One way to consider who benefits from the corporatization of public schools is to analyze how corporate education is structured. The structure of education organizes, but not necessarily determines, certain educational outcomes. Frequently we hear that corporate schooling will raise kids’ educational achievement. But what happens when public schools are seen as a market by corporations? The restructuring of educational services as a market, alters the “customer” of education and in whose “interest” the service is provided. The customer of a privatized educational market is stockholders, not children, nor their parents.
In terms of the relationship between traditional funding structure of public schools and achievement, higher average educational achievement generally rises as the average per pupil expenditure rises. In other words, educational researchers have found that schools that receive more per pupil funding often enjoy higher academic achievement among their students than schools who receive less funding. There are some glowing exceptions to this trend.
However, transforming public education in order to, in Bill Gates’ words “unleash a market” to stakeholders in educational service providing companies, alters the beneficiary of education from children/parents to stakeholders. Because of this, teachers will be eliminated. This is why: Corporate profits increase as costs are reduced and while sufficient demand remains constant or rises. The demand for educational materials will level off or show only mild increases in student population, once the monopoly on educational materials has taken hold. Once the monopoly of educational materials evens out–stockholders will no longer be reaping increasing profits. This means that there must be continued cuts in the cost of teaching and instruction to keep stockholders happy. This is why the push for online instruction in so pervasive. The sales pitch used to gain public buy-in to the private chartered schooling concentrates on ideas of rising achievement and ignores how important teachers–real caring human beings with whom kids communicate–are in kids’ lives.
The structure of corporately-organized education requires that stakeholders increase their investment. No matter how fantastic or dismal the quality of public education, corporate school stakeholders gain when teacher salaries are increasingly lowered, school funding rises and there are monopolies of providers of educational services, (e.g. publishers, test providers, hardware, software, media, etc). Educational material providers’ stakeholders gain when their companies monopolize curricula, online instruction and testing. Those that financially benefit, whether or not children’s achievement raises, are investors in computer hardware and software companies, publishers, test providers and school “service” corporations. Note that such “services” do not include school social workers, counselors, vocational services, nurses, lunch providers, and the like.
Recipients of public education, children and their parents, cannot return the damaged goods of their child’s experience of a narrowing curriculum and high stake testing and receive a new one. In other words, kids, taxpayers and parents have a less voice and power upon stakeholders in the minds of corporate executives because the product of education, children’s learning, does not actually have to directly impact the financial bottom line.