Corporate America’s role in U.S. public education

To the editor:

This marks the third year that education funding has been cut to Pennsylvania public schools. Facing shrinking state funding, some school boards are exploring new ways to stretch their budgets. Unfortunately, one of the new “budgetary fads” is subcontracting the employment of the staff to private corporations.

Allowing corporate America into public education is dangerous and short-sighted. Public education is a non-profit venture that focuses on providing a quality service to our children and the community. Corporations seek contracts with school districts for one reason: To make a profit.

However, school boards can easily be duped by glitzy corporate marketing proposals into believing that private companies can do the job cheaper than district employed staff.

Here in Central Pennsylvania, district cafeteria and custodial employees in Southern Tioga, Williamsport, Mifflin County and Southern Huntingdon School District are all being threatened with being fired and subcontracted. In other parts of the state, para-educators, secretaries and teachers are facing privatization threats as well.

The research clearly shows that privatizing services ends up costing the taxpayers more in the long run and results in diminished quality of services.

Corporations often low ball their initial proposals and then raise costs and tack on other fees once they are hired. The quality of the service is also often compromised as staff is reduced and inferior products are purchased.

More importantly is the trickle down impact that privatization has on a community. Corporations make a profit by hiring employees at lower wage rates, with few benefits. As a result, tax dollars that would be ordinarily go into salaries for residents and back into the local economy, are instead going into the bank accounts of stockholders.

Many of these corporation’s employees are hired at minimum wage with little or no benefits, which means that more residents will seek public assistance, which is more costly for local taxpayers.

Not to mention that it means more children living in poverty – which can have an even greater impact on the school districts that must meet the needs of these children.

The bottom line is that privatization is not a panacea to the funding problems that school districts face and may indeed cause more long term problems for taxpayers, society and communities.

Corporate America does have a role in the future of Pennsylvania’s public education system. It is time for Gov. Corbett and the legislature to get rid of corporate tax breaks and loopholes so that corporations are forced to pay their fair share toward the public education of our children. Stopping just one corporate tax giveaway – the corporate stock and franchise tax – will generate $350 million this year, money that legislators should use to fund the public schools. That’s a solution that would benefit every community, every child and every taxpayer.

Brad Siegfried, President

President, Philipsburg Osceola Education Association

Central Region PSEA