Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Consulting companies the bane of public space, schools...

Daniel Denvir has a great post over at The Atlantic Cities blog, "As Local Governments Shrink, Private Consultants Reap Rewards."

Denvir describes the trend of supplanting public space and decision making with corporate consulting companies. One of the main proponents of this strategy is Mitt Romney, who started in business with the Boston Consulting Company. After leaving BCG, Mitt Romney went on to work at Bain and Company consultants, from where he launched the controversial private-equity firm Bain Capital. For decades, consulting has been a top choice for MBA graduates like Romney.

In 2010, the Gates Foundation gave 15 cash-desperate states $250,000 to hire consultants to write applications for Obama's Race to the Top competitive education grant. The grants, which encourage districts to tie teacher evaluations to standardized tests and loosen restrictions on charter schools, draws heavily from the corporate-education reform model funded by the big three foundations.

Denvir writes,
Consultants, like Romney, have the appeal of "real-world" experience which, in early 21st-century America, means experience in the hard-nosed competitive marketplace outside of the public sector's one-time easy comfort. Since August 2008, the number of public employees has already been cut by 662,000 nationwide. Consultants draw on experience from a private sector that has relentlessly slashed employment, broken unions and outsourced work for decades.
 Consultants often recommend privatizing services like education and slashing public employee workforces, though sometimes governments might just be looking for outside expertise to validate decisions that have already been made.
 In Philadelphia, the $2 billion William Penn Foundation paid the bill for a Boston Consulting Group plan to restructure the city's fiscally-distraught (and state-government run) public schools in the wake of massive state budget cuts. The resulting "Blueprint" proposed a radical overhaul that would dismantle the central office and potentially transfer school-level management to private charter school organizations. 

Daniel Denvir is a staff reporter at Philadelphia City Paper and a frequent contributor to Salon and The Atlantic Cities.

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