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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Food's Bad, The Menu's Limited, The Hours Are Inconvenient But The Servers Are Cordial

When liberals talk about monopolies and how harmful they are, they only mean private businesses. We hear the stories of the Rockefellers or Bill Gates who destroyed competitors mercilessly. However, the most imposing, cut-throat monopoly today is the public school system. And like any entity facing no competition, the product can be of any quality (or none at all) and the consumers can either accept it or not. The hitch is that this monopoly's best friend (the government) forces consumers to either use the product or pay for it and then they can use another product. What chutzpah!

At least the public school monopoly must raise its standards with No Child Left Behind. And do you hear the caterwauling cries from the teachers' unions? They do not even want consumers to know how bad their product is. And how is the product? Actually, with increased demands by the consumer it is improving somewhat.

Jay Green and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute write in the USA Today:

Less than half of public high school graduates in the class of 2002 met the course requirements and were eligible to enroll in a four-year college. Given that the graduation rate was only 71%, this means a mere 34% of all students who entered 9th grade ended up graduating college-ready.

Even so, these low numbers actually reflect progress. While the high school graduation rate has hardly budged — it was 72% in 1991 — the percentage of students who leave high school college-ready has increased by about 9 percentage points since 1991. Thus, schools are graduating about the same percentage of students, but those who graduate are more likely to have taken the courses required to go on to college.

So, there has been improvement. In NYC there is now choice in charter schools. Parents, I mean consumers, can actually be eligible to utilize the services of some competitors of the monopoly.

However, the Empire Strikes Back! Per Ryan Sager in TCS:

Faced with the success of the state's charter school movement -- where non-unionized, lightly regulated schools have been running circles around traditional public schools in poor neighborhoods -- the local teachers union has been looking to find ways to justify its incompetence-protecting contract. Their bright idea? Apply to start a charter school themselves.

However, the UFT charter schools do not stay open as long as the true charter schools, the employees are all union unlike the true charter schools and, writes Sager, while "successful charter schools have pursued a back-to-basics approach to the curriculum, making use of traditional, as opposed to 'progressive,' instructional methods... the UFT decided to use relatively 'progressive' math and reading curricula. "

Why do people who recognize the dangers inherent in monopolies look the other way when the damage done by the public school monopoly is not an inferior product that one paid for but is permanent damage to children? The public tends to equate this monopoly with the wonderful employees they regularly see. Without question many of the teachers are exceptional and motivated. However, I rarely go back to a restaurant with bad food because the waiters were nice. I'd never step into Home Depot again if my purchases constantly broke apart after use. After 40 years of incompetence, this is one monopoly that has to be forced to compete.

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