Defining Public Schools and Understanding Their Shifting Terrain

Some of the major trends reshaping schooling today entail school choice programs, for-profit management of public charter schools, and shifting school governance, including increasing federal role in education, growing influences of corporations, instituting mayoral control, or using a portfolio management model to oversee schools. In this chapter I will look more closely at each of these trends and their impact on how public schools are defined and how they operate. I identify five elements of functionally public schools and use them as a foil to assess the practices and implications of these new schools and management techniques. I begin to critique the new trends to highlight how they may jeopardize our ability to develop skilled citizens who participate in democracy in significant ways and may risk the health of our future democracy in general, expanding this critique in detail in chapter four. The possibility of a no longer deeply viable democracy lends not only credence, but also urgency, to my larger argument that we’ve reached a pivotal moment that necessitates action to support schools and the democracy that they enable and enact.

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