Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gail Kerr says we shouldn’t allow companies to make a buck on the backs of Tennessee’s public school kids. I say we should.

It is quite common for people do disdain profits as if profits were somehow evil. When it comes to education, some people will say they are for charter schools but not for for-profit charter schools.  Why?  They really can't give a good reason and neither does Gail Kerr in her Tennessean article today, For-profit charter schools would be bad business for Tennessee.

There is a bill being considered by the State legislature that would permit for-profit schools. Kerr says, "If this bill passes, Tennessee will be in the business of paying for what essentially becomes private schools."  Charter schools are not essentially private schools. They are public schools with greater flexibility to serve the needs of their students than pubic schools that are under the control of the central office bureaucracy. Why, would a for-profit charter schools be more like a private schools than a not-for-profit charter school?   Most private schools are non-profit. There is simply no logic to her statement.

She goes own to say that to squeeze profit out of schools, for-profit entities might skimp on quality. "And the for-profit charter owner would be tempted to push profits up anywhere they could" she says. "Would they hire less talented teachers at bargain salaries to save money and increase their profit margin? Scrimp on classroom materials? Undermine the unique programs that make charters so attractive?"

Gail does not understand how markets work or charter schools. If the manager of the charter school skimps on talented teachers or materials and children are not getting an education, parents will not send their child to that school. Also, If the school does not perform well, they will lose their charter. Unlike regular public schools which do not have to attract students, charter schools must actually attract students.  People go to a charter school because they want to, not because they have to. In a market economy if people are not pleased with the a service or product, the company loses customers and then goes out of business. While having a "bottom line" does force a company to look at controlling cost and being efficient that is balanced by the need to provide a level of service that will attract and keep customers.

Somehow some people think it is just wrong to make a profit off of something as important as educating children. Somehow they think socialized services are morally superior to free market services. I don't understand that. The results is what should matter, not the motivation of the person providing the service. If one teacher feels he was "called" to teach and loves children and teaches out of the most benevolent of motives and refuses a salary, but produces illiterates; while another teacher does it out of his own self interest to make a nice living and produces brilliant students, I would prefer my child be taught by the one producing brilliant student. Outcomes matter; not motivation.

Is is wrong to make a profit off of healing someone? Most doctors make a profit. Eating is pretty important, yet most food producers and grocery stores and restaurants are for profit. Is it wrong to make a profit off of burying someones dead loved one? Most funeral homes are for profit. Providing clothing? For profit. Providing shelter? For profit. Communications? For profit. Transportation? Mostly for profit. If it is not wrong to make a profit off of healing people or burying people or feeding or housing people, why is it wrong to make a profit off of educating children?
Our economy is built on for-profit businesses, on capitalism, and that’s a good and valuable system. But we shouldn’t allow companies to make a buck on the backs of Tennessee’s public school kids. Gail Kerr
 It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Adam Smith

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