In most Libertarian thought, the “Marketplace” holds a reverence equivalent to that of a holy shrine. True believers in the Ayn Rand “Objectivism” and Milton Friedman ‘market forces’ see unrestrained “Marketplace Competition” as the source of miracles. According to them, if everything was just left to open competition untrammeled by thumb-fingered government bureaucrats, then the magic of a “competitive marketplace” is capable of curing all ills, resolving all disputes, and will result in a near perfect world where everyone gets what they deserve.
After having worked their ‘deregulation’ magic on the financial world, many of these believers have now turned their attention to public education. Are school test scores in poor neighborhoods low? Have charter schools compete with them! Are the local high schools not improving graduation rates fast enough for you? Provide more ‘choices’ to parents! Are not enough children graduating ready for college? Obviously teacher unions are the real culprit! Just allow charter schools, ‘choice’, break the unions, and provide for private school vouchers and everything will be fixed!
At least that is the marketing hype they spin out.
But what happens when you examine the underlying principles of a ‘marketplace’? Does public education fit? Will it really work? And if it does, just how does a competitive market really function? Are the causes of poor student outcomes really addressable by ‘competition’?
These are the questions that we should be asking. In fact, given that WNW+Miller has repeatedly talked about an ‘education marketplace’ and even brought in a consultant to help design one, means we should be demanding that these questions be answered. Fully and in detail. Because they are betting the future of our children on this mantra.
Below are a series of article links that look at not only the concept of an Education Marketplace, but how such efforts have fared elsewhere. We highly recommend that you take some time today (and this week) to go through these articles and draw your own conclusions.
Our comment on this article: If you are going to read only one link from this post, it should be this one. Minnesota and Colorado actually have a lot in common. Both are predominantly rural states with a single major metropolitan area with a few smaller cities scattered around. The rural areas are mainly conservative with moderate and liberal forces concentrated in the metro area. School reform has been at the top of Minnesota’s political hot buttons for many years and it has the oldest charter schools law in the nation. Minnesota 2020 is a non-partisan think tank focused on public policy concerning education, health care, transportation and economic development. This report on the results of the ‘education marketplace’ that Minnesota reformers put in place should serve as a warning to Colorado. You can download the full report here: False_Choices_2012
Our comment on this article: This article is a review of the book, Public Education Under Siege, edited by Michael Katz and Mike Rose. It is a collection of essays on school reforms. The review focuses on one particular essay that looks at the Libertarian ‘Reformer’ efforts to tie charter schools, and even private school voucher programs to the Civil Rights movement. They proclaim that standing up for ‘school choice’ is the equivalent of the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech. Even allowing for hyperbole, the analogy is not only badly flawed, but patently false.
Our comment on this article: This is a follow up article to the review above. The Washington Post reporter who wrote the above review conducts a Q&A with the editors of the book, Public Education Under Siege.
Our comment on this article: Charter school advocates constantly try to refute the idea that they do not adequately serve special needs children. Generally, they will cite a broad statistic and then follow it up with a couple of anecdotes. It all sounds good, but the underlying logic of a competitive marketplace has never seemed to jive with this image. This is a scholarly paper that looks at the issue objectively, focusing on actual hard statistics and patterns, not just ‘feel good’ stories. Because it is an article written for a professional journal (Disabilities Studies Quarterly) the language is a bit stilted. But it is worth wading through to find the conclusions, including:
“The available evidence indicates, however, that, in general, students with disabilities are not well served by market-based reforms including vouchers, charter schools, and the testing and accountability requirements of NCLB. “
“It is likely that the needs of some students with disabilities are well served in charter schools. It may also be that some charters identify fewer students with disabilities because they offer high quality programs that make labeling unnecessary. But many students with disabilities are not well served in charter schools and, more seriously, many charters systematically exclude students with disabilities, thus creating highly segregated learning environments. In both the US and abroad, this means that “the sending districts [traditional public schools]” are left “stratified, fragmented, and segregated” (Miron & Nelson, 2002, p. 25). Students with disabilities are among the most likely to remain in local traditional public schools—”schools of last resort for those who never applied or who were rejected [by charter schools]” (Ravitch, 2010, p. 220). These “schools of last resort,” overpopulated with low-achieving, difficult- and expensive-to-educate students, will be hard pressed to provide a quality education to students left behind.”
Our comment on this article: So if all the logic, theory, and evidence demonstrates not only the unworkability of an ‘education marketplace’ but the damage and harm it can cause, why is it still being pushed so hard? FireDogLake is a progressive blog that has taken a look at this, and this is their conclusion.
We are not prepared to endorse their conclusion wholesale, although we have no doubt that many individuals do see the ‘privatization’ of schools through the charter school effort as a large business opportunity. We tend to follow Heinlein’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.” Certainly WNW+Miller have shown JeffCo plenty of evidence of both.
Of course, the ultimate irony of WNW’s worshiping of an “Education Marketplace” is that they have already acted contrary to it’s core principles several times, the most blatant being their bailing out of the charter schools Collegiate Academy of Colorado and Mountain Phoenix. By the logic of their ‘marketplace’ theory, these schools had shown that they were not well enough run to continue. Once in financial difficulty, by the Darwinian ethos of a marketplace, they should have been left to fail. Instead, WNW gave them no interest loans for several hundred thousand dollars. So much for a real ‘marketplace’.
Stay alert, become informed, and inform others, everyone. That is how we…