Privatization of Basic Education Is Not a Solution

In a previous post in this blog, Lessons and Myths on Basic Education, the following myth was highlighted: Private schools are better than public schools.

Above figure copied from "18 Myths People Believe About Education"
If 37% of charter schools perform below and 46% perform as well as public schools then only 17% perform better. Why some people have the impression that private or charter schools perform better than public schools is due to not seeing the big picture.

Schools can provide the illusion of being superior by controlling its enrollment. By being selective, requiring entrance exams and interviews, for example, so that only the students who have strong background can enroll, schools can indeed appear to be doing a good job in education. This is what business looks like, ensuring that an enterprise only gets the best of the starting material. Having only those who are strongly motivated right at the beginning, having only those who already have a good vocabulary as well as number skills, and having only those children who have parents who are equally engaged in their children's education certainly provide an atmosphere more conducive to a successful education. The big picture, however, is that this practice then forces public schools to work with a more challenging student population, not to mention the fact that private schools may only seem performing well because these have been limited to motivated students.

Quality basic education needs to be delivered to all children. Otherwise, a democratic society can not function properly. It is this public benefit that works against privatization which often works on principles of profit or efficiency. Privatization can operate to achieve excellence but not equity. Only public schools can. Only a school that does not discriminate can. Only a school that neither looks at a parent's income nor a child's intelligence quotient can provide equity in basic education. Privatization can begin tracking of children, dividing them into groups as early as kindergarten. It splits society into at least two classes: the well-to-do and the needy. Ironically, in this system, schools with well-to-do children receive more while schools that serve children who are in need, schools that require greater support will receive less.

Equity is key to solving problems in basic education. Unfortunately, privatization often works against equity. Charter schools and private schools may help, as mentioned by Diane Ravitch in her book The Reign of Error:
SOLUTION NO. 5 Ban for-profit charters and charter chains and ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children.
These schools may help, but only if these schools work together with public schools. A charter or private school that works exclusively on children who have special needs, for example, can help lift some of the the enormous burden public schools have to carry. Obviously, a private school that selects only the children who are easier to teach does more harm than help to a public school system.