Friday, April 17, 2009

Schools, Choice and Unions

If you accept that wealth comes from market innovation, and that there's a direct relationship between innovation and education then there's probably no singular better incremental investment that the developed world can make than in better education. The idea however that governments are best able and most efficient at providing education has little empirical support. That said, heck, my own mother has reservations about the idea of charter schools that introduce choice and competition into the system.

Is the education system meant to support teachers or students? The answer to date seems to be teachers. How better to explain the attempts at fixing broken schools with more money in plans that can take years, over giving students the ability to immediately move to better schools? Where's the compassion in failing to provide students with the educations to be productive and succeed while administrators add more unmotivated subpar teachers with ever increasing salaries in hopes that smaller class sizes or money will solve the problem when the evidence that this works is weak at best (NPRI)?

From the WSJ, where unions are fighting to shut down charter schools:

The highest quality studies have consistently shown that students learn more in charter schools. In New York City, Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby found that students accepted by lottery to charter schools were significantly outpacing the academic progress of their peers who lost the lottery and were forced to return to district schools.

Florida State economist Tim Sass and colleagues found that middle-school students at charters in Florida and Chicago who continued into charter high schools were significantly more likely to graduate and go on to college than their peers who returned to district high schools because charter high schools were not available.

The most telling study is by Harvard economist Tom Kane about charter schools in Boston. It found that students accepted by lottery at independently operated charter schools significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery and returned to district schools. But students accepted by lottery at charters run by the school district with unionized teachers experienced no benefit.

Why is it that the people who find corporate monopolies most offensive are often the same people who are most willing to submit to government imposed monopolies and unions? There's clearly an ideological battle being waged but surely the stakes are high enough that policymakers should be open to alternatives?

No comments: