Two Signs that K-12 Education Monopoly is Crumbling

Via Reason Foundation education policy analyst Lisa Snell comes news of two great developments in the liberation of kids (and their parents) trapped in a K-12 public education system that is spending three times as much in inflation-adjusted dollars as it was in 1970 without any improvement in outcomes.

1. Six large school districts have at least 30 percent of their students in charter schools (publicly funded schools of choice with much-greater autonomy and much-lower funding than traditional public schools). Check it out:

  • Six school districts now have more than 30 percent of their public school students enrolled in public charter schools: New Orleans, Washington D.C., Detroit, Kansas City (Missouri), Flint, and Gary.
  • 18 school districts have more than 20 percent of their public school students enrolled in charter schools.
  • An astounding 70 percent of public school students in New Orleans attended public charter schools in the 2010-2011 school year. Charter schools are the highest performing sector of public schools in the city.
  • Los Angeles again tops the list of districts with the highest number of public charter school students enrolled with 79,385 students. To provide a sense of scale, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools in Los Angeles, alone, would place the city’s charter schools in the top 45 of the 100 largest school districts in the United States.
  • Nearly 100 school districts now have at least 10 percent of public school students in charter schools.

More info, courtesy of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The first charter school opened its doors in 1997 in Minnesota. The average charter school does not out-perform the average conventional public school, but it's better for at least two reasons: First, any kid in a charter is there because their parents want them to be there. School choice is good for rich, well-to-do parents and it's good for less well-to-do folks too. Second, charter schools actually get shut down when they stink up the joint. Students leave a school that doesn't deliver and authorizing agencies are far quicker to pull the plug on failing charters than they are trad public schools. That's a good thing.

2. The country's largest, and most powerful, teachers union is leaking membership. Check it out:

NEA Down 100,000 Active Members Since 2009-10. If the strength of the National Education Association is in its members, then the nation's largest labor union is clearly not as strong as it once was. 

According to its latest figures, NEA has lost 100,000 active members since the 2009-10 school year. Active members are working teachers, certified staff and education support employees - not students or retirees. 

Officially released numbers from 2009-10 showed total active membership at more than 2,866,000. The union's active membership at the start of the 2011-12 school year stands at just over 2,766,000 - a decrease of about 3.5 percent. 

The reductions will require some interim cost-cutting measures at NEA headquarters until permanent budget adjustments can be implemented next month. It bears noting, however, that these measures have no effect on the national union's Ballot Measures/Legislative Crises Fund, which is a segregated account for political action at the state level. 

More info. Clearly, the NEA is still the 800-lb. gorilla when it comes to calling shots regarding teachers and education policy in most local, state, and federal legislatures around the country. But smaller numbers is a good sign in this case. Maybe rank-and-file teachers are starting to recognize that unions have largely failed to capture much of the huge increase in money streaming into schools; since 1991, per-pupil, inflation-adjusted dollars have increased by 25 percent while teacher salaries have basically kept pace with inflation. What are union dues for if not wage increases?

Click below to see Lisa Snell explain why school choice is #winning in ways that even Charlie Sheen can't match after downing a pint of tiger's blood:

 

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  • Old Mexican||

    Two Signs that K-12 Education Monopoly is Crumbling


    Yep - O2 and O3.

    Need I say more?

  • Show of Hands||

    How many Hit & Run commentators were home-schooled or attended charter schools?

  • rather||

    wrong question

  • Show of Hands||

    Well, this is embarrassing. One must conclude that all H&R commentators are or were "trapped in a K-12 public education system." Not that the results don't speak for themselves.

  • Fire Tiger||

    I attended a hippy charter school in the early 70s.

  • INFORG||

    Also the trend of homeschooling and unschooling parents is climbing every year.

    If libertarians would unite on the one issue of breaking the government schools system, many of our other issues would resolve themselves.

    Some other interesting education alternatives:

    www.villagefreeschool.org
    www.sudbury.org

  • Flex Nasty B.I.G.||

    I think your second link was supposed to be http://sudval.org/.

    I'm a big fan of the Sudbury method, too. It's not for every kid, but it would have made a world of difference for me, had it been around in my day.

