Commission on Privatization (1988) cautioned that where public institutions have assumed important democratic functions, the shift toward market alternatives may threaten core values of our society. Also, a preliminary study of charter schools by the Education Commission of the States emphasized that governmental oversight is extremely important to ensure that charters are not abused by groups that might pursue discriminatory practises (Education Week, 1995). Does the state have a duty to ensure that all children are exposed to certain values and academic content to advance the common good, or should parents be able to dictate educational content and the values to which their children are exposed? Are there limits on how far we can go in privatizing education without jeopardizing our nation's form of government? If an individual school-public or private-is allowed to determine its curriculum with little oversight, might the state be abdicating its responsibility to protect children and ensure an educated citizenry?
Policy makers need to be aware of the underlying assumptions of various options to privatize education and how each model balances accountability to shareholders, consumers, and the general public. If the purposes and basic structure of public education in our nation are being redefined, we need to understand all implications of the decisions. We need to consider the values that are guiding educational policy into the next century because much more than public schooling is at stake. If we are not attentive, we may, by default, embrace policies that are inconsistent with democratic principles, when a majority of our citizens still believe strongly in these ideals.
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