Turning School Governance Over to Big Business

February 27, 2006

In our January 17 edition, we discussed how our country's high schools are being "redesigned" to more closely integrate the curriculum with the needs of business. High schools students are tracked according to the varying job requirements of the capitalists - some are tracked to college preparatory schools, others to technical or vocational schools and still others are consigned to military schools.

But the capitalists are not satisfied with adapting the curriculum to their needs; they are taking a direct and decisive role in school governance.

For example, in 2002 the Bush administration set up the "State Scholars Initiative' to supply start up funds for high school redesign. Bush's initiative was based on the experience of Texas in which the business community developed a new curriculum which currently is the basis of educating more than 2 million students.

Bush's State Scholars Initiative openly declares that its goal is to help "employers [who] report difficulties in finding qualified employees."

In order to receive funds under the State Scholars Initiative, a state must set up a redesign program led by a "viable state business-education coalition," in which "key in-state corporations" must serve as "flagship sponsors." The responsibilities of business explicitly include helping to determine course content and standards. In turn, the corporations are "encouraging scholars to apply for employment at local businesses."

To date, the Bush administration has financed state scholars initiatives in 13 states, including over 500 school districts.

In Chicago, Mayor Daley and the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) have, for several years now, been turning control of the public schools over to business. The Renaissance 2010 plan, which is redesigning 100 elementary and high schools, was drawn up by the Civic Commission of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a leading municipal business group. To insure its ongoing control of school restructuring, the Commercial Club also established additional organizations including "New Schools for Chicago" and Chicago High School Redesign Initiative; the official policy of the BOE gives these business groups a decisive role in setting up new schools and approving charters.

Business management of Chicago schools has gone so far that in many cases, corporations are running schools on a day-to-day basis. For example, Ariel Community Academy, an elementary school in the Kenwood community, is run by Ariel Capital Management LLC. The school's website includes a direct link to the corporation's investment prospectus. Classrooms are decorated to resemble the Stock Exchange and the curriculum, guided by the concept of "financial literacy," includes learning to wheel and deal in the stock market and out "competing" one's peers. Another Chicago elementary school, Legacy Charter School, is run by the corporate law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal.

Future Plans

Government and business are pushing towards the complete take-over of public education by the capitalist class.

In a recent report prepared for the CEOs of major corporations, Paul Hill of the Brookings Institute describes just what the capitalists are planning for the public schools.

Hill condemns the "old model" of public education, especially targeting such things as unions and worker rights, public control and even the underlying principles of universal, public education. Hill writes: "The objective challenges of educating large numbers of children from destitute families, including many foreign born, are daunting enough. But big city districts also face man-made constraints that make their jobs even harder. These come from state and federal regulations that prohibit flexible use of money, union contract provisions that strip school leaders of authority....and control of all important expenditure decisions by a central district bureaucracy."

Hill's new vision is to rely on "businesses [which] have expertise in management....a new community authority - one with jurisdiction over an existing school district or wide geographic area - would oversee the supply of educational opportunities for children. It could license many entities to provide k-12 instruction, including conventional public school systems, charter schools, private contractors ....urban education is everybody's problem....only business and civic leaders have the combination of standing and resources necessary to transform public education." (from "How Business and Civic Leaders Can Make a Big Difference in Public Education, published by CEOs for Cities).

For hundreds of years, the working people have fought for a modern system of public schools as a vital part of the struggle for enlightenment and equality. Our struggles have created a nationwide system of universal k-12 public education as well as an extensive network of community colleges and public universities.

But today, instead of making the investments necessary to modernize the schools and insure equality, the government is pushing backwards. The main priority is training and tracking students to fill the job requirements of business. Profit-making and war supercede enlightenment as the aims of education. Private capitalists are given power over public funds and public schools. Public accountability and control are being eliminated and with it, a dual school system is further entrenched, undermining the people's right to equality in education.

Make no mistake about it, unless the people rise in struggle to defend and expand their right to a modern education, the capitalists and the government will destroy our public schools.