When a company offers materials, supplies or money to a school, it’s a kind gesture, a simple tax write-off and good public relations for the business, correct? Not to mention a boon to the cash-strapped school that involves no compromise. Right again?

If only.

“The public interest would be best served and protected if universities [and K-12] did not enter into these partnerships under any conditions,” states Janice Newson in a review* of Megan Erikson’s book Class War: The Privatization of Childhood (Verso Books, 2015).

Newson is also co-author with Claire Polster of A Penny for Your Thoughts: How Corporatization Undervalues Research, Teaching and Public Service in Canada’s Universities (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2015).

Together, the two books set off warning bells for parents and educators, saying that what schools should strive for – a relaxed learning and playing environment where students are treated as equals, and low-income parents are encouraged to support their kids’ success – is being eaten away by the effects of these partnerships.
Donations not only often come with strings attached; they influence school administrators to apply “business think” to education, an approach that undermines what education should be striving to achieve.

For instance, corporate-driven education reform has led to an emphasis on evaluating teachers, students and schools and away from providing childcare or school lunches, key to social equality, Erickson argues.

A more corporate approach distorts and displaces traditional educational values, making it seem reasonable for universities to allow research partners to retain intellectual property rights to the findings, and prompting the growth of charter schools (public-private hybrids) that benefit rich over poor students.

“The benefits to donors outweigh the size of their donations… Public resources, in other words, subsidize private benefits.”

If parents and educators are confused whether a corporate handout is a blessing or a step down a slippery slope, they should read these books for a more informed opinion.

*Review in The Monitor,