Episode #18

Big Money in Schools

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Friday, August 24, 2012

A page of a science textbook viewed on the iPad. (Yasmeen Khan/WNYC)

Summer’s coming to an end and that means it’s back to the classroom for millions of students around the country.

It's also back to school for the businesses trying to make a profit from teaching the nation’s children.  

Whether they're selling digital textbooks and educational services or running for-profit schools, established technology, media and publishing companies, as well as a fleet of start-ups, are seeing dollar signs and investment opportunities in the classroom.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is pushing into the digital textbook market with its education division, Amplify. Barnes & Noble, Apple and Amazon are all offering eTextbooks. And here in New York City, education entrepreneur Chris Whittle is opening a private for-profit school in Manhattan called Avenues for 700 to 800 students. Tuition is $39,750.

So is all this money being funneled toward the education sector actually helping students?

This week on Money Talking, WNYC's contributing editor for Education Beth Fertig and Rana Foroohar of Time weigh in on the private sector's growing influence in the classrooom and what it means for the future of American education.


Beth Fertig

Hosted by:

Charlie Herman


Rana Foroohar

Comments [3]

Rose Flanagan

I am a teacher in an extremely diverse middle school, both ethnically and economically. This September the school will be implementing a new program, iPads for all sixth grades with seventh and eighth grades to follow over the next two years. I am a ambivalent regarding removal of books from the hands of disadvantaged students. But I am more concerned that the school is not providing adequate training for teachers and students. Teachers will have not had professional development that has been provided through the school district when school begins. This will be a learn as you go program. Expensive and not well thought out.

Aug. 24 2012 09:50 AM
Risa Engel from Princeotn, NJ

Stuart Country Day School gives iPads to all students in grades 6-12. I was astounded last year how extensively my middle school daughter used it to collaborate with other students and her teachers. Papers and presentations were turned in, graded, peer reviewed - all online. She stayed organized because her notes, agenda, assignments, etc. were all in one place and very portable - plus she had fun with it. She doesn't have to carry around heavy books, and less paper = greener campus. The 1:1 iPad Program and implementation at Stuart has been outstanding.

Aug. 24 2012 09:00 AM
Ken from Princeton, NJ

My son's textbooks this year in grade 9 will all be on the iPad. He and I both are looking forward to lightening the backpack weight by 40 lbs right away. Beyond that, his generation are technology natives. Even if the books aren't any better than hardcovers (although they clearly are, especially when a student can annotate them), a tablet is the medium that his generation learns best with, at least for now.

Bravo to the textbook companies and the teachers who have written their own textbooks (

Aug. 24 2012 08:33 AM

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