Privatization of public schools in São Paulo

Image: Yura Forrat


It is up to our generation to confront the situation that begins at the most basic level of reality, defascistizing everyday relationships and creating all the necessary barriers to the advancement of privatizing policies.

The government of São Paulo, under the management of the far-right governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans), is implementing the “New Schools” project through a public-private partnership (PPP) to build and “modernize” 33 school units, serving 35 thousand elementary and secondary school students (São Paulo [2024?]).

The decree published on June 11th implements the initiative that had been reported for some time and is part of the “privatization” package, one of the pillars of Tarcísio’s management in São Paulo, along with the public security policy based on the endorsement to police violence, punitivism and penal populism.

The issue of privatization of public schools is gaining even more attention in the press at a propitious moment in which the ultra-conservative far-right offensive is driving the public debate. At the beginning of June, a similar project was approved by the Legislative Assembly of Paraná, despite protests from teachers and students. It is also worth mentioning that the privatization plan for state public schools in Paraná was created when Renato Feder, current secretary of education for the state of São Paulo, held the same position in the administration of governor Ratinho Júnior (PSD) in Paraná.

Still in the field of education, other attacks from the extreme right have been taking place in São Paulo during the Tarcísio/Feder administration: replacement of textbooks – evaluated and approved by the National Textbook Program – with digital materials (slides) of at least quality. doubtful; use of Artificial Intelligence to create digital materials; unrestricted platformization of education through the compulsory use of numerous applications and digital resources for both administrative and pedagogical activities, deeply affecting – and negatively – the teaching-learning process and the control of teaching work; the approval of the program that establishes civic-military schools in the state, transferring the administrative and disciplinary functions of the schools to members of the Military Police reserve, under the argument that the academic performance of students in civic-military schools is better in relation to the of students in conventional schools.[I]

Direct transfer of public resources to the private sector

The privatization plan for state public schools in São Paulo, which is part of the State Investment Partnership Program (PPI-SP), involves an investment of R$2,1 billion and provides for the construction, adaptation and building maintenance of new schools, with the promise that half of the units will be delivered in two years and the rest by January 2027. The tender for the privatization of the administration of these schools was authorized, with a concession scheduled for 25 years, according to information on the portal G1.[ii]

The project foresees that concessionary companies will be responsible for the construction, maintenance, conservation, management and surveillance of the units, in addition to other non-pedagogical services, such as cleaning, concierge, camera monitoring, access control, food, gardening and pest control. In other words, the companies that win the bid will receive large amounts of public resources from the state government to manage the schools. The criterion for judging the bid will be the lowest value of the maximum public consideration to be paid by the government, with the auction scheduled for the third quarter and the signing of the contract at the end of this year.

In times of post-truth and narratives that supplant concrete reality, it is necessary to state the obvious. Private companies aim for profit and, as in all capitalist activities, seek to maximize their profits. Bearing in mind that school management does not necessarily constitute a productive activity, that is, it does not directly produce a new commodity, the possibility of maximizing profits lies in reducing costs in such a way that what they will receive from the state government is always more – and the more, the better – than the amount that will be invested in the construction, maintenance and administrative and janitorial management of schools.

In other words, there will undoubtedly be progressive spending cuts in all these management activities: low-quality materials, minimal infrastructure, reduction in spending on salaries and rights.

Separation between management and pedagogical activity

The main argument of the school privatization project is to centralize hiring to “optimize” management, reduce costs and “improve the quality” of spending, which would allow managers and teachers to concentrate on pedagogical activities. The proposal is that pedagogical activities continue, from a formal point of view, under the responsibility of the Department of Education. It is therefore based on the premise of separation between management and pedagogical activities, as if they belonged to distinct and not directly related universes.

Since the 1990s, the neoliberal wave that devastated the world after the end of the socialist bloc, linked to the productive restructuring in the capitalist world, according to Reginaldo de Moraes (2002) consolidated a narrative that sought to describe and explain the supposed problems of the social world “politically regulated”. With regard to the reform of public services, this narrative defends the supremacy of the market as the best and most efficient mechanism for allocating resources, therefore promoting justice, equality and freedom.

In this sense, within the scope of New Public Management, an administrative paradigm that defends the direct application of private sector management practices in Public Administration and whose objective is to achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs and increase effectiveness in the provision of services, understanding citizens as clients and public servants as managers, we observed, throughout the 1990s and the first decade of 2000, a series of reforms of the state apparatus that managed to consolidate a model of executive management of public services thought of separately and autonomously from the core activities.

Thus, over the last few decades, we have seen an accentuated process of privatization of the management of public services, whether in the sense of a direct transfer of management to the private sector, or in the sense of adopting market practices and values ​​in public administration, aiming at a apparent “professionalization” of management. In the same direction, we note the emergence of new actors that make up and guide public governance networks, such as institutions, foundations and private companies that not only guide the public debate but also bear the weight of strong financial investments in the formulation and implementation of public policies.

