The Perils of Privatization
In our nation's history, public services like education were considered so essential to the functioning of society that they could not be left to the whims of the market or the opportunities of profiteers. When public school employees, especially education support professionals (ESPs) are “privatized” or “outsourced,” this means that a private contractor is taking over their services. The employees are no longer public employees working for the school district—they are employees of an individual or company with a contract to provide services for the district.
Why does privatization cause problems for ESPs and schools?
- When ESP jobs are privatized, the primary goal becomes making a profit versus delivering a quality service.
- Private contractors may or may not use former district employees to provide the service.
- Whatever contracts, agreements, understandings, or board policies that existed between the district and their employees no longer exists between the new private contractor and his/her employees.
- ESPs won’t have the advocacy of the Association under the new employer.
- Privatizers don't underprice at-cost public employees simply by being “efficient” or having “superior management techniques.” Privatizers function by significantly reducing employee compensation, usually through the elimination or reduction of benefits such as pension, health care, and paid time off.
- Because of their employment practices in the pursuit of profit, privatizers have high turnover of staff. Most of the time these are people looking for a job, not a career. And the privatizer is typically not concerned about who might be well suited to work around children.
What is lost in privatization?
- Caring adults who come from the community, and who overwhelmingly want to stay in their careers are not part of the business model
- Quality services focused on keeping students safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged, are replaced by tasks carried out as quickly as possible by individuals compensated as little as possible, all to make a profit for the employer.
- Flexible services that come with the personal relationships between ESP and administrators and other staff are more uncommon.
How can local associations can take preventative measures against privatization?
- Get involved in school board politics. As public employees, we have a unique privilege to elect our bosses. We can: screen candidates for endorsement in school board races, ensure they are aware of the impact of privatization, and elect those who won’t outsource the jobs of public school employees.
- Build relationships with education decision makers such as the school board and superintendent, and with stakeholders such as parents. A simple way to begin building these relationships is by attending monthly school board meetings.
- Demand high-quality professional development, preferably under the guidance of the ESP Professional Growth Continuum. ESPs who acquire skills that make them valuable members of the education team are more difficult to replace.
Educators Employment Liability Program
The Educators Employment Liability (EEL) program is a professional liability insurance program which NEA provides as a benefit of membership. The program is totally dues-funded; members pay no separate fee. It is designed to protect association members—whether classroom teachers or support professionals—from personal financial liability for most incidents arising out of their educational employment activities or duties.
The EEL Program provides insurance coverage for a variety of situations which result in injury to someone other than members. For example:
- Student injuries
- Charges of educational malpractice
- Corporal punishment
The EEL Program is administered through your NEA state affiliate association. Liability and insurance laws vary in each state. If you want more information on the specific provisions of EEL coverage in your state, contact your local UniServ representative or state affiliate association.
Fighting Privatization in a Time of Crisis
The current state of affairs in our nation and schools should not paralyze our activism, particularly when it comes to resisting the privatization of Education Support Professionals. Social justice has always been a hard fight in this nation, and we have seldom been able to choose ideal timing or conditions in which to assert our rights. We can and will fight privatization today, and tomorrow, regardless of conditions. Check out this past webinar to learn logistics and techniques, and be inspired to do what is necessary to keep public education out of the hands of profiteers.