How Money in Politics Turns
Education into a For-Profit Business
Rising costs, declining quality
Have you noticed that the quality of our schooling has declined? From kindergarten through graduate school, we spend more on education than we ever have, but the quality continues to decay.
U.S. students, who were once considered the best in the world, trail far behind their peers in other countries. How far behind? We’re in 21st place. There are 20 countries in the world with better education than ours, but our spending dwarfs nearly everyone else’s.
Why are we spending so much and getting so little? Why are we setting our kids up for failure? And why will this be the first generation in American history whose prospects for a bright future have dimmed?
The reason is elementary: Money has corrupted our government.
Can we compete in the future?
Nationwide, we owe more in student debt than we do on our credit cards – a record high average of $25,250 per student (this has nearly doubled since 1996). Our universities are riddled with waste and price gouging. Meanwhile, our K-12 children’s teachers often have to buy their own supplies, cutting into their already anemic salaries.
Charter schools have attempted to offer an alternative, but 700 of them are run by for-profit companies, and more are heading that way every day – a trend that’s good for business, but bad for students. In the face of recurring funding crises for education, society continues to cleave into those who can afford private school for their children, and those who can’t.
Local policies cater to campaign contributors
We tend to think of education policy as a national problem, but the influence of money on education policy is pervasive down to the state and local levels. The people of Ohio got a taste of it this year when, according to an eye-opening article from The Columbus Dispatch, the new state budget was curiously tailored to benefit a for-profit charter school magnate. No matter where you stand on charter schools, it’s tough to argue the merits of funneling taxpayer money into the pockets of a business tycoon and calling it “public education.”
A similar plot is unfolding in New Jersey, as Governor Chris Christie pushes for policy that directly benefits the for-profit school industry that was formerly his employer.
Profits over performance
The budding and controversial subprime college industry is already funneling millions of dollars into the 2012 presidential race, shaping policy as they go. These for-profit school corporations’ past contributions have secured them 25 percent of all publicly-funded Pell Grants, while they enroll just 9 percent of all college students and barely do their job of educating students – 60 percent of the students in some of these schools drop out within the first year. Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit currently under heavy investigation in at least six states, received at least 89 percent of its revenue from federal taxpayer dollars — totaling $1.4 billion.
A policy problem across the political spectrum
Federal education policies worsen under both Democrats and Republicans because much of the policy-making around education is being driven by the financial sector. Why? Because the financial sector holds most student debt – and wants to profit off of it.
In 2010, the financial sector donated over $318 million to congressional campaigns, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Politicians depend on this money to stay in power, and they know that in order to keep the money coming in, their policy-making must keep the donors happy.
As long as financial institutions, unions, and special interests fund our campaigns and think tanks, then our politicians will be beholden to them. That means that the only way to really restructure our educational policies is to get money out of politics. We need to let the facts decide, not the cash.
If you care about our future, our children’s future, and American education, you should care about money in politics.
It’s time to declare: Education is Not For Sale
Get the facts about money in politics and education
- During the 2008 election cycle, the education industry contributed nearly $58 million dollars at the federal level. Source: OpenSecrets
- Of that $58 million, around 40 percent of it went to presidential candidate Barack Obama. Source: OpenSecrets
- In 2011, ten profit-earning educational institutions spent around $12 million on lobbyists. All ten of these companies earn their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Source: OpenSecrets
- As of the end of 2011, the total amount of national student debt has surpassed $1 trillion. Source: ThinkProgress
- The tuition and fees associated with higher education has nearly sextupled since 1985. Source: ThinkProgress
- Republic Report: Sen. Rubio Supports Veterans Education Bill Despite For-Profit College Lobbyists “Hammering” His Office
- Republic Report: Exclusive: The Blueprint Of The For-Profit College Newspeak Campaign
- Republic Report: Romney Has Some Great Friends Who Are For-Profit College Owners
- Republic Report: Controversial For-Profit College Industry Gets Half of All Funds From Vets Tuition Program
- The Nation: How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools