Uber, Education, and Barriers to Entry
What do taxicab cartels and traditional education groups have in common? This is a question I contemplated on a car ride from my hotel to the Association for Education Finance and Policy’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Instead of taking the Metro, I decided to use Uber. Joe Miller has written a bunch on Show-Me Daily about Uber and Saint Louis’ and Kansas City’s taxicab commissions’ fight against the ridesharing service. On my short ride, I realized that many education groups are a lot like the taxicab cartels—they have attempted to place incredible barriers to entering the profession/industry.
My driver, Majid, was an English teacher in his home country. Majid moved to the United States for a better life and would like to begin teaching here. To do so, he has to obtain certification, which means he has to pass a licensure exam. Of course, to take the exam he has to pay for the exam. Majid recently took the necessary tests and passed the math exam but failed the language arts exam. He now has to pick up more Uber fares to pay for another test, which he may or may not pass.
Like the regulations that have blocked Uber from entering the market in many cities, licensure exams are a barrier to entry. Barriers to entry are not a problem if they perfectly block the people/problems that we don’t want in a profession. That is, if a barrier screened out every potentially bad teacher, it would be a good barrier. Unfortunately, licensure exams are very loosely related to teacher quality. This means many bad teachers pass the exam and become teachers, while individuals who may be great teachers fail the exam and do not enter the profession.
When we look at the success that Uber is having and how it is revolutionizing the industry, it is easy to see why we need to be wary of unnecessary regulations that have nothing to do with quality. Education would be wise to follow suit and remove unnecessary barriers to entry.