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Vouchers and Virtual Schools

While Ohio and a few other states have established statewide voucher systems, the voucher movement has generally been moving forward more incrementally through privately-managed charter schools and what are known as "virtual charter schools", online teaching programs combining aspects of home schooling with corporate privatization.

More than one million students are now in public charter schools, with over 200,000 students in schools managed by private companies and an explosion of firms receiving contracts for after-school tutoring under No Child Left Behind mandates. With an estimated $400 billion in public school spending at stake, the corporate privateers are step-by-step outsourcing spending to the corporate sector.

The newest privatization innovations are virtual schools, where private companies often manage the curriculum for children being schooled at home -- with about half the states having created some version of virtual schools, and new or expanded programs being proposed in legislatures across the country.K12 Inc., one of the more prominent companies in the field, highlights the entanglement of rightwing politics with the whole movement. Founded by among others William Bennett, Secretary of Education under the senior President Bush, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation revealed that K12 Inc. had used its political influence to improperly receive a $2.3 million federal grant from the Department of Education.

Some of the political shine has been coming off of these privatized schools as new studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. The Bush administration tried to bury the results, but a US Department of Education study found that students of similar economic and racial backgrounds usually performed no better and usually worse in charter schools compared to students in regular public schools.

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