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Neoliberalism and Education

jrice's picture

"In 2010, State Attorney General Tom Corbett was elected as governor, his political network heavily populated by advocates for private-sector education reform. Backed by a conservative state legislature, Corbett cut about $860 million from public education in his first budget rather than tax the state’s booming natural-gas industry. He also expanded Pennsylvania’s “voucher lite” programs, popular among conservatives, which provide corporations with major tax credits in exchange for donations for private-school tuition.

“This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves,” Corbett told the Legislature during his March 2011 budget address. “I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession.” Philadelphia was forced to eliminate more than 3,500 teacher and staff positions. The crisis also set off the most aggressive privatization campaign since the state takeover, embodied by the so-called “Blueprint for Transformation” plan." (Denvir, 2). 

There were so many aspects of the readings on funding and the influence of neoliberalism on public education that upset me but none more than this one. By giving corperations tax break and cutting funding from public education Corbett is stole resources and money from those who need it the most and gave it away to those who need it the least, wealthy corperations and private schools. Corbett not only perpetuated systemic inequlity of race and class but made it worse.

I don't understand how policies that push for an require equality, even fundemenatly flawed and problematic policies like NCLB, allow extreme funding cuts to education. The only answer I can come up with is that these policies never intened to achieve equality in the first place. The relationship between Corbett stealing money from public education and the NCLB act may not seem related but they are both influenced by the same idieology. As Karp explains in his essay NCLB sets standards that are not achievable for many schools without a major influx of funding and then when these schools fail to meet these unreasonable standards the little funding that they do have is cut. How are schools supposed to improve if thier funding is cut? The arguement that funding does not matter in achievement gaps is illogical when the threat of funding being cut is supposed to be the motivating facotor that holds schools "accountable." Thus it is clear that NCLB is "a calculated political campaign to use achievement gaps to label schools as failures, without providing the resources and strategies needed to overcome them" (Karp, 220) in addition to providing the justification to privitize the school system. 

The notion that private for profit institutions can do a better job of educating kids than a public institution is insane. The goal of for profit institutions is to make money and the goal of public institutions is to provide a service to people. Logic would follow that the goal of an institution would influence the policies it impliments. The policies that are implimented by a private for profit institution are most likely going to center on making money, the only place for this money to come from is by taking money that should be spent on teachers, students, and school resources and giving it to CEO's (and other executives) and shareholders. Thus I would argue that the true intetions of NCLB are the same as Corbett's plan to cut 860 billion dollars from public education,  worsen economic and social inequality. 

Neoliberalism has no place in a school system where stuedents are the priorety. As long as Capitalism remains at the center of the ideology of the United States it will be immpossible to create a democratically run fully funded school system that provides all students with the knowlage, confidence, and resources to suceed in life.  


jkang's picture

I had a similar (somewhat violent) reaction to reading that Corbett cut almost $1 billion out of the education budget.  Your point about private for-profit institutions also makes me question why private for-profit higher education institutions are coming under some fire, when private for-profit K-12 intitutions are not.