Saturday, September 10, 2022

FL: Endgame In Sight; Heritage Foundation Says Yay

Governor Ron DeSantis just announced his intention for the next step in dismantling public education in Florida; he wants to expand the education savings accounts, the super-vouchers that hand parents a chunk of money on a debit card that they can spend on pretty much anything educational or education-adjacent. 

Not that this is remotely a surprise. Type Florida in the search bar at the top of this blog and look at all the many, many ways Florida's leaders have worked to dismantle public education and sell off the parts, and every step brings them closer to the far right ideal of not just privatizing education, but privatizing it in the setting of an unregulated market, removing government from any involvement in education at all. 

DeSantis made his little speech as part of a victory lap. The Heritage Foundation, a right wing organization with strong ties to every right wing operation you can think of. They've decided to start doing an annual Education Freedom Report Card, organized around the search for a state that has most perfectly realized Milton Friedman's vision of education completely managed by an unregulated free market with government providing zero public education. Friedman also imagined that such a system would be free of discrimination of any sort because, when it came to education and society in general, Friedman was a dope. But his vision has always provided a cover for all sorts of people who want to dismantle public education for all sorts of reasons. "I'm just following the natural laws of economic reality," sounds so much better than, "I don't to pay taxes to fund schools for all those poor kids."

Anyway. The first year of the Heritage Report Card produced a clear winner-- Florida. And the explanation of the report card produces a clear picture of what these folks want in general and what Florida has accomplished in particular. 

We're well into the next phase. Don't call them "reformers" or even "disruptors." Now they're just plain old dismantlers.

1) Education choice. This asks how much a centrally accountable public ed system has been replaced with an open market in which parents have to pick and choose an educational program on their own. Arizona, with its universal ESAs, wins the category.

2) Regulatory freedom. How well has the government shredded any kind of accountability measures? No Common Core tests is a winner, but beyond, we're looking for no regulations at all, including the new frontier in unregulated teaching certification. The foundation calls requirements for professional certification "barriers to teaching," much like FDA regulations are barriers to selling whatever kind of cut of whatever kind of meat in whatever kind of state. Accountability is bad.

3) Transparency. This appears to refer to the degree to which anti-education groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education have gotten ahold of the levers of power, and how well the state has done at passing various teacher gag laws. 2 and 3 really capture the true spirit of the dismantlers, who argue that private education-flavored options should operate with complete opacity, accountable to nobody, but that the public education system should operate in a fishbowl, the easier to attack it for anything and everything.

4) Return on Investment. This is some top grade bullshit here, literally computing NAEP points per dollar spent, as well as factoring unfunded teacher pension liabilities (because pensions for teachers are bad and show you haven't properly de-powered your unions). 

The Heritage Foundation has embraced the culture war because it's a useful tool for creating distrust in public education. Leading dismantlist Chris Rufo said they would. Jay Greene of the Foundation said they should.  It's a tool; they'll be pro-parent just as long as it's not parents who are pro-public education.

But in the meantime, Florida is the dream. It is approaching the final form of dismantlism.

Defund public education. Undermine it financially, while also sowing distrust and undermining taxpayer support.

End the state's responsibility for providing or overseeing a decent education for every child.

Zero accountability to taxpayers.

Parents just DIY their way through an unregulated marketplace ripe for fraud and failure.

"We gave you a couple thou on a debit card. You're not our problem now. Voucher money ran out? Not our problem. Got bilked by some fraudster? Not our problem. Got left high and dry when some edu-biz closed its doors? Not our problem. Don't have the time or expertise to navigate this mess? We're sure someone has started a business that you can pay to do it for you. Are we certifying that business as qualified and legit? Ha! Now go away."

Two quotes from Kathryn Joyce's most excellent piece about the report card capture things well. First, from Andrew Spar, who has the thankless task of being president of the Florida Education association:

This amounts, Spar continued, to "the Heritage Foundation celebrating the rankings of how well you underfund public schools, how well you dismantle public schools. I don't think we should celebrate the fact that we're shortchanging kids."

And from Carol Burris, head of the Network for Public Education:

"With this report," added Burris, "the Heritage Foundation puts its values front and forward — that schooling should be a free-for-all marketplace where states spend the least possible on educating the future generation of Americans, with no regulations to preserve quality."

Florida and Arizona lead in dismantlism--that's how they ended up at the top of the Public Education Hostility Index last year. It is now easier than ever to imagine a future in which some states have an actual public education system, and others do not. 

No comments:

Post a Comment