October 23, 2013

Maine Voices: New robber barons target education

Federal funds are being used to help students pay tuition to private education companies, while investors reap the profits.

By Ardis Cameron

(Continued from page 1)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ardis Cameron is a professor of American and New England studies at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

Shifting public funds to support private profits is nothing new, of course, but to make it a central part of educational policy is nothing short of revolutionary. For the “first time in history,” educational scholar Diane Ravitch notes, the government is actively creating programs that will stimulate “private sector investors to create for-profit ventures in American education.”

More barbecue sauce, anyone?

While we tend to think of revolutions as noisy uprisings from below, this radical return to the free market philosophies of the Gilded Age is actually the product of a 40-year campaign to systematically reduce public expenditures by privatizing public services with market “incentives” and in the name of global “realities.”

Known as New Public Management, the push to harness public education to a so-called free market economy has become so embedded in political and popular discourse that it’s often difficult to remember that students are not hamburgers and universities are not factories.

We can use public funds to invest in public universities. We can damn the public or endow its future.

— Special to the Press Herald

 

Because of a columnist's error, a Maine Voices column on page E2 on Sunday misstated two characteristics of Education Management Corporation. Although the company's stock price has risen by 670 percent so far this year, its earnings are down. It also owns several colleges with physical campuses.

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