Privatization of America’s Public Institutions

The Story of the American Sellout

by Lawrence Baines (Author)
©2019 Textbook XVIII, 172 Pages


Privatization of America’s Public Institutions describes the transformation of the military, K–12 public schools, public universities and colleges, and prisons into enterprises focused on generating profits for a select few. In many cases, privatization has limited accessibility, promoted segregation, fueled declining standards, increased costs, and reduced quality.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Praise for Privatization of America’s Public Institutions
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Public or Private?
  • Format of the Book
  • References
  • Chapter 1. Privatizing the Military: Profiting from the Carnage of War
  • Seven Facts About the Privatization of the Military
  • An Inundation of Private Contractors
  • Mind-boggling Amounts of Money
  • Private Contractors and Soldiers
  • An Interview with Tim Briscoe, Former Soldier and PSC (Private Security Contractor)
  • Accountability
  • False Assumptions
  • Consequences of Privatizing the Military
  • The Control of Force
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Privatizing Corrections: Making Money from Misery
  • The Criminal Justice Systems of America
  • The Incarcerated
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Differences in Public and Private Incarceration
  • Interview with Sabrina and Torrence Cole, Private Prison Guards
  • Private Prisons for Immigrants
  • Consequences of Privatizing Corrections
  • New Directions
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Privatizing K–12 Public Education: How the Profit Motive Is Changing Schools
  • The Chosen
  • Fealty and Filtering
  • The Transmogrification of Charter Schools
  • The New Segregation
  • Interview with Parent Zabrina Carlson Tipton
  • Vouchers
  • Education Savings Accounts and Tax Credit Scholarships
  • Consequences of Privatizing K–12 Public Schools
  • Selective, Sectarian, and Less Free
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Privatizing Public Higher Education: Selling Off the Alma Mater
  • Outsourced Services
  • Profit-centered Decision Making
  • Circumventing Colleges and Universities
  • Interview with Kelly Feille, Former Teacher Candidate
  • Quality in Higher Education
  • Consequences of Privatizing Public Higher Education
  • The Right Time for a Turnaround
  • References
  • Chapter 5. American Sellout
  • Perils of a “Look the Other Way” Government
  • The New World of Privatized Public Institutions
  • Governmental Responsibility
  • References
  • Index

← x | xi →


← xii | xiii →


← xiv | xv →


I have had much help getting this book to press. Jennie Hanna was indispensible with regard to gathering research, conducting interviews, and constructing graphics. For her immense help, I am sincerely grateful.

As always, Ed Farrell was a huge help. My wife Coleen Baines helped me dig into the tax forms of “non-profit” agencies and used her incomparable skills as an editor to help me find the right words. My mom Kay Baines and brother Robert Baines were invaluable readers and frank respondents over the past two years. Secily Guo and Adam Stroud made significant contributions to early drafts. My sis Pamela Carroll and brother Jack Baines offered timely suggestions and bracing encouragement during times of despair. Andrew Crane designed and photographed the cover and “Red” Baines and Morgan Upchurch offered advice on the title and overall look of the book.

I am grateful for all the individuals who agreed to speak with me. I offer special thanks to Sabrina and Torrence Cole, Tim Briscoe, Zabrina Tipton, and Kelly Feille, who responded to extended interviews and follow-up questions with consummate grace.

A final word of thanks to acquisitions editor Megan Madden at Peter Lang for having faith in the project and for believing that public institutions matter. ← xv | xvi →

← xvi | 1 →


Public or Private?

A veteran of wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Gregg (from Kentucky) enlisted in the army and was sent to the front lines of Iraq in 2005. According to Gregg, the private security contractors (PSCs) in Iraq were making almost ten times his salary. Not only did private security contractors make more money, they did not have to abide by the strictures of military law. Gregg said, “PSCs did what they wanted” and only answered to their leader, a “corporate guy” who was not a member of the U.S. military.

Michelle (from Florida) told the story of her sixteen-year-old son Derrick who had been caught drinking a beer at a high school football game for a second time. Derrick was expelled as per his school’s “zero tolerance” policy, and subsequently sentenced to a “for-profit” detention center located miles from home for six months. The juvenile detention center allowed a grand total of two hours of visitation time a week. Visitors had to show up between 7−8 p.m. on a Wednesday or Saturday evening.1 Michelle worked on Wednesday nights, so she only got to see Derrick for an hour, once a week.

Susan and Jasmine (from Ohio) were recently hired teachers at a new charter school located in downtown Toledo, Ohio. Susan had an undergraduate degree in business and had previously worked as a secretary for a construction firm. Jasmine was a bartender with a degree in human resource ← 1 | 2 → management. Both had been hired to teach English. When I met them, they were scrambling to get ready for the first day of class. Neither had any formal preparation in English or education. Other than the occasional babysitting job, neither had previously worked with children.

Leland (from Michigan) was working at a public university when a member of the president’s staff alerted him that the president and provost were about to cut a deal with a private company to turn all of the master’s degree programs in his college into a series of quick, online courses. Leland alerted the faculty and they protested the surreptitious move, confronted the administration, and managed to stave off the takeover. The company subsequently took over several master’s degree programs of universities in an adjacent state.

Mercenaries on the ground in the Middle East working for American corporations and being paid with tax dollars?

Businesses turning a profit from the incarceration of American youth?

Privatized schools hiring unqualified, inexperienced instructors to teach our children?

Publicly funded state programs taken from faculty and turned into profit-centers?

Before starting work on Privatization of America’s Public Institutions, I had little awareness of privatization other than hearing the occasional call to privatize the U.S. Post Office. Because the cost of a U.S. stamp is around fifty cents and that the cost of the cheapest Federal Express envelope is about eight dollars, I have never taken seriously the proposal that privatizing the post office would save money for the average American. However, as I learned through my research, logic and cost considerations may not always be at the forefront of the decision to privatize.

Privatization continues to infiltrate American life, whether we desire it or not. Tireless lobbying efforts by well-funded special interest groups have promoted more corporate involvement in military affairs, more school vouchers, and more private prisons.2 Future privatization targets include veterans’ affairs, air traffic control, environmental protection, water and sanitation, the national parks, and social security.3

Privatization is changing the nature of America’s public institutions and consequently, the character of the country. What is startling about privatization in America today is the immensity of its scale. Privatization is no longer an occasional strategy to help improve the efficiency of a particular public service. Privatization has become an automatic response to any perceived governmental inefficiency.4 ← 2 | 3 →

In Iraq and Afghanistan thousands of mercenaries (paid for through U.S. tax dollars) patrolled war zones carrying weapons, giving orders, and executing corporate strategic plans. At times, private contractors in the Middle East outnumbered soldiers by a 3:1 margin.5 In Florida, the state where sixteen-year-old Derrick was jailed for drinking beer, one hundred percent (100%) of juvenile detention facilities are run for-profit. A third or more of all online programs offered through public universities are outsourced and university faculty do not teach the courses.6 In Texas, unqualified teachers enter classrooms with absolutely no vetting prior to the first day of class; unqualified teachers outnumber prepared teachers by wide margins.7


XVIII, 172
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 172 pp., 5 b/w ill., 25 tbl.

Biographical notes

Lawrence Baines (Author)

Lawrence Baines (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is a professor at the University of Oklahoma. Baines has held endowed chairs at two institutions of higher education and is the author or co-author of eleven books.


Title: Privatization of America’s Public Institutions
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192 pages