“Fast Tracking” the Privatization of Public Education: Who’s in Favor?


(Here’s a beginning roster of who favors it: Lamar, Arne, Pearson, Apollo Inc, the National Governors Association, ALEC, and the Brookings Institute).

Congress today voted whether or not to “fast track” a decision about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is free trade on steroids.  According to Robert Reich:

“It would be the largest trade deal in history —involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret … The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets … Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations.”

According to one report involving TPP and the National Governors Association, “This agenda includes the completion and implementation of new trade agreements including the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other nations. Once completed, TPP will give American businesses free trade arrangements with 40 percent of global GDP.”

I’d like to provide you with more details but I can’t because the negotiations are being made in a basement room of the Capitol and members are required not to disclose any information to anyone including the media. This is a secret negotiation with global ramifications.

Washington BAT Don Bunger points out that, “Under the NAFTA–Trans Pacific Partnership Tribunal which will run by and staffed only by Corporations, neither the Supreme Court of the US, the House and Senate in DC, POTUS  and no state legislature will be able to refuse Pearson being able to be the de facto test preparer for every state, a status that it now enjoys.”

How does TPP work? For starters, “500 corporations and banks sit on advisory committees with access to various chapters.”  ALEC has crafted model legislation asking legislators to “fast track” TPP, see here.  We have indeed gone down the rabbit hole when ALEC and President Obama want the same thing.

And educators fighting against corporate reform and privatization of our democratic institution (formerly known as public education) should be worried. Because this has everything to do with the privatization of education. ALEC’s interest in fast tracking TPP is motivating for them on every front and across every industry … and education is not excluded. ALEC model legislation pushes for more privately owned charter schools and online education on an international scale, financing privately run companies like K12 Inc  and Connections Academy (both leading ALEC members), and Pearson– all of whom are developing online education models to deliver on an international scale.

Lamar Alexander who is currently crafting his own revisions to ESEA (aka NCLB) policies in tandem with Dem Patty Murray, aims to decrease federal oversight of testing and curriculum, bringing these back into the hands of the states. I am all for de-clawing the federal government from dictating education policy and the elimination of federally mandated standardized testing. And yet, given how easily state senators, congressmen, governors, and policy–makers can be bought and sold by the corporate interests who fund their political campaigns, I wonder whether or not Alexander knew how easily his reforms would fit within the TPP framework.

Alexander has been a supporter of the expansion of charter schools and privatizing public education, all the while promoting fewer tests and state level control. Such contradictions give me pause for concern. See Senator Alexander’s views on School Choice in his own words here.

Alexander supports the effort to fast track TPP (fast tracking would make it nearly impossible to renegotiate or alter once it’s in place).

Apollo Education Group has also provided political funding to Lamar Alexander over the years. I am sure their economic interests will be well served by their investment in shaping his policies. Online education corporations are international in scope. New state level reforms could easily fold business contracts to deliver classroom instruction, curriculum, and state level tests via these corporations.

The National Governor’s Association (famed for its creation and promotion of the Common Core standards) also supports fast tracking TPP.  After all, they suggest “It will ensure U.S. businesses in every state can access more global markets with fewer barriers.”

Arne Duncan favors negotiations via TPP as well. Discussions have been underway for some time about how the global education market can be expanded. Singapore’s Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat “met with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on greater cooperation on education issues. This important collaboration bolsters one of the strongest aspects of our relation­ship, educational exchanges. The education MOU leverages our complementary strengths to identify ways we can equip our young people with the tools and knowledge they need to face a changing global economy.”

also favors fast tracking of the TPP. They state,

“The business case for corporate engagement is compelling: a well-educated and skilled workforce is crucial to corporate competitiveness and to national growth, particularly in our knowledge-based, globalized 21st-century economy. Private sector involvement within the education sector has until now largely taken place under the banner of corporate social responsibility, with activities among companies often fragmented.”

This Brookings report cite the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as the vehicle through which corporations can take a more central role in developing and delivering (profiting from) global education programs. Of course then it is no surprise that both Pearson and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation represent the private sector through this mechanism. Fast tracking TPP certainly supports the GPE goal of “investment in private companies that are committed to original approaches and learning outcomes for economically disadvantaged children brings new capital into the education sector” where free trade is completely unhinged from any sort of regulatory bodies which might protect people over profits. Or in sugar-coated crap language, Brookings states it another way: “A core strength of the private sector is its ability to finance innovation, testing the viability of new approaches and models, and taking them to scale without long bureaucratic delays.”

Achieve Inc promoted an event in their 2010 monthly newsletter highlighting Sir Michael Barber (CEO at Pearson) and Michael Fullan who co-chaired an international education summit in Toronto, Canada “designed to stimulate ideas, invoke creativity and foster innovation” called The Building Blocks for Education: Whole System Reform. This international summit examined four key areas: standards and targets; assessments and use of data; capacity building and the development of the teaching profession; and, leadership development and sustainability.

Charter schools are often also international in scope. In fact New Zealand Post Primary Teacher’s Association seemed concerned about this they included it in their recommendations:

“That the Select Committee seek to provide New Zealanders with assurances that a future sovereign government will not be prevented by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement from closing a charter school, should voters determine to end the experiment.”

Indeed, with TPP these multinational education industries which Alexander, ALEC and other corporate reformers endorse will have a fast track toward global privatization of public education. Maybe they’ve got an insiders view into those secret basement meetings that we don’t have. And our national public education system can be easily outsourced.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

3 thoughts on ““Fast Tracking” the Privatization of Public Education: Who’s in Favor?

  1. So I just will end up teaching my grandchildren in a home school environment or in any way necessary so they will have age appropriate and test appropriate education that is not determined by large corporations that see children as money makers.

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