Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Free Market Education Aint Workin’ That Good!

The privatization of education will result in better education and reduction in costs. Competition always produces a better product more cheaply. The free enterprise system works the best in all areas of endeavor (Except, of course, when public workers negotiate for better salaries and working conditions). 
These are the claims by the proponents of privatizing public education. The “voucher system” and charter schools (both of which, are mechanisms to pry open the door for privatization) will end the cycle of “failing” inner city schools and raise  educational levels to new heights of grandeur. All this will occur with massive reductions in costs to the taxpayer.
Let’s look at a prime example of privatized education that has been ongoing for decades, namely the American college and university system. Admittedly, all colleges are not considered to be  private but even those deemed “public colleges” are not free and not truly public institutions as are the K-12 schools. They all for the most part, require tuition contributions by the attendees and are not therefore “free public education” institutions (there may be some truly free public colleges but I can’t think of any). Colleges, both “public” and private vie with each other for students and their tuition money in the free market arena. Admissions people from all these institutions comb the land for prospective students year after year. They attend “College Fairs” and offer “instant admissions” at high schools throughout the country. They all engage in the free market system to obtain “customers” to fill the seats in their classrooms.
However, in spite of the claims of those professing the privatization mantra, the cost of a college education has risen dramatically (maybe outrageously is a better word) and the quality has diminished over the years. One might say that increased costs are simply the result of inflation that has affected all areas of the economy. Well, that is true but not nearly to the same extent as in college and university education.
My children graduated from Rutgers University in the late 1990s. I remember the tuition cost then and it wasn’t cheap. I have recently read the current tuition rate as now being twice that of what I paid but a mere twelve years ago. By my calculation, that comes out to be an average yearly increase of six percent. I wouldn’t call that cost reduction or even cost containment!
I graduated from a New Jersey state college in the mid 1960s. I still remember the tuition, believe it or not, it was seventy-five dollars a semester! That’s one hundred and fifty dollars a year. Again, one might say ‘Sure, but that was forty-five years ago (gulp) and everything was cheap’.
 Well, at that time a typical wage was about fifty to sixty dollars a week meaning that a year’s tuition was three week’s salary. Today, with a tuition of ten thousand dollars (if you can get one so cheaply and I doubt it) and an average salary of a thousand dollars a week, that makes yearly tuition ten week’s salary! And what about private college tuition and its cost? At thirty to forty weeks’ salary, t hat is really out of this world! According to the proponents of privatization, competition and the free market should have resulted in lower cost and greater efficiency! I don’t think so!
How about the quality of a college education? The free market should have improved its worth for sure. It’s much better now, right?
Well maybe, but I’m not so sure!
In the sixties, the college year started in early September and ran until mid January with a week off for Christmas. After a one week mid January break between semesters classes started again and ran until mid June.
The college schedule as it exists today starts in late August or early September and ends in early December with two interim breaks along the way. The second semester resumes in late January and ends in early May.
My calculations reveal that students today receive one full year less schooling at a much, much greater cost.
If competition really improves the educational system shouldn’t it have yielded more education for less money rather than less schooling at a greater cost?
Based on the aforementioned, privatization, competition and the free market result in exactly the opposite of that which proponents claim.
What it will accomplish (and they don’t want to mention) is:
(1)   lower salaries for teachers and staff
(2)   reduced benefits for teachers and staff
(3)   reduced quality of teachers and staff
(4)   huge executive salaries for those running the private educational corporations
(5)   fees for any and all extras (including extra pencils and crayons)
(6)   poorer math and science programs in particular (areas where teachers are hard to find right now)
(7)   an educational system that will put profits over products (the products being America’s children)

Have a nice holiday!
If you have thoughts on education and education related matters please send them to me (even if they don’t agree with my ideas)  and I will post them with or without your name as you request.

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