Erik Paulsen the Edu-Entrepreneur

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Erik Paulsen is chiesling away at the educational foundations of our nation, the ‘nuts and bolts,’ the Founders envisioned that would enlighten the ‘public mind’ and ensure public liberty’ against encroachment for the benefit of private interests. James Madison said that “Learned Institutions . . . throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

Though Paulsen says he supports public charter school alternatives, they are in fact quasi-private, eliminating transparency and accountability and programs like Common Core, Bullying Laws, Early Education, and more…

H.R.10, the “Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act” was sponsored by Minnesota Representative John Kline (R) and supported by Rep Erik Paulsen (R), MND3. Though the bill passed the House in April of 2014, it has yet to pass in the Senate. John Kline, the chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee in Congress, has consistently voted in sync with Paulsen and Michelle Bachmann against public education.

“H.R. 10 would amend and reauthorize both the Charter School Programs and the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Initiatives under Title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 through fiscal year 2020 and combine them into a single authorization. (This authorization would automatically be extended one year through 2021 under the General Education Provisions Act.) The bill would authorize the appropriation of $300 million for each of fiscal years 2015 through 2021 for grants to states to develop and expand charter school facilities and to public and private nonprofit entities to develop means of enhancing credit to finance the construction and renovation of charter schools.”

It would not, however, provide for any appropriation for ‘public’ schools.

Public and private nonprofit entities:

There is a difference between a public and a public-benefit nonprofit corporation[1] is a type of nonprofit corporation chartered by a state government, and organized primarily or exclusively for social, educational, recreational or charitable purposes by like-minded citizens. Public-benefit nonprofit corporations are distinct in the law from mutual-benefit nonprofit corporations in that they are organized for the general public benefit, rather than for the interest of its members. They are also distinct in the law from religious corporations. A strictly Public non-profit organization obtains most or all of their financial support through donations they receive from the general public.

The National Education Association weighed in on H.R. 10 requesting greater accountability and transparency. Though the NEA supports Charter Schools in addition to public schools, the NEA says it is clear that public school funding and existing public schools will not in any way be advantaged by a bill that props up one form of education against another. The NEA cited the following problems that the bill does not address:

•   Charter schools must enact stronger accountability
•   Open meetings and conflict of interest guidelines
•   Public disclosure on student attrition and demographics
•   Not penalizing states with charter caps which would prohibit funding to other public schools
•   Financial oversight and transparency

“Parents across America,” a national group opposed H.R. 10 and characterized charter schools as “mostly boondoggles that direct scarce public education dollars away from the neediest children and into the pockets of hedge funders and edu-entrepreneurs.”

Paulsen’s education votes in the Minnesota Legislature from 2006 to 2008 provide even more perspective on his education agenda: he failed to vote on one single education budget bill during those years. More telling is that he did not even vote on education budget bills for two consecutive years.

Paulsen usually refers to educational reform, which for all intents means giving public dollars to quasi private and private schools, by using buzz words like ‘smaller classrooms,’ and ‘failing schools.’ Yet, he isn’t interested in fixing the current public school system. His support for alternative educational choices like charter or voucher programs, which use public money for schools that don’t follow federal guidelines, transparency or accountability, is the direct route to privatization.

The buzz word Paulsen does not use in his forays on the superiority of ‘school choice’ and charter schools is ‘tax’ in relation to who would wind up paying for school choices like private schools, parochial schools, or home schooling. All are on the table, regardless of whether it is the choice of taxpayers, it would be at the taxpayers’ expense.

In 2013 the House passed H.R. 5 ‘The Student Success Act’ which decrees a prohibition against federal mandates and control. Kline, Bachmann and Paulsen supported the bill on a party-line vote. No Democrat in Congress supported the bill.

According to EdLibertyWatch, a conservative local Minnesota non-profit watch-dog group, they support non-public education without government interference.

Sourcewatch indicates that EdLibertyWatch was instrumental in changing curriculum in public schools and “opposes occupational and workforce retraining programs that target poor, disadvantaged, and low-skills wage earners, as well as job retraining programs that Minnesota established to help retrain workers unemployed by changes in jobs and occupations in a modernizing workforce.”

The “Sense of Congress” amendment to HR 5 introduced by John Kline (R) was passed by 231 of 234 Republicans on a party line vote which places public education in the domain of local control. “States and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.”

If we’re to acknowledge and implement Madison’s  belief that democracy is dependent on an educated populace against “crafty and dangerous encroachments on public liberty,” and fast-forward to our nation today, we would have to redefine ‘public liberty’ as a value in terms of the Republican goal to undermine it.

• The Republican goal is to use to privatize public education and divert taxpayer dollars to private education
• Erik and other Republicans are free market proponents and believe that private is inherently superior to ‘public’
• The goal of Republicans is to drastically reduce the public sector
• Privatizing public education undermines teacher unions
• Privatization rhetoric, like referring to Charters as public, is a way to attract African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party

While serving in Congress Paulsen has shown that he strongly favors voucher programs and charter schools for ‘school choice.’

• ‘Charter schools’ are publicly-funded and publicly-controlled schools which are privately run. They are usually required to adhere to fewer district rules than regular public schools.”

• ‘Vouchers’ are a means of implementing school choice — parents are given a ‘voucher’ by the school district, which entitles them to, say, $4,000 applicable to either public school or private school tuition. The value of the voucher is generally lower than the cost of one year of public education (which averages $5,200), so private schools (where tuition averages $8,500) may require cash payment in addition to the voucher.”

The ‘School Choice’ buzz related to school districts permitting parents the option of attending schools, other than public schools, which could include private schools, parochial schools, and home schooling is at taxpayers’ expense. Taxpayer funding of parochial schools violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. Taxpayer funding of private schools essentially subsidizes parents who are paying for private schools themselves, whereas the average public school family wouldn’t be able to afford it. Subsidizing families who can afford the private school of their choice represents a political, ethicial and moral conflict.

K-12 education statistics are clear: if you continue to chisel away at taxpayer funded public education, at some point in the future, control will fall into private hands. The result of that would be no U.S. standards; instead there would be state and local standards, a hodge podge of educational criteria that will be difficult to gauge on a national level.

• Total spending is $260 billion, (7% federal; the rest split state & local) rising by 5% per year.
• Student population is 50 million, rising slowly (1 million per year) since 1984.
• Public school spending is $5,200 per student, staying about even with inflation.
• Parochial school costs $4,200 per student, not discounting church-provided buildings & other subsidies.
• Private school costs $8,500 per student, not discounting scholarships or other financial aid.
• 90% attend public schools; about 6 million attend private & parochial schools.
• 78% of schools have Internet access; 97% plan to by the year 2000.
• 27% of classrooms have Internet access; lower in poor and minority schools.

This is Erik Paulsen’s goal as a free marketer whose disdain for the public sector is evidenced in his voting record. And contrary to the conservative notion that anything that’s ‘public’ is disastrous for, ironically, the public, the ‘school choice’ movement in Congress represents the “nuts and bolts” of disassembling the public school system, rather than invest/improve on the existing model. The consequences of publicly funding quasi-private, private and parochial schools would result in less control, not more, in the hands of private hedge funders and “edu-entrepreneurs.”