Consider this post an addendum to earlier posts this week on regulation.
Here’s the basic tension: there’s two primary ways to move from a government operated school system to a non-profit operated school system.
Option #1: Transition Based on Supply
For the most part, this is the primary strategy taken by charter proponents. They recruit, select, and support entrepreneurs – and when these educators are ready to launch schools, advocates fight against governments who oppose the school openings.
The pro of this strategy is relatively straightforward: decentralization is predicated upon capacity.
The con of this strategy is also relatively straightforward: it basically locks out most existing educators from benefitting from structural change. To join the effort, they must leave their employer, their colleagues, and their pensions – all of which are significant barriers.
Option #2: Transition Based on Structure
For the most part, this is the strategy taken by voucher proponents. Their goal is to allow existing private schools to receive public money to serve more children. Generally, they aren’t attempting to change the supply of new schools; rather, they are trying to restructure how public education is funded and operated.
Similiar, nacent efforts are being considered on the public school of the equation. Portfolio district advocates have drafted legislation and policies that would immediately put all public schools on performance contracts with the district central office.
Of course, you could go one step further and allow every existing school to form a non-profit board and become a charter school.
The pro of this model is that it can scale much quicker: every school could become a non-profit operated school in a very short period of time.
The con of this model is that risks major capacity issues: school leaders might struggle in their transition to becoming non-profit CEOs.
1. There are examples of both supply driven deregulation (private mail services eating away at postal service market share) and structural driven deregulation (the selling off of government owned industries in former communist countries). I’m sure there are lessons to be learned.
2. I think charter proponents should push experiments with structural transitions. What if they worked with a smaller school district that was willing to transition all its schools to non-profit status over a 2-3 year period? I bet we’d learn a ton, and my instinct is that student achievement would rise over time.
3. I think voucher proponents should be investing much more in supply. The private school sector lacks a density of strong, scaling organizations (such as KIPP, Uncommon, etc. in the charter sector).