cheer on the privatization of the U.S. education system:

The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige. Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

Reuters goes on to note that education has become a huge business in just the past seven years. In “the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005.”

The policies that have allowed for these education profiteers to get involved with the system have been pushed by politicians from both parties, and many of them — such as the aggressive expansion of charter schools and high-stakes testing — have been endorsed both by President Obama and Mitt Romney, although Romney appears to be much more supportive of outright privatization.

Many of the privatization architects who attended the Manhattan confab are also political donors. According to Federal Election Commission data, Lytle was a Romney donor in 2007, giving $500. Meanwhile, Princeton Review and 2Tor’s John Katzman has spread thousands of dollars over numerous politicians from both major political parties, giving $4,800 to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) while also donating tens of thousands to Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and others over the past decade.

Katzman has been particularly insistent in his desire to see large chunks of the education system privatized. At the event, he apparently “urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day” — a convenient way for schools to do away with a number of their teachers altogether.

If politicians take his advice, it will no doubt be thanks at least in part to cash he and other education privatizers are dumping into the political system.