|Rep. John J. DeBerry JR.|
HB1693, the bill that would allow for-profit management of charter schools advanced in the house this week. The bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis was approved on a voice vote in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday and is scheduled to go before the House Education Committee on March 18. The Senate companion bill (SB1684) passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and is referred to the Calendar Committee. This bill could still be sidetracked, but it appears it is on its way to passage.
The way things are now, when a charter school is approved, the board of directors must hire a staff to run the school. The teachers and staff draw a salary. If this bill passes, the board of the charter school could contract for a management company to run the school. This makes so much sense but liberals, mostly white liberals, are very much against it. Somehow they think it is immoral to make money. They especially think it is immoral to "allow companies to make a buck on the backs of Tennessee’s public school kids," as Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr said recently.
Why they think this, I am not sure. Is it that education is so important that we should educate kids without making a profit? No one educates kids for free. Teachers and principals in pubic schools earn a salary. Why is a dollar earned in salary considered clean respectable money, but a dollar earned in profit thought of as dirty money? We do other things that are just as important "for profit." We have for-profit hospitals, for-profit companies managing prisons, and most of our housing, transportation and food comes from for-profit companies. Without food you die, yet do liberals think food is so important it should be provided without anyone making a profit? Is it immoral to make a profit off of food?
Maybe opponents of for-profit charter schools think that profit is just an added cost to an item or service. Maybe they think that without the profit, things would cost less. Non-profit organization are not necessarily less costly than government or non-profit entities. In many cases things are much less costly when provided by a for-profit company than a not-for-profit company. A bottom line forces companies to look at how money is spend. It creates different way of looking at things. It forces companies to be efficient. Innovation seldom originates in government agencies, but in for profit companies. Does anyone think a Big Mac would cost less if McDonald's was a non-profit?
Communist Russian, the cold war Eastern Block countries, and China prior to economic liberalization, were countries where making a profit was forbidden and the whole country was ran as a non-profit. Even prior to the collapse of Communism they backed off from austere dogmatic communism and allowed people to make a profit in limited circumstances. Without private garden plots and local markets, the State Farms and cooperatives could not feed the people. Even Cuba, one of the two remaining real Communist countries, has realized they need for-profit taxi cabs if they are going to be able to serve the visitors coming to Cuba. Comparing those countries to the capitalist west should cause someone to think that maybe the profit motive is an important component to delivering goods and services.
Maybe the reason liberals think that for-profit management of charter schools would be so bad it that they think the for-profit management would skimp on materials or teacher salaries and children would get short changed. That is not how markets or charter schools work. Charter schools can lose their charter if they do not produce a good product and if they are not producing a good product, they won't attract clients. People go to charter school because they want to, not because that is where they are assigned to go and are forced to attend.
Maybe the real reason liberals oppose the idea of for-profit charter schools is that it will lead to many more charter schools. Once professional school management companies are the norm, it will be easier for people to apply for new charters. Professional companies will write the application and offer their expertise in getting the applications approved and being on a board of a charter schools will be less time consuming for parents who want a charter school. Maybe liberals fear that once there are large companies managing schools across the nation, then the inefficiency and failure of traditional public schools will be revealed. Maybe they just don't want the competition.