  • ||

    The average charter school does not out-perform the average conventional public school, but it's better for at least two reasons: First, any kid in a charter is there because their parents want them to be there. School choice is good for rich, well-to-do parents and it's good for less well-to-do folks too. Second, charter schools actually get shut down when they stink up the joint.

    What? They perform the same but are better because parents really, really like 'em? By definition, if they perform like the average public school they DO "stink up the joint".

    Charter schools are like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The essential problem, forcing people to pay for the education of other people's children, won't be solved by charter schools.

    Since charter schools perform the same, can I assume that they at least cost less? No? Yeah, a real "fix".

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Actually, they do cost less. Much less. From the post:

    . . . charter schools (publicly funded schools of choice with much-greater autonomy and much-lower funding than traditional public schools)
  • The Wine Commonsewer (TWC)||

    Right you are, mad. IIRC, Ca charters receive less than half the per pupil funding that goes to traditional public schools and they must provide their own infrastructure.

  • Amakudari||

    Yes, and on this basis alone charter schools are superior. The same result for 50% as much? Only in a public monopoly would that be considering a "failure of the market."

  • Amakudari||

    * considered

    I think this qualifies as a corollary to joez law. Eh.

  • pmains||

    Also, are the lousy public schools the ones closing down, thus bringing up the average in those districts?

  • ||

    "The essential problem, forcing people to pay for the education of other people's children"

    That is NOT the essential problem. Redistribution is certainly a problem but the transfer of funds is not why public schools suck.

    Public schools suck because they are public. you have to get government out of schooling.

    Grocery stores are great, even when people buy stuff there with welfare money. Fully privatized schools are much much better than public schools and if some people get there with welfare dollars that won't matter one bit as to the quality fo the schooling.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Fully privatized schools are much much better than public schools

    I agree on the general principle. But it's not going to show up on standardized tests because of the high g-loading. What vouchers do improve is parental satisfaction and graduation rate -- no small potatoes.

  • ||

    I should have clarified that the term "better" means different things to different people. This is of course one of the primary reasons that public schools cannot ever be "better". No one agrees on the definition of "better".

  • Hugh Akston||

    Not to mention more individualized education. You know, fitting the product to the customer rather than vice versa.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Private Preparatory School FTW!!

    The one and only question I asked during the parent screening: Can I opt my son out of non-academic sidesteps, specifically DARE?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Which is more important to you: the valuable experience your children will obtain from this statist propaganda, or spiting the statists by explicitly removing your children from the program?

  • ||

    New Orleans, Washington D.C., Detroit, Kansas City (Missouri), Flint, and Gary.
    ------------------------------

    what's the common thread? All are reliably blue, though LA has Jindal as governor. But it's probably a coincidence that parents are turning for any escape from the public system.

  • PantsFan||

    What are places where Sandi has taken a shit?

  • Audrey the Liberal||

    Jesus, man, STOP IT with the goddamned TEAM RED shit. This is a libertarian site, we don't carry water for Democrats or Republicans.

  • Leebig||

    The average charter school does not out-perform the average conventional public school, but it's better for at least two reasons

    So you're not actually interested in outcomes, despite the previous pout about public school outcomes not improving since the 70s. You're interested in your ideology being furthered (the first "reason") and a self-contradictory second reason... if charter schools that don't perform are automatically weeded out, how sad is it that they still can't outperform regular public schools on average?

  • ||

    you understand that the charter school performance when compared to public school performance is a comparison of the public school metrics right? There are a NUMBER of things that charter schools do better than public school it just doesn't show up on standardized federal testing. Duh.

  • ||

    So they do better in things that can't be tested? Sounds fishy to me.

  • ||

    Only if you lack imagination and subscribe to the storyline that the public schools are trying too sell yo.

  • ||

    Of course these things can be tested they just aren't tested in public schools, hence the comparison between charters and publics are misleading at best.

  • sevo||

    One thing can be tested:
    If the parents don't like *that* school, they can move the kids.

  • 0∞||

    Won't someone please think of the chillen?

  • ||

    It was a crime what the New Orleans Public Schools did to children for generations. I credit Reason for their coverage of such an important issue, maybe the most important issue we face.

  • Old Mexican||

    Please, think of the chickens!

