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Big New Reform Idea: Bankruptcy

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Jonas Persson of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports on a panel discussion in Néw Orleans about speeding up the dismantling of public education.

The event was a conference sponsored by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children, celebrating the privatization of Néw Orleans schools.

The panel Persson describes was called “Knocking out Yesterday’s Education Models” but a panelist “joked that the working title of the panel had been “What Happens After You Blow it All Up?”

Persson writes:

“But in the absence of a new hurricane that would sweep away public schools, a man-made calamity might do the trick. Such was the argument of Rebecca Sibilia, who is the CEO of a new non-profit education group: Edbuild.

“When you think of bankruptcy … this is a huge opportunity. Bankruptcy is not a problem for kids; bankruptcy is a problem for the people governing the system, right? So, when a school district goes bankrupt all of their legacy debt can be eliminated . . . How are we going to pay for the buildings? How are we going to bring in new operators when there is pension debt? Look, if we can eliminate that in an entire urban system, then we can throw all the cards up in the air, and redistribute everything with all new models. You’ve heard it first: bankruptcy might be the thing that leads to the next education revolution,” Sibilia explained.”

This has already happened in Chester Uplands, Pennsylvania, where the district’s exorbitant payments to charter schools has brought it to fiscal collapse, requiring a loan from the state to make payroll. It could happen in cities like Philadelphia and even Los Angeles, as the charter sector siphons away the best students and resources that cause the district to cut programs and lay off teachers.

At some point the tipping point comes, and the parasite sucks the life out of the host. That’s the reformers’ end game,

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