Tag Archives: proprietary schools

Can We Spell “Predatory”?

It’s all about the money…..

Jeff Sessions just reversed an Obama Administration policy that would have ended the Justice Department’s use of private prisons. Studies by the DOJ had concluded that private prisons compared “poorly” to prisons run by the government; one damning report found that privately run facilities were more dangerous than those run by the Bureau.

I’ve previously written about the numerous reasons privatized prisons are a bad idea. For one thing, companies running them actively engage in lobbying for harsh policies and longer sentences.intended to protect and grow their profits.

Government spending on corrections has soared since 1997 by 72 percent, up to $74 billion in 2007. And the private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue.

According to the Justice Policy Institute, the three main private prison companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts.

The administration is also rolling back enforcement and monitoring of the numerous abuses by predatory for-profit colleges.  Trump has appointed Jerry Falwell Jr., of all people, to head up an effort to “deregulate” such institutions. “Deregulation” will  include new rules on teacher education, a new federal definition of a credit hour, and regulations that require consumer protections for students. Other targets include measures intended to ensure that these schools are actually providing students with marketable skills:  the gainful-employment regulation and the borrower-defense-to-repayment rule. Falwell has a clear conflict of interest, since any reduction in oversight will benefit his own university.

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos continues to promote educational vouchers– what she euphemistically calls “school choice”–despite mounting evidence that they cheat both children and taxpayers. Doug Masson reports on the research (emphasis mine):

There has really never been strong evidence showing that voucher students do better than students attending traditional public schools. And, recent studies, show that they probably do worse. Given that traditional public schools add value to the community over and above the individual educations they provide to the students who attend, we should conclude and begin unwinding this voucher experiment. To improve public schools, we should look to systems in other countries that are outperforming ours and seek to emulate those things they are doing better…

Researchers examined an Indiana voucher program that had quickly grown to serve tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.

The next came from Louisiana where:

They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point.

Finally, Ohio, where a study financed by the pro-voucher Waltons concluded, “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.” Massachusetts seems to have a more successful program than Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio, but it is marked by “nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.”

In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.

There is overwhelming evidence that private prisons are a dangerous scam. Proprietary colleges rip off taxpayers while obscenely overcharging the students they fail to educate. Vouchers are a thinly-disguised subsidy for religious schools and a profit center for politically-connected “entrepreneurs.”

What’s that song from Cabaret? Money makes the world go ’round.

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