Education is not a business

With Republicans taking over state governments all over the place, prepare for more of the silly “education is a business” argument to be popping up like it is here in NC.   Here’s school privitization advocate, Bob Luddy in a story from our local NPR station:

Luddy: A lot of people say you shouldn’t talk of education as a business, but the reality is, it is a business.

Luddy’s business plan for education is the same as it has been for Captive-Aire: keep overhead low and deliver quality to customers. There are very few support and administrative personnel in his schools. There are no sports. Thales doesn’t take children with special needs, as they are too expensive to educate.

Obviously, that last point really stuck with me.  No, public schools are not a damn business.  Rather, they are a public good designed to serve the public, not just the people people rich enough to attend or sufficiently inexpensive to educate.  I’m sure glad Luddy did not win a seat on the school board when he tried (though, it’s hard to believe he’d be any worse than our current morons on the board).  Are there certain principles from business that make sense to apply to schools?  Sure.  But the last thing I want is people who actually think that schools should be treated as businesses having anything to do with my children’s’ education.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Education is not a business

  1. Mike Barr says:

    This type of reasoning is all too common by Republicans and free-marketeers. And the flaws in their arguments too often go unchallenged. For instance, take the idea that the US Postal Service should be abolished because it can’t operate as efficiently as UPS or Fed-Ex. One of the things that advocates of privatizing the mail don’t mention is that Fed and UPS operate in areas and according to delivery schedules that are profitable. I would like to see FedEx operate profitably in sparsely populated parts off the country. The Post Office is charged with the responsibility of delivering mail to every address (although I am sure there are some exceptions) regardless of the economic efficiency of doing so. I seriously doubt that FedEx would turn a profit in the counties with very low population densities, especially if they had to go to every tiny little town 6 days a week.

    (On a slightly related topic for another day, I think it is entirely true that the postal worker’s unions and federal employment regulations are hugely and needlessly expensive. My father spent almost 20 years in the Post Office and he has hours and hours of horror stories about trying to fire, reprimand, and supervise postal employees. It is nearly impossible to fire someone. And that is not an exaggeration. It takes months or years, huge amounts of documentation, then you get sued, and maybe, just maybe, the people who were throwing away mail instead of delivering will get fired. Or, more likely, they’ll be ‘demoted’ to doing something where they can’t cause as much damage to the system.)

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