Privatizing destroys the American Dream

Source: Paul Jampol, Wicked Newton, November 3, 2016

At this moment a battle is raging in Newton, pitting the School Committee against the school custodians. Essentially, the committee wants to privatize custodial work, washing its hands of the current custodians and their union. In this manner, custodial work, argues the committee, will be cheaper, leaving more money for improving education. This is a devilish argument, its premise a cruel fact: privatized workers earn much lower salaries and get few if any benefits and protections. Their companies are almost always non-unionized; the employees lie at the mercy of their managers’ whims. Typically, workers in such companies have a much higher rate of turnover and a much grimmer future. … Remember the disastrous results when many states decided to privatize their prisons. The idea: private corporations, being more efficient than public institutions, would run prisons at lower cost, saving the state money. The result: prison mismanagement, including the hiring of unqualified and untrained prison personnel, and mistreatment of prisoners. After a decade, most states have returned to managing prisons themselves. A parallel process is occurring in the privatization of American schools, led by the Charter School movement. Some charters, of course, are technically “public” in that they are nominally under the supervision of local school boards. Usually, though, the teachers are non-union and the administrators armed with nearly arbitrary power to hire and fire. Due process? Grievance? They are often thrown out the window in this brave new world of education. … In the meantime, Newton ought to keep its school community intact, without creating different tiers of workers: city employees who receive ethical treatment and proper remuneration, and privatized workers on a much lower salary scale. At the same time, both government and the private sector must consider more than the bottom line: do we want a country of haves and have-nots or a nation with a strong, secure middle class? Beware of cost-cutting measures that also place the American Dream beyond the reach of millions of Americans. …