The Lora Mackel
Remember the days when the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was just the Fiesta Bowl? Do you remember when stadiums and buildings had names that didn't involve those of their sponsors? Do you remember the days when a donation was a donation, and not a bid for free advertising? You might remember them, but it seems that they are going the way of the dinosaurs.
And public schools, the last bastions of citizen control, are too falling victim to our overly corporate culture.
From marquees, buildings, books, and teachers salaries, private corporations are stepping in to pick up where tax dollars leave off. So what is the problem? Well, nothing yet, but this buddy-buddy corporate relationship is fraught with potential problems, and the problems inherent in public schooling can only be temporarily helped by individual and corporate philanthropy.
In the current political climate, education is the red hot issue. And as it was debated in the election, the issues surrounding education continue to occupy high levels of attention. For the first time in our nation's history, everyone on either side of the isle agrees on one thing: public education, as it is, is not doing nearly enough to address the real needs of the American child. Proposed solutions to these problems range from vouchers to larger federal subsidies for failing public schools. All of these options have been discussed before, but what is really different about this debate is that the government has begun to look outside of the public sector for help on their dilapidated system.
Enter the era of public schools with corporate sponsorship.
If you are having a hard time believing that public schools are being kept afloat by private donation, you have only to look to the educational agenda of our new President elect to see that this is the educational phenomena of the future. Immediately following his mini-summit with captains of industry, Bush met with the same group to discuss improving America's failing public schools. What qualified these men to weigh in on this important issue, in the eyes of the President-elect , was the potential material and financial resources they could donate to that end.
In the beginning, this relationship might have made perfect sense. There are failing schools all over the nation, and the majority of them are failing because they lack material resources. Wealthy donors and large corporations can provide capital and resources quickly and easily, easing both the tax and financial burdens of economically depressed areas. Schools get what they need, donors and corporations get that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from doing good deeds, and even nicer tax breaks. No harm, no foul, and everyone goes home happy.
But before everyone gets comfortable with this handy solution to government problems, the public should carefully examine the implications of this relationship. Can the government really be fair and unbiased of its treatment of the corporations that it relies on to run its own programs? What happens when donors try to direct curriculum? What will happen to schools that rely on donations in times of economic downturn?
Most importantly, are we really comfortable turning over our civic institutions to an elite few? We elect our politicians, but we have no way of selecting and screening the people and money that is given to public schooling. Essentially, the power that each individual taxpayer and citizen puts into schooling is being eclipsed by the money and direction of a few. No one is abusing this power yet, but the potential for mishandling exists.
Additionally, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem from the outside, corporate sponsorship does not address the flaws within the school system, namely school funding based on local property taxes. As long as there are wealthy areas and impoverished areas, their will still be a disparity in the quality of all public education. Nothing, currently, is being done to change that.
Education can safely be called an issue about which every American is concerned. We can all agree that the quality of education in this country is lacking, but as long as the government depends on the private sector for solution, the flaws that are built into the system will continue to harm American children.