Monday, December 23, 2013

Charter schools mess with "the system."

In case you missed it, last week Mayor Dean criticized the School Board for wasting time and energy fighting charter schools and he also said the School Board should not expect a blank check for future funding increases. While I occasionally disagreed with the mayor on some issues, especially the tax increase of year before last, I am with the mayor on this. The mayor and the Chamber of Commerce have been advocates of education reform and the School Board has been resisting and picking costly fights with the State. I am almost of the opinion that we should abolish the elected school board and go back to a school board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council.

In his remarks before the Chamber of Commerce last week, Mayor Dean pointed out that when a child ops out of a regular zoned school for any other school it is the same impact whether it is a charter or a magnet or other option. School Board member Will Pinkston took strong exception to the Mayor's statement in a letter saying when a child leaves for a charter school, money leaves "the System."

Technically, Pinkston is correct of course. When a child goes to a charter school, the funding for that child goes to the charter school.  However, the Mayor is right in saying the impact is the same whether it is a charter school or magnet school the child attends.  Pinkston has argued that when a child goes to a charter school, a seat that was occupied in a zoned schools is now vacant and overhead cost at that school does not decrease proportionately. Well, is that also not also true when a child leaves a zoned school for a magnet school?  It looks like the real concern of opponents of charter schools is control and "the system."

While an empty seat at a zoned school does not decrease overhead proportionately, more children are entering the system every year than are leaving through charters. The school system should be able to adjust to shifting attendance rates at different schools. And in any event, they should innovate and improve so that their product can compete with charter schools.

The school board has the institutionalized thinking of most bureaucracies. Publicly owned enterprises or government protected monopolies do not welcome competition. If I stop shopping at Krogers and shop at Publix, Krogers cannot make the claim that I should not be allowed to do that because their overhead does not proportionately decrease. You can bet that if retail grocery was a public function and Krogers was a government enterprise that would be the argument they would make.  The government still makes it illegal for Fed Ex or United Parcel to put a letter in a mail box, the mailbox paid for and installed by the homeowner.

Government agencies or government protected monopolies simply do not like for consumers to have choice.  They do not like competition. They do not welcome innovation.  Choice and innovation and competition messes with "the system." The market place is messy. All of that innovation and change and choice sending signals to producers of goods and services can create excess capacity and disrupt the way things have always been done. Government agencies or government protected monopolies are more concerned with protecting "the system" than improving the product.

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