Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Questions re: Charter Schools

1. If charter schools don't have the burden of paying billions of their dollars to retired/non-working school personnel, can't they use more of their dollars to pay newer teachers more and to limit class sizes?

2. If charter schools must compete for students and overcome parental inertia (i.e., most parents will move their kids along in the same school system unless they have a good reason to change), don't charter schools have a greater incentive to provide better services and to be more transparent?

3. Do you believe competition usually leads to better service and products?

4. Do you believe that monopolies usually lead to good service, superior efforts, and superior results for consumers? If not, do you realize that by opposing charter schools, you are supporting the status quo, which is a monopolistic public education system?

Most people agree that parental involvement, the level of parental education, and good parenting skills are the primary factors in determining a child's academic success. How does paying teachers more or opposing charter schools solve the problem of uninvolved parents, uneducated parents, or a lack of parenting?

Random thoughts of the day:

1. Competition lowers prices for consumers; monopolies, on the other hand, usually allow entities, whether government or corporate, to increase prices. Right now, public schools have a virtual monopoly on education because most students must attend a school based on where they live rather than other standards, such as test scores, better facilities, better teachers, etc. The more schools must compete for government money (which is related to the number of students attending a school), the more all schools are incentivized to improve services.

2. Re: why privatization will decrease education costs. Again, when you break a monopoly, costs usually go down. Some people appear to be assuming that charter schools will incur the same expenses as public schools, and therefore it will all be a wash. This is incorrect. We know California's public schools are inefficient. They use about 85% of their funding to pay employees and contractors, which means they spend only about 15% of their money on children.

For example, in some California public schools, a gardener, after just 5 years of work, is eligible for a pension of around $1,000/month. It is unclear how paying a gardener a pension after five years of work helps children, but let's set that issue aside. If a charter school hires a gardener but without the burden of a pension, it has more options. It can increase a teacher's salary by $1,000/month, buy laptops for students, or add courses. To make a long story short, the opportunities to game our current education system are enormous. Charter schools, if run properly, can set up systems that are harder to game and that lack long-term structural deficits such as pensions.

Over time, as more students attend charter schools, the state may eventually be able to force teacher unions and public schools to eliminate their own long term structural deficits and to adopt student-centric teaching and evaluation methods. In time, we may even be able to amend the state Constitution to divert education-earmarked money to services that benefit all state residents. Even if we fail to divert money to non-education services, competition alone and the battle for students/state money will improve education for all students, which is the ultimate goal.

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