For many years now, privatization of public education has been ongoing in different parts of the world. This issue takes different forms. Catlaks and Dekoning claim that this practice has been taking place in two forms under the name of making education reforms. The first form involves importing practices, ideas and techniques from private schools to public schools so that public education can be more businesslike. The second form involves allowing the private sector to be part of public education on a for-profit basis as well as using this sector to deliver, design and control various aspects of public education. This second form may extend to policies and programs as well (Catlaks and Dekoning 151).
From a public administration perspective, this move is ill-informed because private sector cannot manage education effectively even if there are allegations that governments have not been able to manage it properly. This research paper evaluates the said issue with the purpose of establishing its implications in public administration.
The issue of privatizing public education dates back to 1980s and early 1990s. During the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher together with Ronald Reagan embraced this move while Tony Blair in conjunction with George W. Bush embraced it in the early 1990s. In Chile, Augusto Pinochet embraced this move during his reign while in New Zealand; David Lange embraced it during his reign as well. Other parts of the world have welcomed this move, but at different paces (Walberg and Bast 233). Therefore, if this issue goes unchecked, the world all over might privatize public education. This might affect the future of our children and teachers in general.
Customarily, the difference between public and private schools is defined by funding and ownership systems. Schools that are funded and established by local or state governments are referred to as public schools. On the other hand, those schools established, managed and in some instances partly funded by individuals or private bodies are referred to as private schools. Nevertheless, this distinction is waning slowly with the way some governments partially or fully finance private schools using public funds as well as the way public schools seek additional funds through private sources (Catlaks and Dekoning 150). To a great extent, neo-liberal practices that aim at opening up education to capitalism, allowing new players into public education and giving people more choices have informed privatization of public education. These practices are somewhat misguided because private sector cannot suit perfectly in this sector.
Over the years that privatization issue has been in the public domain, the following alternatives have been proposed and some enacted. The first proposal has been to register more charter schools rather than have private sector dominate education system. This method involves funding public schools through public funds, but having private bodies that abide by certain terms to govern those schools. The private bodies in question may run public schools for a period after which the government evaluates their performances. In most cases, government may use standardized tests to evaluate the performance of these private bodies. If government and the members of the public are satisfied by the performance, then private bodies can continue for another term. On the contrary, if government and the members of the public are dissatisfied by performance of those private bodies, then the contract can be terminated. In the USA, different states have different rules and regulations that govern charter schools. However, in almost all the cases, these types of schools are exempt from hiring unionized teachers. At the same time, managing boards are permitted to hire either for-profit or nonprofit firms to run these schools. Although this alternative enjoys considerable acceptance from parents in comparison to public schools, current researches indicate that charter schools do not have a significant impact on students’ achievements (Walberg and Bast 239).
The second alternative involves contracting out services. This alternative was widely practiced and accepted in the 1990s. It involved hiring private companies to provide transport, maintain facilities and operate school cafeterias at slightly lower costs than school employees did. To a great extent, this alternative can be successful because most of these companies specialize in services they offer thereby they can provide those services at lower costs. This far the practice has attracted private investors that hire services they require and leave out those they do not require most (Walberg and Bast 236). The worst thing with this alternative is that if it was to continue, some courses such as calculus and advanced physics among others that attract relatively small number of students, but require highly paid teachers might be affected negatively.
The third alternative involves initiating privately funded scholarships for the poor students to join private schools. This alternative involves parents and guardians choosing private schools for their children while private funders pay school fees for those children. Although this alternative is a good one at this age of increased number of private schools, parents have to cater for some costs. One notable thing with this alternative is that the programs in this venture are always oversubscribed. As a result, majority of needy students may not access education if this alternative is to be adopted. In this respect, privately funded scholarships cannot serve as alternatives to public schools. Instead, they demonstrate the inequality that privatizing public education would have on poor families. The fourth option may be homeschooling. According to Walberg and Bast, the number of American parents that were homeschooling their children between 1983 and 2000 rose from 125,000 children to 1 million children. These two authors link the change to dissatisfaction with both private and public schools as well as changes in other factors such as religiosity (Walberg and Bast 244).
Just like in other areas of life, stakeholders have taken various positions on this issue. oppose it. Those who advocated for privatization claim that it will bring the most desired reforms in the education sector in terms of choices, quality of education and dealing with inadequacies in public service. Those opposed to privatization claim that privatization is profit oriented thereby it might not engage in education practices that are not profitable. Critics of privatization also claim that it will make education expensive thereby bringing more inequality in education rather than solving the current problems (John 4).
Positive and negative aspects of the policy
In terms of positive effects, privatizing public education may in a way improve education delivery. It may change the way teachers in public schools deliver education for good thereby deal with some challenges currently experienced in education sector. Apart from this, privatizing public education may help in dealing with the shortage in the number of public schools.
In terms of negative effects, privatization may deny children from poor backgrounds chances to go to school because education may become a necessity for the rich families while its value may wane in poor families. Accordingly, as opposed to bringing positive reforms in education, privatization may end up bringing negative reforms. In addition, education may lose its public worth in the sense that government may in a way ignore the benefit that education brings to the general public (Walberg and Bast 244). In essence, education may lose its competitiveness in families thereby change the way families approach it. Consequently, a small section of the members of the public may be highly educated while the rest may remain uneducated. This means that privatization may bring more inequalities in education even though parents may have opportunities to make choices about the future of their children. This notwithstanding, other vital issues in education may change for bad because private sector might be geared towards profit only.
Effects on public administration in the future
From time immemorial, governments have been responsible in managing and funding public education. Nevertheless, within the past few years there has been an increasing demand to privatize public education. Although this move looks good and admirable to some people and organizations, the future implication of this move may have dire consequences. On one hand, it might affect children and their parents. On the other hand, it might affect teachers and education sector in general. Teachers’ pay and nature of their work may be affected possibly for the worst given that there would be tendency to deny them chances to unionize. At the same time, their careers may be affected in terms of development and status (Catlaks and Dekoning 157). As a result, there might be more wrangles in teaching profession than we have today. In terms of quality, education might be affected because private schools may tend to hire teachers with meager qualifications. Children, on the other hand, may have lower chances of going to school given that education might be expensive to their parents. This notwithstanding, parents may have to spend more in educating their children. In terms of public administration, the government might not be able to deliver services to the members of public directly. As a result, the cost of education might increase as private sector try to make profit. This might increase inequality in education and in most cases affect the quality of education (Cox 72).
Inasmuch as privatizing public education may appear to be good, it changes a lot of issues in education that may have dire consequences in the future. First, it changes the way education sector is organized and managed in the sense that profit becomes the fundamental aspect that influence decisions in the sector. Second, it changes the way families approach education thereby deny education first priority in poor families. Third, rather than impacting this sector positively, it might impact it negatively thereby bring more problems as opposed to solving the current problems. Fourth, it changes career development in teaching, working conditions and teaching contracts among other issues. A combination of all these things among others may have dire consequences on education and in public administration. For these reasons, it might not be a good idea to privatize public education. Instead, the government should continue to address the current challenges in education without opting to privatize it.