Richard Corcoran sees the enemy and it is us, he says. Corcoran’s speech to the legislature tried to capture the moral high ground. He spoke of family struggles and successes. He called for measures to control undue collusion between legislators, lobbyists and special interests. And then, he got down to business. He specifically turned to privatization of education and health care.
He began by advocating for unlimited school choice regardless of whether schools are public or private. Directly funding private schools from the legislature is unconstitutional, but he would put in term limits for judges so the court could change membership to better reflect current political whims. Corporate tax credit scholarships are now capped at an income of $63,000 for a family of four. Evidently this could change yet again and support private school tuition for the wealthy. New York’s legislature tried that ploy in its last session but fairness prevailed, and it was defeated.
Equally ominous was his call for legislators to act on their (or his) convictions. The enemy to progress, he says, is the legislature itself. It is easy to agree. When he says, however, “We can lead from principles. We can forge and fight for out philosophy”, think about that. What he does not say is that the legislature represents different and often competing interests which require flexibility and compromise in order to ensure fairness. What philosophy will govern us if he succeeds in totally privatizing schools and health care–winner take all?
There is an inherent contradiction between privatization and the public interest. Finding a reasonable balance between the two is what governing is supposed to do. Endorsing a philosophy of privatization that somehow is free of self interest denies experience. Corcoran might well study the example of the federal government’s experience with privatizing prisons. Skimming from the top reduced the adequacy of health care, food, and fairness, thus making a bad situation worse.
Our state is already experiencing similar problems with its attempts to privatize education. There is yet another lawsuit against for-profit charter schools who are as Senator Gaetz stated, ‘self dealing’. Fiscal irresponsible duplication of schools run by entrepreneurs seeking to cash in on kids does not solve the underlying inequities low income neighborhoods face. They make a bad problem worse. Even supporters now acknowledge the increases in resegregation and violations of civil rights due to school choice.
Our legislature can do better. They can support district efforts to balance school populations racially and economically. They can restore funding to extend the school day and summer school. They can reduce the impact of accountability policies that shift resources to areas that already thrive. Take for example, Bright Futures Scholarships that got too expensive to sustain. The legislature increased standards to lower costs which meant fewer lower income, minority children would qualify. Yet, there were unwilling to make scholarships need based. Lottery payments that go to schools with high achievement test scores located in higher income areas is a similar example of money generated largely, it is reported, from low income families. Finally, the legislature can restore capital outlay funding for districts with aging schools many of which tend to be in low income areas. This is the moral high ground.