Even a Little Competitive Incentive Makes Schools Better

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This, from Paul Crookston on National Review Online, is… not surprising:

Nine out of the top ten public high schools in the country are charter or magnet schools, according to the latest figures from U.S. News and World Report. In addition, charters and magnets account for 60 of the top 100 high schools. These statistics are even impressive when one considers that such schools constitute a relatively small percentage of the public schools around the country. …

Charters and magnets are unlike traditional public schools in that they must work to attract students, while traditional public schools do not have to. Charters also rely on greater accountability to parents rather than to regulatory regimes, which has spurred innovation.

The education establishment and teachers unions have the government school system figured out.  They elect allies (often current or retired teachers or other school employees) to school committees and legislatures.  Parents who rely on public schools are vulnerable to districts’ well-rehearsed (and well-financed) rhetoric deflecting blame for failure, and the substantial climb from no additional cost for education to paying private school tuition gives the education establishment the upper hand in any interaction.  (“Lunch shaming” illustrates the relationship well.)

This creates an environment in which the insiders work with each other to draw in additional money from taxpayers, which is actually easier if parents feel insecure about their children’s schools.  How could such a system not be easy to out-compete with just a little bit of choice?



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