An Examination of Growth of Publicly-Funded Private Schools in the U.S. and Sweden: Ideology's Impact on Educators

An Examination of Growth of Publicly-Funded Private Schools in the U.S. and Sweden: Ideology's Impact on Educators

R. D. Nordgren (National University, USA) and Hans-Erik Persson (Independent Researcher, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1177-0.ch011

Abstract

This chapter examines the implementation of publicly funded private schools (charters or friskolar) in both Sweden and the U.S. Educators in both nations are currently challenged by the introduction of school choice where they must compete for a limited number of students within their geographic enrollment region. It is important for all educators be aware of the origins and current status of publicly funded private schools (PFPS) as teachers and school leaders can rarely escape their impact due to competition they spur among schools. The two nations were selected based on the fact the U.S. has the most students in PFPSs worldwide, and Sweden has the highest percentage of their students in these schools. The chapter compares and contrasts the history of this model's implementation in the two nations as well as its impact in both student achievement and societal indicators. Despite a majority of the American and Swedish public lining up against the model, it will continue to increase based on the dominant political and economic narratives found in both nations.
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Introduction

This chapter examines the implementation of publicly funded private schools (PFPSs) in Sweden and in the U.S., comparing the origins, evolution, and outcomes of this model across the two nations. Although speculative, the article also predicts that PFPSs will continue to grow in numbers based on an examination of the dominant political and economic narratives in both nations. This assessment is made on the authors’ determination that school policies in the U.S. and Sweden will persist to embrace neoliberalism which they found to be the catalyst and sustaining force behind this school model. Although commonly known in Sweden as free schools (“friskolar” or “fristående skola”) and charter schools in the U.S., the authors use the designation “publicly funded private schools” (or PFPSs) referring to both non-profit and for-profit schools that are fully or partially funded by the public. The two nations were selected based on Sweden’s world leadership in PFPS proliferation (Klitgaard, 2008; Lundahl, 2016) and the great number of PFPS’s in the U.S. (Abrams, 2016; Adamson & Darling-Hammond, 2016).

A Brief History of PFPS

Milton Friedman, an economist greatly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism of smaller government and individualism (Weiss, 2012), first put forward the notion of school choice in the form of vouchers in the 1950s (Hlavacek, 2016; Lubienski & Ndiamande, 2017; Zhao, 2018). Objectivism is, essentially, a form of hyper individualism, advocating personal choice ahead of those that could directly benefit society (Weiss, 2012). Friedman and other Objectivists, advocated a laissez-faire or “liberal” capitalism which sought to deregulate business, relying on the laws of supply and demand (Åstrand, 2016; Weiss, 2012). While this economic ideology had been tried in other periods of U.S. history, notably the late 19th century and the 1920s1, it was resurrected by Ronald Reagan during the 1980 U.S. presidential campaign, influenced by Friedman who was one of his chief financial advisors (Abrams, 2016; Ravitch, 2010). By the late 1980s, the ideology became commonly known as “neoliberalism” (Abrams, 2016; Apple, 2006). Many scholars (e.g., Ravitch, 2013; Zhao, 2018) believe this to be common narrative for all school reforms of the past 30+ years; and PFPSs, as will be shown, is the most important element of this narrative (Ndiamande & Lubienski, 2017).

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