  • yogi||

    It's still OK to send your kids to public school. You just have to include the cost of deprogramming them on some topics.

    yogi:
    booboo: Sir?
    yogi: Is there anything such thing as AGW?
    booboo: Sir, I don't know, Sir.
    yogi: Do your teachers know if there is anything such thing as AGW?
    booboo: Sir, no, Sir.
    yogi: Are you certain that there is no such thing as AGW?
    booboo: Sir, no, Sir.
    yogi: As you were.

  • Cytotoxic||

    It's interesting that this (and the shale gas revolution) are happening under Obama's watch. He was so intent on achieving a (probably botched) nationalization of the US healthcare system that he let the education monopoly go. Thank God he's so incompetent.

  • jtuf||

    1) What are union dues for if not wage increases?

    Increasing membership. Unions fought to lower class size, which increases the number of teachers a school needs.

    2) Overall, this post is great news.

  • The Wine Commonsewer (TWC)||

    Lisa Snell is absolutely brilliant!!

  • Bronwyn||

    And you're totally unbiased in your opinion!
    :)
    I never think of her as Mrs. TWC, but I often think of you as Mr. Lisa Snell... hope that doesn't offend.

  • Pantless Deviant||

    On the whole, not one of Alice's better albums...

  • Mike||

    Where is the extra federal funding going? To the union. One of the biggest issues that the NEA has fought for over the last years is reduced class sizes. Sizes have gone down in my mother's district from 30 pupils per teacher to 15. With states cutting funding, it's gone back up to the mid-20's.

    Now, the lower class size certainly makes teachers' jobs easier. But it doesn't increase their take home pay. What it does do, however, is significantly increase the number of teachers on the payroll. All of whom pay union dues.

  • Copernicus||

    Nick, I'm confused on this: "To provide a sense of scale, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools in Los Angeles, alone, would place the city’s charter schools in the top 45 of the 100 largest school districts in the United States."

    Where would LA's charter schools fall in a list of the 200 largest school districts? Or maybe the 50 largest?

  • mr simple||

    I had the same question. Perhaps he meant the top 45% of the 100 largest school districts.

  • Copernicus||

    Mr. Simple (if that is really your name).

    No, I was just being snarky. There is nothing inaccurate about what Nick said. But it is silly (arbitrary) to say it would be #45 out of 100, when it would also be #45 out of 45, #45 out of 50, and $45 out of 200.

    Better to say it would be 45th largest in the nation out of xxx school districts.

  • ||

    Teacher salaries have kept pace with inflation? HUH? Checkout the pace of our property taxes!

  • Fire Tiger||

    I would realy challenge the "Teacher salaries have kept pace with inflation?" In the ten year span from 2000 to 2010, teachers salaries in my area doubled. I would also have to question if that statement included benefits.

  • ||

    Is there any law left that doesn't give the prez the ability to regulate greenhouse gases by executive order?

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Monday that the Bush administration did not complete a required environmental review when it said the bear's designation as threatened in 2008 could not be used as a backdoor way to control greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

    [...]

    Sullivan's decision directs the Interior Department to respond by Nov. 17 with a timetable for when it will complete the required environmental review. Sullivan left an interim 2008 designation intact while the case continues.

    Next week, we'll find out that the Volstead Act requires that greenhouse gases be controlled because warmer temperatures make people stand outside and drink.

  • Fire Tiger||

    #1 sign that nothing will change is how many public charter schools have union teachers.

  • ||

    One of my sons, when he was 7, wrote a song he titled, "School is Jail" I thought that was a very telling thing, especially as it came from a 7 yr old.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I had a serious crush on P.J. Soles starting with Halloween.

  • Liberty Please||

    Why on God's Green Earth is a libertarian seemingly advocating the "Charter School" concept? You know that it's going do more damage to the goal of privatized schools more than any public employee union ever could, right?

    Charter schools are a way for privately-controlled entities to grab hold of taxpayer dollars (and assets e.g. school campuses) and use them for their own purposes. This is sick and wrong. And this never ends well. And it's absolutely positively NOT libertarian in any imaginable way.

    And it's going to blow up in your face.

    Charter Schools are the Solyndra of education reform. Crony capitalism meets your local school district.

    Libertarians should be AGAINST charters, not for them.

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