What Elon Musk Can Teach Us About Public Education Reforms (And Privatization Efforts)

Elon Musk’s rather chaotic takeover of Twitter is hard to ignore. A $44 billion-dollar acquisition of a top social media company right before an important midterms election cycle drove the dialogue on many other social media platforms. Still is.

But Musk’s takeover of Twitter in order to take the publicly-held company private has some very similar aspects to the privatization of public education, especially in states like North Carolina.

The person in charge doesn’t really know much about what he/she is in charge of.

Just because Elon Musk uses social media and has a lot of money doesn’t make him a person who can guide Twitter to greater heights of social communication. Ever since he has gained control of the company, he has enacted a litany of policies that seem to counteract productivity.

Some even think that Musk is intentionally driving Twitter into bankruptcy because of the amount of lending he received that bankruptcy would allow him to reallocate.

Remember when Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education? She became public education’s top official and had no experience as a student, parent, teacher, or administrator of public schools, but only had experience in funding privatization movements.

She loved charters and vouchers and pouring money into campaigns that supported the wealthy and the privatization of public services. She still does. Just look at her Twitter account.

Remember Mark Johnson and his tenure as state superintendent? Well, Mark wasn’t as smart as Elon is. He’s still battling the “Deep State”but had no real qualifications to be the state’s top public school official.

Reduction in force.

As soon as Elon Musk took over Twitter, there was a mass downsizing of workers in an effort to get a hold on the budget and help stop the hemorrhaging of revenue from all of the advertising that was pulled by companies on the platform.

The very people who made sure that Twitter ran effectively and kept a semblance of control over content and managed to keep as much disinformation off the platform were told they were no longer needed.

Maybe look at the number of certified teachers and teacher assistants per set number of students from 2008 and compare that to those ratios today. Actually, we have over 7000 fewer teacher assistants in NC schools today than in 2010. Can’t remember when we had this many vacancies in schools at this time of the year. But with conditions being the way they are…

There is this “buy into a micromanaged culture atmosphere” that demands more.

This was an interesting headline from a few months ago.

There is no claim that working in public schools is a job that is notoriously “laid-back” and casual. In fact, public schools are far from that. But the point is that the more “micromanaged” a company is, the more employees feel they are under a microscope being assessed and measured by variables out of their control.

It also breeds this “deprofessionalism” that teachers in the state have felt over the last twelve years as more and more non-educators begin to make policy for public schools. Just start looking at some local school boards.

There is the lure of money.

Musk is a capitalist. He wants to make money.

In states like North Carolina, the largest expenditure in the state budget is public education at over 55% of monies spent. When services are not in-house with the public school system itself, it has to be contracted to a private entity. And North Carolina is notorious for not providing enough oversight to make sure that those monies given in private contracts are being spent well with good results.

Look at the Opportunity Grants, NC’s version of vouchers. There is no study that shows vouchers are working. In fact, the regulation of vouchers is so opaque that it appears to be deliberately designed that way.

There are lots of ultimatums.

Yes there are. Musk just delivered this one a couple of days ago.

Ultimatums are those lines in the sand that professionals like teachers have no say in setting. Remember that NC is one of the handful of states outlaws collective bargaining by state employees. Plus, it is Right-To-Work and At-Will state with an incredibly low corporate tax rate and the worst unemployment benefits in the country that never expanded Medicaid.

Dictates, mandates, and ultimatums are par for the course in North Carolina.

There are the ever-changing expectations and guidelines.

It’s almost hard to pinpoint what expectations Musk has for Twitter or for his other industries because his style of micromanaging and worshiping a profit always keeps employees on edge. No wonder so many people decided to leave with three months of severance pay and not stay with Twitter.

Look at this tweet:

Musk looks like the oldest one in the picture.

Has anyone noticed that the teaching profession is getting younger? There are reasons for that.

It’s an investment and not an avocation.

Or maybe it’s a matter of being a private company or a publicly held one.

Public goods and services like public education should always be for the public and not for a few waelthy investors as all people are stakeholders.

It quantifies the qualitative and then monetizes and incentivizes.

Please be remembered of the new proposal for licensure and pay that PEPSC and DPI have been pushing as a new “pipeline” to attract and “retain” good teachers.

Surely you know about EVAAS. That’s part of it. Singular test scores to quantify the qualitative.

It’s about the bottom line and not the growth.

Musk has investors he must satisfy. Private companies have investors to satisfy. It’s about the bottom line and standardized results.

Remember that schools in North Carolina are measured more by achievement scores than by growth of students.

And there are a lot of public relations schemes involved to control the narrative.

Elon Musk tweets a lot to make things sound positive.

Ever follow our state superintendent on social media?

That’s from Twitter, ironically. Even has one of those blue check marks on the account. Wonder if she spent the $8/month to get that from Musk.

Oh, that conference she is talking about? It’s with ExcelinEd. That’s former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education think tank. You might want to see what all NC has “bought” from them to enact in North Carolina.