Welcome to my new blog. More than anything, this is a personal experiment for me on how to best generate and communicate ideas. Hopefully it will work.
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months.
Charter school districts, the major education idea that I support, are systems where government sets the price for education (a per-pupil allotment), contracts out for educational services to non-profits (charter schools), and then allows families to choose amongst these options (via government managed enrollment systems).
Now what does this sound eerily similar to? Obamacare, of course. In fact, it’s much more socialist than Obamacare, in that Obamacare doesn’t mandate one single price for health insurance and Obamacare is much more reliant on the for-profit sector (insurance companies).
Charter school districts are actually much closer to a single payer health system than they are to Obamacare.
Yet, despite the deep similarities between charter school districts and single payer health care systems, much of the progressive wing of the Democratic party views this model as the apex of “corporate reform” – and much of the conservative wing is highly supportive of this government managed model.
So what happens to be the progressive dream in one sector (health care) is the progressive nightmare in another sector (education). You could make the same type of argument for conservatives, but I’ll focus on liberals here given that’s whose viewpoint I’d love to see evolve.
Why do many progressives oppose charter school districts? The idea itself – government contracting out essential services to non-profits – seems not to be at the heart of the issue. As this is what a single payer health care system would likely look in our country. And it’s exactly what the progressive mayor of New York is doing to execute his pre-k expansion program. My take is the pushback against charter school districts is due to some combination of the following:
1. Status Quo Bias: People are attached to the current structure of public schooling. Proposals to significantly change this structure trigger emotional and idealogical reactions that lead to resisting new models of public schooling.
2. Incumbent Survival: Instituions such as teacher unions and school boards could see reduced influence in the new structure – as such, they fight to retain the current power structures.
3. Equity and Community Concerns: Even though government run schools have hardly led to educational equity, critics are worried that any loosening of the reigns would heighten, rather than ameliorate, educational inequity. Tied into these concerns are related sentiments around neighborhoods and community connection.
Interestingly enough – at least in many urban centers – performance is becoming less of an argument, as urban charter schools continue to outperform traditional systems at scale (with some exceptions of course). This is a relatively new, but major, shift in the conversation.
Note that the above three rationales all involve different solutions.
Status quo bias is probably best solved through communications, the development of additional city proof points, and the eventual normalization of charter systems.
Incumbent survival is ultimately a political battle.
And solving the equity concerns will involve a combination of both building strong regulatory regimes that promote equity in all charter systems – as well communicating the advances in equity and community connections that are ultimately made.
I’m hopeful that we’ll make progress on all fronts.
But the irony should not be lost on us: what is considered progressive in one arena (health care) is considered corporatist in another arena (education).
Ultimately, charter school districts are simply single payer education systems.
Or at least that’s what it seems like to me. Am I missing something?