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The privatization of K-12 public education is a multi-faceted issue. In one of its forms, school districts sell advertising space on school district property, such as school buses. In another of its forms, school districts contract with companies to provide specific services, which range from running a school lunch program to operating an entire school.

Selling Advertising Space on School District Property

Selling advertising space on school property evokes heated arguments from many groups. Those who support it point to the limited budgets that many school districts face and the money that can be generated from private advertising to supplement these budgets. This increased funding, according to proponents, can be used to support instruction, athletics or other student activities.

Critics argue that allowing companies to sell advertising space on school district property provides private companies with inappropriate access to students and commercializes public property. Opponents also believe that by signing exclusive contracts with companies, school districts appear to endorse specific products and assist companies in gaining brand name loyalty from students.

Privatizing K-12 Education Services

Proponents believe that private companies can achieve economies of scale and greater efficiencies in the operation of public schools, and then devote the money obtained through these gains to improve teaching and learning. Supporters further assert that privatizing K-12 public education services frees schools from the constraints of a public bureaucracy and thus allows them to be more innovative. According to supporters, it increases the variety of schools within a community, which, when comibined with providing parents the opportunity to choose the most appropriate school for their children, forces schools to improve the quality of education services that they provide or risk losing students. Furthermore, low-performing schools with declining enrollments will be forced to close, thus increasing the overall quality of public education in a community.

Opponents believe that private companies operating public schools will make decisions based on increasing profits as opposed to improving teaching and learning. Critics also fear that in order to achieve cost savings, private companies will reduce staff or hire cheaper personnel. In addition, opponents feel that the distribution of taxpayer money to private companies is a misuse of public funds. From their perspective, while privatizing education services may help struggling schools stay afloat, it also may create private education monopolies with little or no accountability to the general public. Other critics assert that allowing private companies to provide education services diminishes a school’s ability to pass on civic values and democracy and replaces it with a system focused on individual needs where teaching is a product and parents are the consumers.

 

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