The St. Louis School Board’s Downward Spiral
A letter in the Post-Dispatch criticizes the St. Louis School Board for awarding a no-bid contract to bash the charter schools:
Should anyone doubt that patronage still trumps pupil performance in the St. Louis Public Schools, look no further than the recent board vote to grant Lizz Brown a no-bid contract for "marketing" ("Firm with ties to city school board gets no-bid deal to counter charters," May 30).
It also notes that the district ended its contract with Teach for America:
The board also voted to discontinue its contract with Teach for America, an innovative nonprofit program celebrated nationally for its efforts in aiding urban schools. In her rants against outside contracts, Ms. Brown derisively refers to the group as "Can’t Teach for America." What, in her "expert" negative marketing opinion, does she know that the rest of the nation does not?
The district is panicking because parents are turning to the increasingly attractive charter schools. But it won’t keep anyone in the district with this unpopular PR contract or by getting rid of Teach for America.
This situation illustrates an important economic principle. The prospect of competition doesn’t necessarily cause a business or organization to make smarter decisions. It might keep doing the same counterproductive things. But competition allows the customers (in this case the students) to choose better alternatives. Of course, virtually everyone would prefer that the St. Louis Public Schools improve when they’re threatened with losing students. Unfortunately the board’s recent actions show that change probably won’t happen as soon as we’d like.