What has not been discussed is employing P3s for the improvement of our education infrastructure, such as school buildings, curriculum development, or school review.
This involves contracting the private sector to finance, design, and possibly build educational infrastructure. New educational infrastructure may be necessary to maintain the essential resources for an increasing population or to offer new and improved technological advances within classrooms and educational services to students.
Social Benefits of Improving Educational Opportunities
I have been discussing monthly how P3s are a beneficial solution to various public sector projects. However, utilizing P3s for educational infrastructure is uniquely beneficial because improving the ability for children and adolescents to learn will enhance their future opportunities in addition to any previously established benefits of P3s. Improving educational opportunities has been demonstrated to have numerous societal benefits. For example, education has positive advantages on life expectancy, engagement in civic activities, increased levels of happiness, and improved job opportunities, which may generate elevated levels of pay.
P3s and Improved Educational Opportunities
Public school education is a basic service delivery provided by a local government and is vital to the socio-economic development of a city and state. By offering public school students improved educational opportunities through the application of a P3, a government is improving its own abilities and enhancing the learning capabilities of students.
Virginia is actively utilizing P3s for education and has constructed over 30 new school buildings through their operation. In 2002, the General Assembly passed the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, which authorized the private sector to collaborate with state and local governments to establish necessary infrastructure projects. Virginia has had an increasing population, which has led to the growing need for more schools as well as the previously existing necessity for new school facilities, both of which required cost-effectiveness and promptness. Since this time, the state has completed numerous projects that have benefited local and state governments as well as area students.
There are also negative feelings towards these types of P3s to consider. For some, P3s are an indication of privatization and may threaten future education budgets. In addition, there is the belief that P3s make it difficult to draw the line between governmental responsibility of provision of services and private sector participation, as well as the notion that P3s move education away from being a public good.
Labor Union Opposition?
Any possible P3 opposition may originate from public sector labor unions due to the notion that public sector employees will lose their employment to the private sector organizations. However, the truth is that public sector employees and their labor unions are among important stakeholders within planning the partnership process. Most public sector employees are hired by the private sector organization or are reassigned to other government positions. The best interests of the public are completely guaranteed through the provisions within the legally binding contract for continual monitoring and oversight of the development of a service or a facility, such as those within an educational infrastructure.
Differences between P3s and Privatization
The goal of privatization is the introduction and employment of market-based competition by the government for the delivery of public services by the private sector. This term also describes any shift of government activities from the public sector to the private sector. This is vastly different from a P3, which is established in collaboration. Privatization is an inclusive term used to label increased private sector participation within public services. However, this differs from P3s because these partnerships are based upon an agreement to provide a common goal, sharing risk, and producing a reward to all of the parties involved. A P3 is best based on the strengths between both sectors in order to accomplish the goals that enhance public necessities, funds, and services. Creating a partnership within these strengths also improves the ROI.
Education remains a public good within a P3; therefore, the government is still responsible for the provision of services, including budgeting. P3s will continue to provide an innovative option for governments.