Philly students testify against privatization

In its Summer 2002 issue, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent quarterly newspaper, provided excerpts from statements by public school students. The students were among the dozens who spoke against privatization at a School Reform Commission meeting earlier this year. The students’ testimony makes it clear that privatization brings about disaster for our schools.

Sonia Isard of the Philadelphia Student Union called privatization “actively undemocratic,” since “corporations are not accountable to citizens because citizens don’t have the power to influence decision-making in corporations.” She noted that, “aspects of my education, under privatization, would be controlled by people involved for the profit motive and not because they care about my education.”

Isard described the main Student Union position: “We want parents, students, teachers and those most affected to control our schools. We want our local government to control our schools. We do not want private corporations involved.”

Isard closed by saying that, since corporations are not accountable to the voter, “when a public service like education moves out of the public sector and into private hands, the democratic process is threatened.”

“Anyone who supports change knows that education management organizations are a change – a change for the worse,” testified Philadelphia Student Union’s Jacob Winterstein. Those politicians who, instead of fighting for funding, “pass the buck and separate children by class and race … are no better than supporters who vouched for separate and unequal schools in the 1960s.”

Jesenia Nieves of Youth United for Change summarized the corporate style, “From what I know so far, Edison Schools, Inc., is a private corporation with their own curriculum, their own teaching style, their own ideas, and our money.” She said that we need local control, since “we cannot hold shareholders accountable to our education.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org