Thursday, March 02, 2006

Competition not for human beings?

Free markets work. Competition produces better products and better services. At Americans for Prosperity, we believe that the free market is the best system to drive innovation, create opportunities and produce prosperity for all Americans.

As discussed previously here, one area of government monopoly desperately needs competition. Education.

John Stossel has another excellent commentary on competition improving education in this week.

In his piece, he quotes Ruth Holmes Cameron, the former teacher who brought the law suit challenging Florida’s school choice program that benefited special needs students. She says:

"To say that competition is going to improve education -- it's just not going to work. You know, competition is not for children. It's not for human beings, it's not for public education."

Not for human beings???

Stossel responds:

“Why not? Would you keep going back to a restaurant that served you a bad meal? Or a barber that gave you a bad haircut? Competition makes everything better. Why would schools be different? In the few places where vouchers have been allowed, like Milwaukee, the kids who used vouchers did better, and those who stayed in the public schools were not left behind.”

As I’ve said before, why should we assume government does it best? Competition is a good thing, not one to be feared. Even in education.



  • I can't believe Ms. Cameron actually believes that special needs children would be forced into all manner of competition.

    Most likely what she fears is a bit of adult competition where the effectiveness & competence of a teacher is compared to another. Now that is scary isn't it Ms. Cameron?

    By Blogger f mcdonald, at 3/02/2006 11:27 PM  

  • i went to the local convenience store today and counted 56 different soft drinks available and was amazed at all the different product offerings. different prices, colors, packaging and that wasn't even the beer, milk, wine or bottled water sections - 56 different soft drink products. But how many school choices does a kid have? that, sadly, depends upon his family income.

    By Anonymous Chris Saxman, at 3/03/2006 9:25 AM  

  • You are both right-- competition works. When companies compete, it forces them to make better products, deliver better services, and at a lower cost to consumers.

    This does work for education. It is not about pitting students against one another, but making schools strive to be better and offer greater opportunities.

    In Charlotte, NC, they have implemented public school choice-- allowing students to apply to a whole range of specialty magnet schools throughout the city. They offer schools that offer accelerated learning programs for gifted students, schools that focus on communication technology, early college programs, foreign language programs, Paideia programs, visual & performing arts programs, and many others.

    The system is not perfect, and is continuing to evolve, but it does show the kind of innovation and opportunities that can develop when choice is implemented.

    Just as Del. Saxman discovered the 56 different soft drinks, the possibilities for education options will be endless if we create an environment that supports innovation and competition.

    By Anonymous whitney, at 3/03/2006 9:59 AM  

  • Virginia has a setup like Charlotte in Henrico County.

    The magnets are available for high school students and the accelerated schools for middle school students.

    I'm not sure it's really creating a better k-12 though. I don't have any numbers to support one way or the other. I know the elementary schools in our area (east end) are pretty overcrowded with the exception of one school and the middle school (yes, there's only 1 and it is fed from 5 elementary schools) is VERY overcrowded. The one available middle school for accelerated students is very hard to get in to and really doesn't provide much relief to the regular middle school.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 3/03/2006 12:30 PM  

  • competition works. When companies compete, it forces them to make better products, deliver better services, and at a lower cost to consumers

    I would say that is only true in situations where consumers actually have the power to choose. Sure, I can choose to buy a can of soda or walk away if nothing appeals to me. The company is interested in appealing to me if they want to sell product and make money. Public education is different. Parents can't just walk away if they aren't happy with the available choices. For example, there are 2 public middle schools in my area (say, within 40 miles of my home). They are both undesirable but one is slightly better than the other because there is at least less violence in the halls. There are some schools in the West End of Richmond that are pretty nice and there are some in Southside that are pretty nice... Now what choice do I really have? Am I going to move my family to the West End or am I going to add a couple hours to my morning and afternoon commute?

    What about those parents that can't add a couple hours to their commute?

    Why not just demand that ALL public schools are at least adequate?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 3/03/2006 12:48 PM  

  • Lucy,
    You are absolutely correct-- the power to choose must be available for competition to work. Under the current system, unless parents can afford to move, or pay private school tuition they have very little in the way of choices, aside from limited choice in certain localities such as Henrico.

    For competition to work, parents must have greater choice to choose the best educational system to meet their child's unique educational needs.

    And no one is saying that we shouldn't demand excellence from our existing public schools. We should expect them to be more than adequate. But even the best school may not be able to meet the needs of every individual student.

    As Del. Saxman mentioned, there are literally dozens of choices when it comes to what soda to buy, shouldn't students have at least a couple options for their education?

    By Anonymous whitney, at 3/03/2006 1:53 PM  

  • hmm, comparing soft drink choices to school choice, just maybe your over simplifying just a bit.

    I'm not say that potentially there aren't more options, but that analogy is hardly a complex comparision..sounds like some folks politico speak to me

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/03/2006 3:49 PM  

  • You are including private schools in your choices then?

    Yes, that would be even better and I think that would also take some of the strain off of the public schools. My only concern would be that in many poorer areas there would not be fair choices compared to the "upper class" neighborhoods. I can't see a really nice Catholic school building in the middle of the projects. Maybe I'm wrong though. Church folk are good about doing the right thing.

    By no means am I saying that even a majority of public school teachers are bad teachers. I think with some of the crowding and violence out of the schools, the teachers could do a much better job... Can you imagine trying to control 30-35 raging bodies of hormones AND teach them government?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 3/03/2006 4:49 PM  

  • Can you imagine trying to control 30-35 raging bodies of hormones AND teach them government?

    (Shudder) Youngsters want to succeed just like the rest of us. Public or private, the more options they have the better.

    By Blogger f mcdonald, at 3/05/2006 8:35 PM  

  • Anon, Yes, the comparison is rather simple, yet it works to give a real world example of how in something as simple as soft drinks, we have numerous choices. Yet for something as important as the education of our children, most people have only one option. Choices, like with soda, allow people to pick what option best meets their needs.

    Another example might be cable choice—that is all the buzz during the legislative session this year. People are very interested in greater cable choice—so they can get better service at more competitive costs. Shouldn’t we give at least as much consideration to educational choices?

    Lucy, yes, choice should include public, private, religious and home schooling options in order to be real choice. You are right in noting some areas will have more choices, though I would suggest it might be more along a rural/urban divide. A good example of choice working is Milwaukee. Since implementing choice, they’ve had tremendous success with new charter, lab and other schools developing to meet students’ needs, even in the inner-city.

    Finally, F McDonald—you’re right, young people do want to succeed, and we should be making sure they have every opportunity to do so. Allowing them (and their families) to pick the school that best meets their needs will allow them greater opportunities for success.

    By Anonymous whitney, at 3/06/2006 8:04 AM  

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