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Privatization of America’s Public Institutions

The Story of the American Sellout

Lawrence Baines

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.

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Introduction: Public or Private?


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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...

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