School Privatizers Restructure State of Iowa to Seize Public Funds

School privatizers and their political representatives are relentless in their efforts to restructure the state along neoliberal lines so as to restrict democracy and funnel more public funds into private hands. Privatization is a main mechanism for enriching major owners of capital, eliminating democratic arrangements, and degrading the public interest in the context of a continually failing economy. Privatization allows neoliberals to temporarily avert the law of the falling rate of profit under capitalism.

Recently, the Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, signed a law that significantly increases the ability of major owners of capital to siphon public funds from public schools by creating more charter schools while also eliminating long-standing democratic arrangements, namely local school control over what happens in local school districts.

Under the new law, neoliberals seeking to privately appropriate public money can circumvent local public school boards and apply directly to the State Board of Education to start a charter school operated by unelected individuals.

The public has no say over this or what happens to the taxes they pay.

The new law no longer requires the approval of privately-operated charter schools by local school districts and sets the stage for even less accountability and transparency from charter school operators. The new law will further deprive Iowa’s public schools of much-needed funds produced by working people.

Through such top-down actions, the governor and other representatives of the rich refuse to take action to fully-fund and support Iowa’s public schools and have instead decided to make families and students fend-for-themselves when it comes to getting an education. This chaos and anarchy will be unleashed in the name of “choice” and “empowering parents.”

Currently, there are only two charter schools in Iowa. This number will increase rapidly now that the door has been opened to more effortlessly establishing neoliberal school arrangements. It is much easier for privatizers to get approval from one high-level state authority (e.g., the State Board of Education) than it is from trying to get approval from one of dozens or hundreds of local state authorities like public schools.

There are 100,000 public schools in the U.S. and they are governed by school boards comprised of publicly elected individuals. School boards are a main form of elected governance that neoliberals and privatizers are desperate to eliminate because “too much democracy” hinders privatization and the elimination of the public interest. Neoliberals and privatizers want the public to believe that the triumph of their capital-centered will over the public will is in the best interest of humanity.

Far from solving any problems though, privatization intensifies inequality, reduces efficiency, lessens transparency, increases corruption, raises costs, diminishes workers’ voices, lowers the quality of services, takes money out of the economy, and undermines the general interests of society. It is through these antisocial arrangements and methods that owners of capital are able to seize large sums of public wealth to temporarily counteract the law of the falling rate of profit under capitalism.

It won’t be long before the public begins to hear of the scandals, poor performance, segregation, arrests, fraud, and corruption that invariably accompany charter schools. Speaking up now and planning new forms of action with analysis to advance the public interest are critical. Privatizers and neoliberals are not invincible, they can be defeated. But even when they are defeated people must be vigilant to ensure that privatizers and neoliberals do not succeed in any future attempts to violate the public interest.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.