In the field of education, this segmentation between school management and pedagogical management has been intensifying as school directors take on more and more functions related to the management of human resources, funds, inputs and materials – that is, these resources are increasingly scarcer – distancing them from the reflections and pedagogical practices of schools (Souza, 2004). In this sense, the ongoing privatization project in the states of São Paulo and Paraná reinforces this distinction, assuming that the administrative management of schools constitutes an end in itself.

In education, the “end activity” is the pedagogical practice itself. Administration is, therefore, a “middle activity”, necessary for the development of educational practice. In this way, management cannot be separated, separated and autonomous in relation to the pedagogical activity itself. The condition for the development of the capitalist mode of production lies precisely in the separation between direct producers and the means of production, but also in the separation between producers and production managers. Public education, by succumbing to this logic, dissipates its public dimension and surrenders to private interests in capital accumulation.

Ultraliberalism as an expression of the far-right offensive

The economic and political transformations that have crossed the globalized world since the end of the first decade of the 1980st century point to a deepening and radicalization of the neoliberal logic that has governed the global economy since the mid-2008s. becomes insufficient and anachronistic to deal with the complexities of the contemporary world, especially since the XNUMX crisis.

Furthermore, the use of the term neoliberalism began to be used in a diffuse and confusing way, often resulting in the emptying of its meaning. In this sense, it is necessary to activate categories and concepts that point precisely to the process underway in the global economy. In this way, Miranda's argument (2020) argues that the use of the term “ultraliberalism” is more appropriate because while the prefix “neo” suggests a temporal novelty – and neoliberalism has already been in vogue for a few decades and is no longer present as a novelty – the prefix “ultra” highlights the radicalization of the precepts of classical liberalism and neoliberalism itself.

Thus, ultraliberalism does not represent a new era, but an intensification of capitalist practices of exploitation and expropriation of the working class and the deepening of the ideology of reducing the State and transferring all public management to the private sector.

In this sense, when one observes the explicit and open process of privatization of public schools, the deepening and radicalization of what had already been implemented since the end of the 1990th century is clear. While New Public Management, an ideological instrument of neoliberalism in the 2000s and XNUMXs, forced the permeability of market logic into the heart of public administration, the state and public services, the current moment points to a direct transfer of this management to the private sector. in sectors, until then, relatively protected from this offensive.

If the managerialist reform of the State did not hesitate to sell strategic state-owned companies, such as telephone, mining and banks, some public services, thanks to the resistance offered by social movements, especially in the field of health and education, did not allow privatist surrender to costs of scrapping such services.

However, the advance of the extreme right around the world and, in particular, in Brazil, especially since the coup against Dilma Rousseff in 2016, has imposed on social movements, unions, political parties and other forms of organization of the working class, a defensive scenario and low, or almost no, resistance capacity.

It now remains for us to analyze the situation in this period of history and understand the role of progressive, democratic and radical left forces in direct confrontation with this ultra-liberal offensive of the extreme right. As Franz Fanon called: “each generation has to discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it” (Fanon, 2022, p. 207).

It was up to our generation to carry out this confrontation that begins at the most basic level of reality, defascistizing everyday relationships and creating all the necessary barriers to the advancement of privatizing policies.

Ricardo Normanha is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Social Sciences at the Faculty of Education at Unicamp.


FANON, Frantz. The Damned of the Earth. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2022.

Souza, Silvana Aparecida de. “The meanings of the separation between pedagogical management and school management in public educational policies in Paraná”. ideation, vol. 6, no 6, 2004, p. 176-85.

MORAES, Reginaldo C. “Neoliberal reforms and public policies: ideological hegemony and redefinition of State-society relations”. Education & Society, vol. 23, September 2002, p. 13–24.

MIRANDA, João Elter B. Ultraliberalism as a conceptual category. PlowingWord, December 2, 2020,

NEVES, Ian. Strike in Paraná, privatization and militarization of schools | Cuts by Ian Neves. 2024. YouTube,

SÃO PAULO, Secretariat for Investment Partnerships. New Schools. [2024?]. Available in,apenas%20servi%C3%A7os%20n%C3%A3o%2Dpedag%C3%B3gicos).

Tarcísio authorizes bidding to privatize the management of 33 new state schools in SP. G1. 12 June 2024. Available at


[I] Argument easily dismantled by countless specialized researchers. The supposed better performance of students in civic-military schools is associated with other factors that are not related to militarized management, such as investments, appreciation of the teaching profession, infrastructure and family trajectories and cultural background of these students. To understand more about the fallacies of civic-military schools, see SAMORA, Frederico. The art of the coup: five points to think about in civic-military schools. Brazil in fact. São Paulo (SP) | October 24, 2019. Available at

[ii] Tarcísio authorizes bidding to privatize the management of 33 new state schools in SP. G1. 12 June 2024. Available at

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