Our society, as a whole, has been heading toward a decentralized system of conducting its affairs. Large corporations have been getting larger , meanwhile governments have been giving up increasing amounts of their control. This decentralization has affected even former mainstays of government control, such as phone and power companies. As decentralization becomes more of a reality, there has been a great deal of debate over what controls the government should maintain or relinquish.
The public school system has long been a source of frustration. Many feel the schools would be run more efficiently and with better results if privately run companies were to take over. They feel that with the existing large, encumbering bureaucracy, the government is simply unable to provide the proper base that is necessary to support a successful school system.
The proponents of privatized school systems have long maintained that governments are not as knowledgeable about individual school environments as those who and they have to manage many schools, whereas the owners of a specific private subsidized school would be well informed about the school's circumstances and can concentrate on that school alone. They say that the governments role should become that of regulator, not schoolmaster, and that since the private schools do not face the political constraints that the municipal governments face,they would be more able to adapt to change.
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Since the operation of public schools is more bureaucratic and centralized than private subsidized schools, it is expected to inhibit rather than promote educational innovation. Private schools, being less bureaucratic and more decentralized, are expected to be more efficient organizations and to have a better perspective than their public school counterparts. They are also expected to provide a greater incentive and opportunity to come up with more innovative programs than public schools in order to stay competitive.
Bureaucracy is expected to hinder initiative and efficiency, whereas the private sector in general is expected to be more dynamic and responsive because of their need to stay competitive. It is hoped that this competitiveness will foster innovation.
On the other side of the debate is the group that favors continued government control over the school system. They argue that privatizing the schools would lead to a decreased focus on the needs of the children with an increased emphasis placed on the bottom line. They maintain that the companies taking over for the government would focus their attention more on cutting corners to make larger profits rather than on the education of children.
With continued government control over the school system, there will remain a stability that is necessary to insure a full and equal educational opportunity for all. Having the education system privatized would create inequalities in the method that education would be provided. Those who oppose privatization agree that not only would municipal control maintain stability, but would also ensure fair and equal teatment for all. The same would not hold true if the schools were placed in private hands. Schools that do not make a profit along with teachers that are no longer needed would simply let go in order to save money or maintain profits.
I can see that there are several benefits on both sides. The economic benefits are obviously in favor of a decentralized school structure. There be no bureaucracy to wade through to make the simplest decisions, in the system would allow teachers to make important ground level decisions as they see fit. This increased efficiency includes many benefits, but with what cost?
What about the special needs children, or the under privileged, will the private companies take care of them? What happens when these companies don't make enough money on a school, will they close it down? The children whose schools have been closed will have to travel further and further just to get to school, if they even go. Maybe there should just be mega-schools were ten schools are combined into one, all to save the managing company money.
With government control, there may not be efficiency but there is some stability. That is the important thing. Companies can open and close their doors in a day, but schools are more important than companies. Education is the key to our futures, can we afford to gamble with what is a stake?
The government must become more efficient at doing its job in managing our schools, and business has proven itself to be efficient. Maybe there is a way to combine the two and receive the best of both worlds.
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