OK, so how does this sound?
Every summer, we take bids for all of our schools, K-12 nationwide, from corporations who want to run the schools. Each bidder presents a proposal to the school board, highlight selling points, past successes, etc. The highest bidder pays the school district a flat fee. The fee goes into the state’s general operating funds. The corporation is then responsible for the school’s operations.
In return the corporation is free to market their products to students in whatever way they wish, as long as it is approved by the school board. So for example your kid might attend Apple Elementary or Exxon High School. Children attending Pepsi Cola Middle School will naturally find Pepsi products in their pop machines. Pepsi is free to set up relationships with other vendors to provide food, school supplies, maintenance contracts, etc. Pepsi hires the teachers and is responsible for monitoring and evaluating teacher and student performance.
State officials would work with school boards to set standards and requirements, but the corporations would have to make sure their schools meet those standards. If a corporation is found to be lacking in any way, the school board can fine the corporation.
States would be under no obligation to create uniform standards from one state to the next. So for example a Tyson’s Chicken High School in Montana might be a really excellent school, but the one in Pittsburgh would suck. That’s the state’s problem. If the state wants better schools, it’s their job to pick a better corporation to run it. Tyson’s would certainly want all their schools to have a good reputation, so it would be in their interest to meet or exceed those standards.
The federal government would be out of the education business.
The state’s only role would be to set standards, take bids, award contracts, and monitor the corporation’s performance. Formal performance evaluations would take place twice a year. The corporation would be given a grade; if necessary performance improvement plans put into action to bring up sagging performance. Corporations would be fined and put on probation after failing grades; in time they would be either dismissed or their contract would not be renewed in the spring.
The advantage to corporations would be that they get to lock in customers for their products from the earliest possible opportunities. A kid who grows up eating Tyson Chicken products will tend to remain a customer in later life.
Your kid would play football for the Intel Raiders or the Samsung Pirates. There would be no need for bake sales or other fundraisers; if a school needs a new computer lab, the corporation would have to pay for it.
What could go wrong?