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The “Blob”: An American Horror Story

A massive “blob” is stifling progress in public education. So writes John Stossel, who is challenging the notion that teacher’s unions are the sole obstacle to meaningful education reform. The other menace is the local politicians, PTA bureaucrats, and school boards who pool their influence to block any reforms that might upset the status quo. From RCP:

They hold power because the government’s monopoly on K-12 education eliminates most competition. Kids are assigned to schools, and a bureaucracy decides who goes where and who learns what. Over time, its tentacles expand and strangle attempts to reform. Since they have no fear of losing their jobs to competitors, monopoly bureaucrats can resist innovation for decades.

This is an important point. As Glenn Reynolds notes in The K-12 Implosionas America increased education spending beginning in the 1950s, the number of administrators and other staff grew nearly 3 times as much as the number of teachers. The swelling ranks of administrators took more and more control over what can and can’t be taught in schools. The fate of Benjamin Chavis’s successful charter schools in Oakland is a prime example of how the blob smothers creativity:

Three schools in Oakland that Ben Chavis started aren’t as fancy, but the students do better. They get top test scores. And Chavis doesn’t just take the most promising or richest students, as teachers unions often claim competitive schools do. Chavis’ schools take kids from the poorest neighborhoods….

But the Blob doesn’t like success that’s outside its monopoly. It doesn’t matter that Chavis has now resigned from the school’s board. Oakland may still close his schools. Think about that. As measured by student achievement, his schools are the best. But the Blob doesn’t care. And the Blob has the power of government behind it.

The blob is smothering educators in the classroom and beyond. If it can’t be beaten back, it’s hard to see how significant improvements to K-12 education can be achieved.

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