Swedish Free Schools Putting Profit First

In ‘Some free schools fail to meet the standards’ a Swedish newspaper reports what many suspicious of the ‘free’ school innovation have been saying for a long time now.

Minister for Education Jan Björklund says today that some free schools give priority to profit for the owners before quality. Björklund is one of the most profiled advocates for free schools in the Swedish debate.

“We on the liberal-conservative side have sometimes been naive when it comes to free schools” says Björklund to the daily newspaper Svenska dagbladet. Changes in the legislation will now be investigated by a parliamentarian commission. One of the ideas is to forbid free schools to give profit to the owners if they can not prove that quality standards are met.

Erik Slottner, local politician for the Christian democrats in Stockholm, writes on his blog today that the debate is unbalanced. 40 percent of the pupils in Stockholm go to free schools. In some of them there are problems, but the same can be said about publically owned schools writes Slottner. He wants schools which do not meet quality standards to be closed down, regardless if they are private or public.

The criticism from the left against free schools is that it leads to segregation and that money, in forms of profit, leaks out from the welfare system. Those who defend free schools normally reply that pluralism and freedom of choice between different kind of school and teaching methods are better ensured this way and that private actors might show how to be more efficient with the money.

Free schools get as much public funding as publically owned schools. They can be owned by individuals, enterprises or associations of different kinds. The existence of these free schools have since long been an important profile issue for the centre-rights and for the Greens.

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