The nomination of Californian Ted Mitchell to the number two position at the U.S. Department of Education is the latest indication that proponents of school privatization are continuing to gain influence over the Obama administration’s education policy.
“He represents the quintessence of the privatization movement,” Diane Ravitch, an education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, tells Capital & Main. “This is a signal the Obama administration is committed to moving forward aggressively with transferring public funds to private hands.”
In education “privatization” refers to the contracting out of traditional public education services to for-profit companies or to charter schools that are set up as nonprofit organizations. In many ways, the Mitchell nomination reflects the ongoing battle being fought in Washington and in school districts across the country. It’s a battle that pits the views of teachers, their unions and community groups against a movement that is backed by wealthy philanthropists and corporations.
Ted Mitchell, the former Occidental College president nominated by the White House to become Under Secretary of Education, is the founder and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit whose goal, according to its tax records, is “to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed.”
Judging by a look at the group’s website, another part of its agenda may be to gut the seniority rights and other job protections currently enjoyed by California’s public school teachers.
This week the site began prominently featuring news about the Vergara v. California trial now unfolding in Los Angeles Superior Court. When called for comment, a NewSchools spokesman said Mitchell’s group was taking no position on the case.
“We believe it’s an important case with broad implications for education,” the spokesman said.